Suzuka City in the Mie Prefecture Japan played host to the twelfth round of the Formula Sim Racing world championship.
Suzuka Japan Round 12
World Championship Review.
Brljak seals World Drivers Championship despite drive through for jump start.
Ghost Speed show great qualifying and race pace.
Pro Champion Kweekel takes maiden world championship win.
Circuit - 56 laps - 5.807 km - 17 turns
Tyres: Primes- Medium || Options- Soft
Weather 26 deg C. Dry
The Suzuka Circuit owned and built by Honda to a Dutchman’s design in 1966 and only slightly modified since has hosted the Formula One Grand Prix since 1987. It's been the scene of some emotional action over the ensuing years years. That action includes the famous clashes of Prost and Senna as team mates at the final chicane in 1988 and the following year at turn one lap one when in opposing teams.
Those two clashes decided two of the eleven F1 World Drivers Championships that have been decided at Suzuka.
The track offers a beguiling mix of challenging combinations. The S-Curves, Dunlop and the two Degnas that comprise sector one are simply a superb challenge for the drivers. In the search for speed, too much aggression and too little precision will lead to over heating the front left and a lack of grip just when its most needed for positioning the turn in point for Dunlop. So this sector is much about a measured kind of attack.
Despite its variety and challenges Suzuka remains a hard track to pull off an overtake. The DRS zone on the pit straight requires a great exit from the Casio triangle to make any passing attempt possible.
The measured attack on your competitor will often include pit strategy as the tyres are worked hard at Suzuka. This usually means that an early switch to fresh rubber means a decisive pace advantage and the chance of an undercut. Drivers will need to cover their opponents but also keep an eye on the limits of tyre life.
Weather often plays a part at Suzuka as it did in the tragic accident in 2014 that claimed the life of the promising young F1 pilot Jules Bianchi, the first driver to lose his life in a Formula One race since the brilliant Brazilian Senna in 1994.
Real world- real time weather was again in use for this round, adding complexity and unpredictability as well as another layer of immersion for the drivers and teams. However the teams could breathe a bit easy as rain was not forecast.
Coming into this round the gap between first and second in the title chase was 61 points. After this round there remain only 50 points on the table so Petar Brljak could seal the 2015 WDC title here. Muhammed Patel needed to beat Petar Brljak by 11 points to mathematically keep his championship challenge alive.
Jeroen Kweekel the 2015 Pro Champion stepped up to take a race seat in the premier class and in a repeat of Silverstone he stole pole. His team mate Jernej Simoncic joined him on the front row and they forced the two front running drivers in the title hunt Brljak and Patel onto the second row. Patel had given himself a chance by out qualifying Brljak.
Simoncic made a brilliant start and covered his pole sitting team mate and owned turn one.
Brljak might have been thinking about Patel and by a few tenths of a second, jumped the start. It put him 2 places up but it was short lived as the stewards issued a drive through.
Consequently Brljak found himself well down the order in the high teens as the drivers got into the thick of the opening stint.
Simoncic consolidated his lead and Patel, now gifted a real gap to Brljak pushed hard to stay close to Kweekel. A points difference of more than 11 was possible. If he could pass Kweekel the battle for the WDC would stay alive.
Unable to pass the fast and consistent Kweekel on track, Patel pulled the trigger for an undercut choosing options. Kweekel covering the move responded next time around but fitted primes. Patel almost managed, it was so close at the entry to turn 1. On cold primes would it be possible for Kweekel to be aggressive enough? He pushed it to the absolute limit and left some big black marks on the track surface as he denied Patel the racing line. To exit the pits on primes and a couple of seconds after leaving the pit lane blend line to engage in such a fight was impressive.
It's possible that this particular moment was the moment that Brljak was enabled to become the champion. I say this because had he passed Kweekel Patel would not only have had second place but the chance to chase down Simoncic. In second place Patels points haul would be 18. Brljak would need sixth place and the commensurate 8 points points to take it. A win from Patel would mean Brljak requires third place here to take the title.
Patels race was now seriously compromised. He was on options but stuck behind Kweekel on primes he was now unable to use their speed. Patel launched attack after attack but Kweekel managed to stay in front. Leader Simoncic was using this buffer to build a handy gap.
Never one to give up, through the pit stop cycles Brljak was managing to gain places. Firstly into the top ten and the points and later further up the order. Brljaks fight back and Patels travails up the front were swinging the championship balance back into Brljaks favour.
Patels race pace was good and he kept harrying the lead duo. After 56 laps of racing he finished only 1.6 seconds from the leader.
Meanwhile further back Martin Hodás was driving a fast and consistent race that would see him open his FSR WC account with a strong result of fifth place. His ten points the first of his 2015 season. He was closely followed by Davd Greco who sealed sixth. To go with his previous bests of a fifth and a sixth in 2015.
On laps 28 to 30 John Eric Saxen was under attack fro Carlos Martin. Saxen showed how effective it can be to own the apex of turn one no matter what. Unable to make a pass due to Saxens great defence, Martin appeared to decide that there would be room inside Saxen no matter where he placed his car. The resulting charge over the grass ended in a total loss of control and both cars out of the race. This misjudged move and a clumsy move on lap eight that ended Satherlys race would result in a big safety rating hit for the Netrex driver.
Over the second to last stint Kweekel back on options closed back onto Simoncic. His tyre strategy, decided in part by his responses to Patel now put him in a position to attack his team mate. He would go for an undercut onto options right at the edge of the working envelope for the tyre. Simoncic inexplicably did not react. He drove three more laps before pitting. Kweekel was through and now in the lead. Patel still in third. Simoncic had once again showed huge pace and consistency but he would be denied the win and take second place for the third time in 2015.
In a true world champions drive Brljak had fought back and now worked his way up into fourth place. In fact with Patel in third Brljak had secured his championship the moment that he moved in to seventh place. The six points against Patels fifteen for third place would have meant a points lead of 52 with only 50 left to win. The drive to within 7.8 seconds of the winner after his penalty and rejoin at the back also saw him set the fastest lap of the race with 1m31.530.
Dian Kostadinov finished in seventh to grab a six points adding to his tally that sees him currently in seventh in the WDC.
Mike Partington secured eight place and showed that he is now a regular points winner in championship level.
Danny van der Niet brought home ninth and Norbert Leitner scored the final point.
We had seen it all. A world champion in waiting suffer a drive through and have to fight for the title. His main protagonist in a race-long fight against the Ghost Speed cars. The Pro Champion Kweekel seal his maiden FSR victory after a decisive strategy call making him the seventh race winner in the championship season.
Complete Race results are HERE
Highs and Lows
Brljak: High: Winning the FSR World Drivers Championship. Amazing fight back through the field to get 7.8 sec from the winner in P4. Low: Jumped start and Drive through.
Kweekel: High: Pole and maiden FSR win. Virtuoso defence from a charging Patel. Low: none
Simoncic: High: front row start, stealing the lead into Turn 1. Scoring second place. Low: The win slipped from his grasp.
Patel: High: great competitive race where he threw everything at Kweekel to get the pass. His sixth podium. Low: None.
Hodas: High: His first WDC points. Low: None.
The Minor Honours
Pole Position - Jernej Simoncic ||
Fastest Lap - Petar Brljak 1m31.530.
Brljak has secured the World Drivers Championship with an unassailable lead.
Patel is secure in second
Brzezinski absent due to his appearance in GT Academy Finals in Abu Dhabi has all but secured third.
Francesco Bigazzi lies fifth but looks set to overtake Parisis for fourth. To overhaul Brzezinski he would need to win at Interlagos and Brzezinski be out of the points.
Full drivers standings are available HERE
The new world champion and his season.
In securing the 2015 title Petar Brljak from Croatia has become the first new champion to take the title in 5 years. Bono Huis took his grip on the championships in 2010 and won it every season up to and including 2014. Reflecting back on the 2014 season to get some context we see that the deck was reshuffled significantly by the move from Rfactor to the more advanced platform of Rfactor 2. New skills had to be learned and perfected, new parameters like tyre management and real road to be mastered.
Morand had done his homework, hit the ground running and Huis was challenged strongly by an on form Morgan Morand. He was the stronger driver but significant points were lost in the two rounds leading to the final and so Huis was still in the hunt at COTA.
In a dramatic final Huis drove an inspired race and Morand who only needed fourth to win the WDC did a double tap on the pit lane speed limiter and lost his moment.
Which brings us to Petar Brljak. Having entered FSR in Pro in 2011 he subsequently took the Pro title in 2012, the same season that Huis sealed his third championship title.
In 2013 Petar added the Ace Championship to his Pro Title.
2014 While Huis and Morand fought for the World Drivers Championship Petar Brljak acclimatised himself with the top category and the new simulation platform and three times managed to stand on the same podium as Huis ending in seventh in the title hunt.
2015 arrives. Huis had taken at least a sabbatical, some say retirement from FSR. Morand was present for only two races. Petar Brljak opened his account with a third place podium at his first time of trying at Melbourne. He followed that up with second place in both the following races. Round four and Petar took his first win. He would win the next two rounds as well giving him three wins in a row. The next two didn't go his way. He was second in both. At that stage Petar had been on the podium eight times out of eight. The next race, Monza saw a disqualification due to a misinterpretation of tyre regulations. It and the Suzuka race where Petar served a drive through and still managed fourth were the only times in 2015 where he did not podium. The final tally would be (up to round 13 Cota
Wins 5, second place 5, third place once, fourth place once.
The strength of the competition is borne out by the fact that there were seven different winners in 2015 and a similar number of pole sitters. The thing they all had in common was that bar 2 rounds they shared their podium with Petar Brljak. Petar showed sheer pace with seven fastest laps from twelve rounds and an incredibly low error rate. His championship was also marked by an ability to fight out of adversity and score big points. The Singapore lap one contact and Suzukas drive through are great examples.
So we congratulate Petar Brljak on his championship. He now possesses the complete set. Pro Champion, Ace Champion, World Champion. We hope that after a few months off over winter that a recharged champion will be back and ready to defend his title.