This month we hand over to our friends over at The Online Racing Association (TORA) to review their Production GT championship, which we have been supporting over the last month. TORA is the only online racing club to be recognised by the UK motorsport governing body, the MSA. If you can’t get up to BPS, but still want to be involved in simulated racing, head over to www.theonlineracingassociation.com to find out more.
Production based GT racing is the foundation on which TORA is based and so it was fitting that with Forza Motorsport 6 newly released that a series based on this time-honoured formula should feature in 2016.
With the mantra of ‘over-powered and over here’ the emphasis was on fun cars and close racing. Each meeting would consist of qualifying and two races with mandatory pit stops visiting some of the world’s best circuits
Round 1: Watkins Glen
The opening round saw 50 cars take to the track ranging from Toyota GT86 to Camaros and F Type Jaguars.
Two action packed races proved the formula was working with close racing up and down the field. Race 1 went to the Camaro of Jay Sherlock while the second was taken by David Hoch in his GT86-F. The big news following the race was the withdrawal of F4H Motorsport from the series.
Round 2: Silverstone
Sherlock made it a perfect weekend with pole and two race wins at his home event making it look as if even at this early stage, the Camaro/VOR alliance was going to be a tough nut to crack. Race 2 saw Scott Mccraken in his all new Alfa 4C take a well deserved first podium in the series.
Silverstone also saw the very welcome return of iconic TORA team M&M Racing for a partial campaign in a pair of AMG GTS.
Round 3: Hockenheim
In Germany Mccraken led the way with Alfa, holding off the advances of the MMOW-Samsung Toyota and RedLab Motorsport’s Camaros in Race one. It was much the same in race two except issues for Perez saw him drop behind eventual third place man Alan Forster in the MVG Racing AMG GTS. It seemed to have taken a little while for the new Mercedes to get into it’s stride but at the midpoint it was clear that progress was being made up and down the field.
Round 4: Monza
With significant testing mileage made by the Virtual Pirtek Racing squad, Monza was always going to be a strong circuit for the BMW M4.
Brett Wheatley capitalised, taking two wins for VPR, their first of the series. Dino Silenzi picked up a strong second place after securing pole position and Paul McCrea made it an even better weekend for VPR with two third places. The title aspirations of Mccraken improved further with a pair of fourths.
Round 5: Catalunya
The Spanish leg of the championship was all about RedLab and their improved and ultimately dominant Camaros. The trio locked out the top three throughout the weekend and assured that they were still in with a shout of the Teams title heading into COTA. Mccraken had an offbeat weekend but the net result was just enough to keep him in the lead of the championship. The gap almost certainly was unlikely to be bridged.
Round 6: Circuit of the Americas
The championship would be decided at TORA’s favourite holiday destination, Circuit of the Americas. A close qualifying session saw the top two separated by less than 0.2s and the first ten covered by only three seconds.
In Race 1 an overlap at Turn 1 saw a number of cars pick up minor early damage but the majority of the field stuck together throughout. The in-fighting allowed Alex Davis-Loades in the Ax4x PGT Motorsport Camaro to stretch out his lead early on. Pole sitter Hawkins suffered issues that dropped him into the midfield. Even VPR were not getting the most out of their BMWs in Austin. Hunter in the sole Cyber Racing Mercedes benefitted initially running as high as sixth before a power failure exiting the pits dropped him to the back. He would fight back to 16th.
Race 2 saw another victory for the Camaro on home ground in the hands of Davis-Loades with second going to Daniel Perez. A slightly better performance for the VPR BMWs confirmed them as team champions while the absent Scott Mccraken had done enough to secure the Drivers crown.
The Base Performance Production GT had it all in 2016, controversy, contact, off track politics and in fact everything you’d expect to find in a real world paddock! Most of all however, the series never swayed far from its mantra and at the fall of the flag in Austin there wasn’t a driver on track without a smile. A positive end then to the series. The teams are already looking forward to the next season!