In my first season, which started January 2006, I really struggled. I just never got to grips with the handling model of the original GTR game, leading to a whole load of frustration through throwing away races that I could and should have won.
Season two has been different. Well, a little different. Despite starting well with an early victory at Monza, I was pretty mediocre in some of the events that followed – sliding out of a hard fought 3rd place with around two laps to go at Valencia showed that I still had to find some consistency. Things got worse from there – I was away in Amsterdam for the event at Magny Cours, so didn’t pick up any points there, and then I parked it after being knocked out at the first corner at Hockenhiem. Essentially, I let a whole bunch of points slip away early on.
Donnington was somewhat of a turning point for me – I had spun out of contention for the win in the sprint race after a few laps, and managed to spin yet again on the final corner. Somehow I kept the head, stuck it in reverse and managed to cross the line backwards about ten feet in front of the fourth placed guy. I was laughing so hard I almost pulled a muscle, there!
Regaining my composure, I went on to win the Enduro race that afternoon – pretty much dominating over 45 minutes on the full Donnington circuit. The next race at Spa would be littered with spins and an eventual retirement, when my pit crew refused to work on my car. This is one of the bug-bears of playing GTR – you’re going to have one race ruined by this kind of thing every so often, and for me this was the race it happened.
With three races to go I was pretty far back in the championship standings, too, and the tracks that lay ahead were demanding; Imola, Oscherslaben, and Dubai.
Imola is one of my favourite tracks from playing F1 games in years gone by, but I hadn’t raced on it at all in its new layout. Determined to put in a good showing I put in some mid-week practice and that paid off, leading to a dominant win. Jim’s car bursting into flames took him out of the race and helped close up the championship standings considerably, too.
I carried the momentum from Imola to Oscherslaben – a nasty circuit with lots of off-camber corners. However, I was in the Lamborghini – possibly my favourite car in the whole game – and the comfort level brought another dominant victory for me.
This set up a dramatic conclusion to the season at Dubai, with four of us within five points, anyone could win it with the right combination of results. Essentially I needed to win, with last season’s champion, Jim, finishing no better than fourth for me to win the championship. Unfortunately my two wins leading into this race had me carrying a 50 kilo weight penalty, which brings with it increased tyre wear, burns more fuel, and makes you slower out of the corners.
Somehow I grabbed the pole during qualifying with a perfect lap, but at the start of the race my heart was pounding all the same. I really didn’t think I could win it with the weight I was carrying, plus the other guys were just as hungry as I was. Fortunately I got a demon start – right away with the lights and very little wheelspin, I had a clear run to the first corner and had a couple of seconds on the next man by the end of the first lap.
I managed to string this out to about eight or nine seconds before I felt the tyres going off. I’d been short shifting out of the slow corners to minimise wheelspin, but the fronts were pretty worn by the end of the stint and I had a couple of minor slides to the edge of the track. Due to that I was pretty glad to be coming in for a fresh set of rubber after 25 minutes, but I started to worry if I’d given myself enough fuel for the second stint as I came into the pit lane.
The trouble with endurance races is that the clock can hit zero just after you pass the start/finish line, meaning the race can last a couple of minutes longer than the posted duration. I ended up running out of fuel in two or three races during my first season, and didn’t want to let the same thing rob me of the championship.
Although I’d never done it before, I quickly increased the amount of fuel I’d receive by way of the clip board you’re presented with when you pit. This was a crazy time to be attempting anything I’d never tried before, but I figured it was worth the risk. Giving myself enough fuel for an extra two minutes, I set the pit crew to work and just hoped to heck I’d calculated right. Two minutes was just one more lap of the track, I realised, but I’d rolled the dice by that point and there was no turning back.
Once the stop was over I made a hash of my out lap and the one that followed. Although it’s good to be on fresh tyres, the stop breaks your rhythm and it’s sometimes hard to get your concentration back. A few laps later, though, and I’d settled back into the mid 1:58’s that I’d started the race with, and kept an eye on the split time to the 2nd place driver, which dropped as low as seven seconds when I had to duel with a car I was lapping.
The lapped car was Jim, last season’s champ and the guy who’d invited me to join The Wanker Cup. I felt a little bad about putting him a lap down, but then he showed no mercy in my rookie season!
Once I was past Jim I had a clear road ahead of me, and five laps of fuel remained with only four minutes left in the race. All I had to do was keep it on the track, which I managed. With Jim finishing 4th, I tied with Jeff (who finished second) on 76 points for the season, but took the championship by virtue of having more wins.
After that gruelling first season it was great to win the enduro championship overall second time round. Jeff had clinched the sprint race championship a couple of weekends before, so it wasn’t as if he ended up empty handed for his efforts.
It’s been a great season – after the tension of the past three weekends I’m glad of the break from GTR2 for a while, although I am kind of sad that we’ll be parked up for the summer, and probably wont race again until the fall (as the rest of the guys would call it).
Hopefully, when the time comes, the same great group of guys can make it back for another season of The Wanker Cup. I’ll definitely be back to defend my title. 😀