I had a very good qualifying. I went out on primes and decided to do one run, because I didn’t want to use too much of the tyre up, and was able to do a 1:29.360 straight away, before coming back in and sitting in the garage for most of the session as I watched the other three competitors chase my time.
My team mate was on options and was sitting in second for a while, with Trivran in 3rd, also on the primes, and MrSleepy in 4th.
With just under three minutes to go, I went out on a fresh set of primes, and reeeally low fuel (3 laps worth) to see if I could go a tenth or two quicker, and maybe have a set of tyres that were 1-2% better in condition, but unfortunately my lap wasn’t quite as clean as the first I had done, and crossed the line in first, with my original pole lap. Trivran managed to sneak second, by going out on options, but I can’t remember how far or near he was to my time.
I later realised that my brakes had been set to low, rather than high, so I probably could have gone a tenth or two quicker lol.
I was a little nervous on the start line, considering I was on the primes, and everyone else on the options, but those nerves quickly subsided as I pulled away, using about a quarter of my KERS in order to pull away more, as well as turning the engine up to maximum. I braked into the first corner, touching wheels (with my team mate I think) briefly as we scrambled for position, but luckily I was able to stay ahead, and I used another quarter of KERS on the run up to turn 4.
At the end of the lap, I had pulled a gap of 2.2 seconds, and decided to turn the engine to 1 in order to save fuel and tyres. I was confident in my pace and consistency that I could at least maintain the gap to those behind me, whilst still having my joker up my sleeve.
Things turned out better than I thought, as my team mate and Trivran battled it out behind me, eventually pitting for new tyres on lap 6, I think. At this point (after their stops), I was just over 30 seconds in front, and was delighted, as I knew that my best card was still to be played.
The three guys behind me exchanged fastest laps for a while, setting mid to high 1:31s, with what I think were primes. At this point, my primes were about 8-9 laps old, and I decided to give it a go, and set my fuel mix to standard and went a couple of times for the fastest lap, only being able to achieve a 1:32.0xx, which wasn’t too bad considering the state of my tyres.
On lap 10 (the predicted ‘cliff’ for the prime tyre), I lapped MrSleepy, who graciously let me through at the hairpin, before destroying his car 15-20 seconds later. Nevertheless, I continued on, aware that every so often, my team mate was able to nibble into my lead by half a second or so.
On lap 13, I was still on the prime tyres, but this was the only time that they had really caused me much trouble. The grip had completely gone, and I think I was about 2-3 seconds slower on that particular lap, but it was definitely worth it. I then pitted for some fresh option tyres, turned the fuel mix to 3 and let loose. I had 9 laps left to go, and by this point, I’m sure no-one knew that I was on a crazy one stop strategy ;)
I quickly set the new fastest lap at 1:29.000 and then turned the fuel mix to standard and casually set consistent lap times of around 1:30.xxx. I carried this until the end, before turning the fuel mix back to 3 for the final two laps, and finishing about 46-47 seconds ahead of second place.
At the end of the race, I was quite surprised to hear that RagingInferno and Alfie had struggled with the tyres at times, whereas I was able to comfortably do 9 laps on the options without much trouble. A little baffling, considering I used to struggle massively with tyre conservation, but it seems that is no longer the case.
I think the race would have been more interesting with more competitors, and hopefully that will be the case soon enough. It’s definitely nice to get a win in my first outing, and I’ll try to make that more of a formality ;)