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We're getting into the latter stages of the IVRA Clubsport championship as we headed into the penultimate round of the season today are the tight and twisty Virginia International Raceway, or VIR for short.
The #56 Ligier LMP3 car aimed to continue it's assault on the championship with the same two drivers as have taken on the whole season: Jason Dilworth and Lochlan Bearman. The #456 Mercedes AMG GT4 car was again driven by Ryan Hamilton, this time partnered by IVRA debutant Liam Doyle.
The #56 put itself on the back foot earlier in the week, with Jason earning a qualifying ban during an earlier free practice session meaning starting right at the back in 14th. That left the #456 as the only car to qualify, and Liam did a solid job on his first outing to qualify 19th in a big class.
Both cars got off to great starts, with the #56 quickly moving up to 8th position before dropping back a couple during a risky overtake. The first safety car period was soon upon us, and the threat of inter class traffic was put off for a little longer. That short period was replaced by racing once more, and both cars continued to move up their orders.
A second safety car after just 17 laps split the strategies of a number of cars, with the #56 opting for track position and staying out – ultimately betting on more safety cars that never materialised. As such, the strategy was slightly off when it came to halfway points, and focus could shift heavily to the end of the race.
Soon enough both cars had swapped to their second driver, but not before the #456 was hit while stationary by a car that had also been stationary in the pit lane for 30 seconds presumably looking somewhere other than straight on. That gave damage that the car carried for the rest of the race.
From there the race for our cars settled down – with no more safety cars to deal with the race began to tick by. The #456 had another pit issue to deal with, being blocked from getting into the pit entry by another car, which brought them a tough penalty. The #56 was on both the giving and receiving end of contacts that resulted in penalties. But other than those, the drivers did a great job of getting themselves in a performance window and surviving the race.
The #456, having been well into the top 10 at various points of the race, and fighting back to 12th after their pit penalty, had a final dose of terrible luck in the closing stages. An impatient LMP3 who was over a lap down in their own race pushed the car on exit of the T5 section of the track and our car was into the wall hard to essentially end the race.
The #56 meanwhile was pushing hard to catch the #49 car on track, and the #62 after penalties, in the final stages. Lochlan put in some incredible lap times towards the end but it wasn't quite enough in the end – contact at Oak Tree corner on the final lap put paid to any chance of what would have been P4 and in the end gave us P5.
In the end we take away a strong enough result for the #56 car to have an outside shot at the championship in the final round, and the #456 will continue in it's quest to bring home top 10 positions. The season finale will come to us from Interlagos on the 30th March and we appreciate everyones support throughout the season and into that last round.
"Another race, another questionable incident involving an LMP3. Nothing is changing and no action is being taken. As a result, it was another race marred by small errors that led to significant losses. It's disappointing because we have the speed and expertise to consistently place in the top 10. We just want to achieve good results." Ryan Scott Hamilton
"We had a great start to the race. Our pace was strong, and we worked well with traffic, making good progress through the field. Unfortunately, with 5 minutes to go, we were taken out of the race by a car that was disqualified. Oh well, until next time! A big thanks to the race organizers and marshals who put on this event!" Liam P Doyle
"That was a tough one! Driving three out of the four hours was a challenge, but we made another great recovery. A few hiccups here and there, but overall a really solid race. Once again, we showed our pace. Thanks to the Nomad boys for all the work put in behind the scenes. One more round left in this championship, let's go after it!" Lochlan Bearman
"Once I got into the car and started racing, I felt like I could get into my groove. We made plenty of progress early on from the back of the grid and showed strong pace. We stuck to our plan to put Lochlan in early, and from there on, he did a really solid job. We can be satisfied with the final result and head into the final round with an outside chance at the championship still alive." Jason Dilworth