Coming into the final round of the season the VCR championship was as close as it has been during the season. After the previous race at Oulton park only 26 points separated Keith Ritchey and Anti Lepisto. At the previous round there was only one point between these two drivers, who have been battling furiously all season. This was due to an Audi hitting Anti and causing him to take a tow back to the pits.
The situation in the Audi field was less close, with Finnish driver Ville Ruola winning the championship at the last race at Oulton park.
With this in mind Keith was in the much stronger coming into this race at Road America. A very full grid of 36 cars was present at the race with an equal mix between the GTP and GTO fields. This has been very lopsided towards the GTP machines at previous tracks.
Unfortunately it was apparent that at the start of qualifying Anti was not going to be able to make the race, handing the drivers championship victory to Keith Richey once again.
Finnish driver Arto Ihamaki claimed the pole with Rob Olejniczak in 2nd shortly followed by Keith Richey in 3rd. In the GTO field Ove Trengeried claimed the pole, closely followed by Ville Ruola.
I was starting in 13th position in the GTP field not too far off the pace with the other drivers despite a record low amount of practice for this series.
After the particularly long formation lap around Road America the GTP field got off to a clean start into turn one with no position changes, however the same cannot be said for the GTO field with two drivers crashing right after the start line. Marko Kiikka unfortunately put a wheel onto the grass and spun, crashing into two other drivers in the process and had to take a tow back to the pit lane.
The Nissan ZX-T GTP can be a very difficult beast to navigate the first lap with, this became apparent at turn 5 after a long straight. Two cars went into the turn and touched, causing myself and Fabian Jungbluth to catch. By the time we reached turn 6 we were 4 wide, and somehow managed to not crash. This meant I was up to 8th, a situation I couldn’t have predicted on the start line. However into the next turn, whilst side by side with Clayton Macleod I broke much too late and went very wide on the exit, almost touching the tyres. After this things settled down in the GTP field with Arto still leading and myself down to 14th.
After another 10 minutes the GTP leader, Arto entered turn 5 too quickly and almost spun, this allowed Carl E Jansson to take the lead and go onto win the race. At the same time the lead for the GTO field changed, with John Malia overtaking Ove into turn one with a stunning late braking competition.
Unfortunately for Keith Richey he found himself spinning at turn 5 and then being crashed into. This was the result of Jamie Hall slightly misjudging the braking into turn 5. The damage was too heavy for Keith to continue with him finishing his season in the pit lane. At the same time Martin Krejcirik spun in front of myself and I touched the side of him. I thought at the time the damage was minor, however I was around 20kph down on top speed. After the incidents the field settled down again and I found myself up to 11th just behind John G Hill. This was quite a frustrating situation because I was faster through the corners and getting much better exits but could not overtake on the straights, even with the draft. However with 10 minutes to go I managed to outbrake John into turn 5. We then proceeded to stay two wide through turns 6 and 7, with me outbraking John again into turn 8 and making the pass stick.
Road America was a stark contrast to the last round at Oulton Park, with traffic not being much of an issue during the race. The only place causing trouble was the very high speed kink before Canada Corner. There was a huge speed difference between the two cars. It was a case of two cars in zero cars out if you decided to overtake there.
1 Karl E Jannson
2 Arto Ihamaki
3 Fabian Gerber
4 Jamie Hall
5 Nicholas Mukanos
6 Rob Olejniczak
7 Clayton Macleod
8 Steve Bycroft
9 John Keefe
10 Luis Emerton
1 John Mallia
2 Ove Trengeried
3 Ville Ruola
4 Michael Houghton
5 Michel De Jonge
6 Ben Laughter
7 Riley Thompson
8 Phillip Lake
9 Franco Scuri
10 Stefan Schlacher