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Round 2 of the IVRA Clubsport took place yesterday around the brilliant Road America track. Once again four classes spent an almost incomprehensible amount of time practising and preparing, and that was shown early in the week with how close the field spread was.
The #56 had come away with the win in round 1 after penalties for the on-track winner, and had high hopes coming into round 2, while the #456 were aiming to get their season off to a proper start after a tough first round.
A disappointing qualifying session for Jason Dilworth put the #56 onto 10th on the grid while feeling that at least 5th was possible. That put the team onto the back foot early on, in a train of cars behind the #33 car that was clearly built for the straights and very difficult for anyone to overtake. That situation lasted for the whole first stint, and it became more and more clear that we weren't going to be able to rely on pace alone to get a good result.
In the meantime the #456 had been qualified P17 in the Sport class by Ryan Hamilton, and had also had a solid early stint, moving up a few places and keeping the car completely clean.
The first safety car happened on lap 25, just 2 laps after the #56 and the rest of the LMP3 field had made their first stops and wouldn't need to pit. The #456 however had run close to the end of the tank and had to head through the pits while they were closed and take a minimal penalty for that.
The #56 car took an early gamble though, with Tom Stanley as race engineer realising that a top up now could be very useful when it got to the half way point – where the regulations give a bunch of championship points – but only if there was another safety car. That turned out to be exactly how it played out, although that second safety car came at a point that made it much less than easy. The car grabbed 2nd place at the halfway point, and a good haul of points.
That decision came with the downside of taking a pit stop straight after that second safety car, and take the pain of being half a lap behind the pack for the next section of the race. At this point Lochlan Bearman had taken over, and patiently ticked off the laps while the team waited for something to happen in the race that could get engineer us back to the front for the end.
Another green flag stop was followed by the third safety car, and a chance to get into a good position for the end. Another top up, but shorter than our rivals, allowed Lochlan to exit that final safety car in P3. This was when our lack of outright pace came back to play it's part, and some incredible racing over the next few laps with a number of teams ensued. Positions were being traded corner by corner, with the #56 at times dropping back to P9. Ultimately keeping the car clean and facing the right way, and a heart in mouth moment with the #92 car and a Cup class car, meant that Lochlan was able to bring the car home in P4. That was likely the best we could manage with the pace deficit on the day, and a great haul of points which should see the car leapfrog to the top of the championship table.
The #456 had a couple of minor strategy calls that went the wrong way, but ultimately finished a couple of places up from where they started, in P15. The Sport class is incredibly competitive in this series, filled with the best of the best GT4 class drivers, and so Ryan, Håkon Eide Lindmo and Tom Marton can all be very proud of their work so far as they build towards some great results.
""Shite race that I just need to forget. Ryan did a solid race, but I just didn't click with this combination."" Håkon Eide Lindmo
"Mixed emotions from Road America. We came away with really solid points, so we can be happy with that. It was a tough race with lots of traffic management and the final 30 minutes were intense. I struggled with pace in the final stint, which is a difficult pill to swallow after the pace in testing. However, with a bit of luck on the final few laps and a move for fourth place, I am happy with the end result. I can't thank the Nomad guys enough for the work we all put in, and to Jason who drove great once again. It's always a pleasure with these boys. On to the next one." Lochlan Bearman
"What a hard-fought result in the end! I messed up qualifying, and then had a bit of contact in the first half that gave us a lot to do. Tom Stanley had some brilliant strategy and Lochlan fought incredibly in the final moments, which got us some great halfway and finish points. I'm delighted with fourth place after such a slog." Jason Dilworth
"I felt my pace was very good and I was happy to handover the car to Hakon cleanly without any issues, which was my personal goal. The first Safety Car had us pitting when the pits were closed due to low fuel, and the Safety Car thereafter we were struggling to adapt. The aim for the rest of the season is to achieve a top 10 finish, and we will try even harder in the next race. Great driving from the #56, proving that pace isn't everything." Ryan Scott Hamilton