The fourth round of the 2017 IronMan Series Championship would take to the Grande clockwise direction, with perfect weather welcoming the sold out field of thirty drivers. A curve ball would be thrown to all who attended, as newly paved sections of the race course changed how drivers attacked the course, making even the veterans need to re-think their plans. The results of this unique situation would see some tired competitors, a first time winner, and a champion crowned when the checkers finally fell…
Michael Floerchinger would lead the field through the final corner and onto the straight for the first time, and as soon as the field made it into the the bus stop corner, hands went in the air signaling a trip down pit road. While Scott Milne jockeyed with our pole sitter to eventually lead the first lap, pit road became a busy place right away as drivers looked to make the most out of an early pit stop strategy. Series regulars Vince Burke Steve Spring and last month’s runner up Jose da Silva all ducked down pit road right from the start, while Diego Morales, Adam Nagao, Marcin Balazy and Andres Prieto all followed suit during the next couple of laps. Not all the stops were smooth however, and a couple drivers saw their strategy blown wide open with mistakes down pit road accruing them an on track stop and go penalty.
With a handful of laps in the books Scott Milne still led the way, but his 1 second or so advantage was quickly shrinking as Alyssa Yauney, Sean Fite, and Taylor Hays had the afterburners on in chase. Fite would take over as the leader of the trio before they caught Milne, assuming the lead with Yauney in tow on lap 10 with Milne slotting into 3rd with Hays right on his bumper. When Milne pit for the first time just a few laps later it created the final divide between the strategies-Fite, Yauney, and Hays leading as the drivers who hadn’t stopped- while Nagao and Morales would lead all of the early stoppers with one in the books. There may have been drivers in the mix had it not been for a slew of mistakes on pit road-the most so far this season- as many front runners saw their hopes dashed in the penalty box.
Out front the lead trio would stay unchanged for many laps, dutifully cutting laps as quickly as possible, their primary competitors forced to work with traffic much more often. It wasn’t until just before the halfway point that any change would happen at the sharp end, with Hays being the first to make a move, first up to second in front of Yauney, and then to the lead one lap later. Yauney would follow through with Hays to slot into second, but then would take over the top spot just one lap later to be the new leader on lap 25. It would stay Yauney-Hays-Fite for several more laps, as the leaders worked through traffic while trying to maintain the gap to those on alternate strategies. The fruits of these efforts we wouldn’t see until they started to make their pit stops, with Yauney the first to blink with about 15 minutes to play; Hays would head down right after Yauney, with Fite coming down put road a couple laps afterwards. This would set the stage for the final run to the finish, with all of the leaders in sight of each other, and with one stop in the books.
The new order would be Yauney, Hays, Fite, with Morales and Nagao trailing just a couple seconds back; unfortunately, for the trailing drivers to Yauney, she would not only gap the rest with a faster pit stop, but Fite would also receive a pit stop penalty, leaving Hays alone without a partner. The Penalty would take Fite out of contention and behind Morales and Nagao, eventually salvaging a 6th place finish. Yauney would be the first of the group to pit, heading in on 45 while Hays would come in a couple laps after, exiting the pits with a 1.5 second deficit to Yauney. For Morales and Nagao it was time to make hay and attempt to real in the former leaders, with Nagao now at the point and pushing hard. Morales was on the same page, and the duo worked together as much as possible, delaying their final stops until the last couple laps. Morales would duck in on the penultimate lap, while Nagao would wait until the white flag was in the air, hoping to eat up the gap to Yauney…
While they would close the deficit enough to both reach the podium over Hays-who would settle for 4th for the second straight round-it would not be enough to steal away the win, and Yauney would exit the final corner seeing the checkers in the air first, scoring her maiden win in the IronMan Series. Nagao’s strong run to second sealed up the Winter Sub-Championship in fine form, while last year’s winner of this event Diego Morales crossed the line third for his first podium of the year.
IronMan Series Round #4 Top 10