Opening up the Classico Grand Prix weekend this year is the IronMan Series eighth round in the championship, a title chase that has only gotten hotter through the summer months. Alyssa Yauney scored the win in the first 2-Hour IronMan event last month, while overall point leader Taylor Hays scored his fifth podium on the year with help from Adam Nagao. Completing the podium would be fellow 2018 hardware contender Jose da Silva, who got an assist from former IronMan winner Mark Connell. This month we’ll go back to the standard 1-hour contest and strictly solo entries, taking to the twisty confines of Classico for its one and only spot on the calendar.
With it now preceding the GP, the IronMan drivers will also be doing battle with all of the track adjustments in place, meaning the walls will be right up next to the track, and the room for error almost nil. This will make for an exciting multi-class event, as our fast Pro Class drivers looked to scythe their way through the 30 kart field of Sport Class entries. In today’s preview, we’ll chat with the current Summer Series point leader Alyssa Yauney, take a closer look at the point battles, as well as talk about what the Pro Class is trying to do as they prepare for the upcoming Machismo 12 Hour race in December…
Smitty Spotlight: Alyssa Yauney’s career win number four; but first as a solo in the 2-hour…
Following up a successful second half of the 2017 IronMan Series season, Alyssa Yauney entered 2018 as one of the series favorites; not just for another podium, but also for the overall championship. Fresh off her win last month in the first 2-hour event, I caught up with the title contender to get her thoughts on where things stand with just three events remaining…
Mike Smith: Alyssa, congrats on your first IronMan Series win of the year; soloing the 2-Hour event at that! While we had an unplanned break in the middle, how were you feeling about your chances to win by yourself, and did you ever think of getting a teammate?
Alyssa Yauney: Thank you so much! It definitely wasn’t an easy task and I’m very excited about the accomplishment. I always try to have a positive mentality and build up my confidence at the start of the races to put myself in the best position to make it to the front as fast as possible, which is what happened in this particular case. Now come time when the break happened, I was exactly where I wanted to be and feeling pretty hopeful about my chances of finishing on top of the podium. Since I heard news about the two-hour, I had never planned on running with a teammate mainly because I thought it would be a great way to challenge myself.
MS: The two-hour event is definitely a curve ball to the Ironman championship; how do you think it affects the overall championship, or the Summer Series sub-championship given both events are in the second half of the season?
AY: Having the two 2-hour events in the second half of the season makes it more challenging both for the overall and the sub-championship. With more time out on track comes more time for mistakes to happen, or more time to make up for lost ground. It’s hard to predict how things will go because there are so many different factors that will determine the outcome of the race. Now with one of the two events complete, it will be interesting to see if people stick with their original strategy or decide to switch it up, whether they stay solo, join with a teammate, or switch teammates. As for myself, I will continue onto the next event solo and hopefully duplicate my result.
MS: Last month was your first win and third podium of the year, and you currently sit second in the Overall points; first in the Summer Series. After finishing third in 2017, are you still aiming for the overall title, or have you switched focus to winning your second Summer championship in a row?
AY: The goal since before the start of the season was always to go for the top spot of the championship. Ever since the last half of 2017 when something “clicked” and I started having significantly better results, I had my eyes set on the overall championship. With that being said, I am definitely still shooting for the summer championship.
MS: Not only did you win the IronMan event last month, but you became just the second person to sweep the day, bringing home the Super Series A-main win as well. This has certainly been a great year so far for you; describe where that day ranks being on top of the box in both events…
AY: I would say that day ranks a very close second to the day I won the championship back when I was racing PRD. I will never forget the feeling of crossing the finish line and realizing I not only won the race that day, but also won the overall championship. Still being fairly new to karting at the time, that was my first major achievement. I had a very similar feeling during the A-Main last month as I was coming to the checkered flag, knowing it was the second time I was able to pull it all together in the same day.
MS: Like I have asked everyone in these interviews, has the introduction of the Pro Class had an effect on your approach to the Ironman races in 2018? Have you done many things different, or do you employ the same strategies from last year?
AY: Since the introduction of the Pro Class this year, I haven’t drastically changed any part of my approach toward the race. The only difference is the requirement for all the drivers to be more aware of their surroundings and to know when a pro kart might be approaching, so it doesn’t surprise someone when they try to pass. There have been a couple times that I am running in a pack during the race, a pro kart passes in the middle of a turn and splits up the group. Once the group is split, they either stay separated or they’re lucky enough to link back up with the other drivers. An important thing to do during the race would be to avoid that scenario all together because it makes the rest of the race much more difficult. So, I am using the same strategies as last year for the most part.
MS: Last question; how would you say the IronMan Series compares to the Super Series -if at all- and do see one helping the other out in terms of results?
AY: Personally, I believe they both benefit from each other. Participating in IronMan immediately before the start of Super Series has greatly improved my results because of the seat time I have gained from the morning. Once Super Series has started, I’ve already gotten myself comfortable with all parts of the track. I’ve noticed during the past races, if IronMan is going good, my confidence transfers over to Super Series and just continues throughout the day.
MS: Thanks again for taking the time Alyssa, and good luck closing out the season!
AY: Thank you! I’m hoping to keep my momentum going and keep up the positivity.
Pro Class: With just three rounds to go, focus turns to machismo 12 Hour preparations…
With the Machismo 12 Hour Endurance race looming just a few months away, Pro Class drivers are starting to turn their focus to preparing for that event, specifically thinking about strategy and tires. The tires in use are the Maxxis SLH, the primary compound used in the Pro Class in the 12-hour event, and the only time to really get experience on them is here in the IronMan Series. While this year a pair of compounds will be in use, qualifying and the bulk of the race will indeed be on the Maxxis, which will be the harder of the two. Getting a chance to work traffic, a work on getting the stop boxes right on these tires are a couple elements these drivers in this class can do to help prepare for the 12 hour.
The other big one is strategy; choosing whether to work through a long train of Sport Class drivers, or duck in the pits to dismiss of them for a few laps, and then the repercussions of either decision. When you come back out of the pits, where do you end up in the mix? And at 6+ seconds a lap faster, you will eventually be right back with that same group of karts; have the dispersed enough to make it through more easily?
In the 12 Hour, the Pro Class will be heading down pit lane for driver changes, fuel, or mechanical stops; and more than likely the different agendas will be joined in some way. So while the quick ‘in and out’ types of pit stops won’t be seen so much in the Machismo, being able to gauge pros and cons on the fly is still an important lesson that can be learned in the IronMan Pro Class.
Pro Class Podium
|1)||Alexander Bermudez / Jetson Lieser|
|2)||Tony Wika / Bryan Schubert|
|3)||Charles Eichlin / Diego Morales|
Overall Championship: Yauney moves into 2nd via win; Is the title still within reach?
Taylor Hays still leads the overall championship after dodging a bullet in the 2-hour event, and now sits 33 points ahead of Alyssa Yauney with just three events remaining. Of the two, Hays owns the better drop -the best in the series- and carries almost equal momentum as Yauney after finishing 2nd in July. Still, the max amount of points possible is 105, and his drop still means a possible 33-point swing. The exact advantage he holds on the championship. Hays is the only driver to win more than once this season, with his series-leading five podiums bolstering his point total to be clear of 3rd on back by 51+ marks. The perennial title contender is looking for his second IronMan championship of his career, and the Winter Champ is certainly on pace to make that happen…
It’s definitely not over for the challengers, however, and this weekend’s event could certainly be the beginning of some proper ‘points racing’ out of the front few. Yauney and the rest of the field need to gain on Hays, while he simply needs to keep them in sight or at bay if and when he gets to the front. The question will be, how much working together will we see out of the protagonists, and how much of that strategic point racing will come into play? Yauney and Hays start 14th and 123th respectively, and while fourth overall in the standings Jose da Silva grids up right in front of Hays, a couple of other podium contenders are right at the sharp end.
Starting 4th and 5th of some rough luck in the second half of the 2-Hour, both Sean Fite and Chris Huerta are in the perfect position to bounce back and rekindle their chances at moving up the standings this weekend. While they’ll need some things to go their way to really chip away at the points, they have already proven that they are contenders for race wins, each having a pair of podiums with Fite actually scoring the round #5 victory. This weekend will be a decider for these guys further back, as right now the 76-point gap from 5th to first eclipses the 69 points possible to earn on Hays via his drops. If the gap doesn’t start shrinking this weekend, the conversation is going to start switching from title, to podium…
Top 10 Overall Standings After 2 drops (best drop)
|4)||Jose da Silva||426||(69)|
Summer Series Championship: Déjà vu? Overall protagonists carry battle to Summer Series…
It is not much surprise to see four out of the top five in the overall standings also inside the top five here in the Summer Series, with the top two really stamping their authority after each snagging a win in the opening pair of events. Yauney has the edge by going perfect in the bonus point category; her seven-point advantage over Hays may not seem like much, but it can be quite the difference in this best 4 out of 5 contest. Third place Adam Nagao will not be a factor this weekend -at least directly- as he will be switching over to the Pro Class for the first time this season. This does open the door for both Jose da Silva and Sean Fite (ironically also 4th and 5th in the overall standings) to move on up the ranks, especially Fite who has a favorable starting position.
But keep in mind that Taylor Hays is one of the best drivers on the Classico layout, and Alyssa Yauney actually won this event one year ago. With both championships hanging in the balance with three events to play, points will be on everyone’s mind this weekend….
Top 5 Summer Standings (Drop)
|4)||Jose da Silva||93||(80)|
Round #8 Provisional Starting Grid
|12)||Jose da Silva|