After two pre-season races for each league, the official Invictus calendar began this week as the cars and drivers made their way to Spielberg, Austria for the first round of the season.
All leagues are near capacity, but with a few spaces left on track now is the time to get yourself on the grid for the season by heading to the ‘Apply to race’ section above. However, the talent on show was more than enough excitement this week as we saw four fantastic races.
(Due to connection issues the Performance League was postponed and will be rescheduled.)
In an explosive opener, the No-Assist league once again provided a sumptuous nights entertainment with one of the best on track battles we have seen in several seasons.
Qualifying was led start to finish by the Renault of LR_Archy, who seemed untouchable in the French manufacture, as he claimed pole ahead of FPL_Charlie, who was making his official debut in the league.
Although losing the lead off of the start, Archy was able to come back at Charlie into turn three on lap two and from there he controlled the race from the front.
It was the battle behind which enthralled the viewers as we saw a magnificent fight, firstly between Charlie and Scott (BoyBetterKnowSB) in the Mercedes and the two Haas cars of Scopefielder and Samuthepito, which unfortunately was cut short after a mistake from Samuthepito as the Spaniard mis-judged his pit-entry and ended up cutting across a helpless Charlie, forcing him into an early spin and subsequent pit-stop.
As the race progressed Archy opened up a huge lead, and with the impressive No-Assist rookie NickLJThomson also running well in second, they both put themselves back on track after their stops with clear air and the ability to push to the end on fresh rubber.
The battle for second went down to the wire as both Haas cars, Scott, NickLJT and CPI Alex all ran nose-to-tail as the five swapped positions lap upon lap fighting for a podium position, the action was electrifying and highlighted by a superb move around the outside of turn four for Scopefielder on Scott.
However, the man of the day was Archy as the Renault crossed the line comfortably 20 seconds up the road from his rivals, as he started the season in dominant fashion. Scott came across the line in second, but was pipped on a penalty by Samuthepito, who himself would be visiting the stewards post-race. Scopefielder, Nick and Alex finished off of the podium, but played their part in a dramatic opening race.
Next up, Monaco.
It was business as usual once again for VSR_Marqueses as the Williams driver took full honours at the head of the pack for the entire evening around the Red Bull Ring. It was already well known that he had a significant pace advantage going into the session, but with the likes of Scopefielder and fast starting Partridge99 both looking to catch the impressively fast pole-sitter, it was all to play for.
However, it was immediately apparent that the task would be a tall order as he drove away from the pack, and by lap four already enjoyed a three second lead.
The battle ended up being for second in the early stages, but with Partridge collecting the Alfa Romeo of Foxyred2000 into turn three, it promoted Scopefielder into second and demoted the frustrated drivers to fourth and sixth respectively.
The beneficiary of the mistakes around him was AaronJSpence, who like Partridge was making his debut in F1, and by lap 14 had made his way into third place, and after making his stop was able to carve back through past the likes of Partridge and TamworthFox back into the podium positions.
At the front it was once again Marqueses who put on a clinic for the rest of the league as he crossed the line seventeen seconds ahead of nearest rival Scopefielder as the VSR driver claimed the first race win of the season.
The final podium position went to Aaron, who after making a mistake and dropping to fifth was able to keep in a small enough gap to be promoted via penalties to the podium, whilst a late spin for Partridge dropped him from fourth to sixth.
Great start from Marqueses and he will be happy with the pace tonight on a track he enjoys. Can he keep up this lightning performance for the next 11 rounds?
There was a surprise in F2 this week as Tanker903 took the race win in Spielberg. The Austrian flagged driver had struggled in pre-season and not shown the pace that he unleashed on Wednesday, but he was a comfortable winner ahead of the first of two McLarens in the top four with Megglugpy in second on his return to F2.
The race had started him Megg on pole, but with Tanker overhauling him and keeping the McLaren at bay, it was the fight for second and third between Megg and another surprise in Steen-13, who only in his second year of sim-racing was able to go toe-to-toe with the multi-time champion in Invictus. Although he had to settle for third as he tried but unfortunately just couldn’t keep up in the late stages on very worn hard tyres.
The battles on track throughout the race were absolutely superb, and fighting from 15th meant that Captain_Stiff was in many of them, after a good start and consistent early pace, he engaged in a brilliant fight with Craig8728, and then a returning DeLange93 who was welcomed back to the league with a dazzling side-by-side fight with Stiff over the first two sectors as the two banged wheels and gave each other just enough room, whilst unrelenting in their pursuit to gain the position.
On the reverse strategy however it was Stiff who managed to stay ahead in the late stages, and with the McLaren’s amassing 20 points already, could they be a force in this seasons’ constructor’s championship?
Tanker will be delighted with his pace and no doubt with the winner’s trophy, but there are plenty of talented drivers in F2 this season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see several different names visit the top step of the rostrum over the remainder of the calendar.
FerociousDan has dominated pre-season in F3, and with the McLaren driver once again on form, he made it a first official win to add to his pre-season successes. He has pedigree for pace around the Red Bull Ring, and makes it a second season in a row of standing on the top step of the podium, as he utilised very quick early pace and then a perfect strategy call as the race suddenly became intermediate conditions after fourteen laps.
The race started well for Dan as he lined up alongside team-mate F1Richard, but with the race turning wet, the drivers that all started on the soft compound were struggling for grip, and for the unfortunate Richard, he stopped for hard tyres one lap before the rain hit and therefore lost around twenty seconds making a second stop two laps later dropping him well out of contention.
Luke Bailey had made solid progress through the field, and the Red Bull driver along with the Mercedes of BWAClyde both enjoyed large gaps and could cruise around for the remaining 14 laps and make up the podium for round one.
It’s another win for Dan who is surely the #1 favourite for the F3 after his win, but can he keep the consistency that he lacked last season, and with last season’s runner-up xMIKExSI returning to F3 for the season at Monaco, perhaps the McLaren may have a slightly harder task than first thought?
There are plenty of drivers in f3 capable of winning, but who can step-up in Monte Carlo and take the fight to FerociousDan.
Join us next week as we return to the streets on Monte Carlo, Monaco for the first time in 18 months as the cars take to the tight streets of the glamourous principality in the south of France. Who can hold their nerve, and draw the winning hand as Invictus heads to the trickiest circuit on the calendar.