During the winter and NASCAR off-season, I enjoy dabbling in different race series, usually things I don’t normally run. Typically, I compete in the NASCAR iRacing Series which is an analogue to the NASCAR Cup Series that runs 50% distance races.
I enjoy road racing and have always wanted to improve my road course skills. I prefer sports car racing with a particular interest in GTE, GT3, and slower cars. Formula 1 and Prototypes go too fast for my brain to comprehend so I prefer the slower cars. With so many different types of cars to drive, it can be difficult to find a series to run. I wanted to run in something novel, but not overly complex. After a couple hours of testing in a few series, I decided to run the iRacing Fanatec Global Challenge.
The Fanatec Global Challenge features the Cadillac CTS-V.R, a GT4 sports car, and the Kia Optima, which is more toward a TCR car. The Cadillac and Kia are two fundamentally different vehicles. The Cadillac is a high horsepower, high downforce, rear wheel drive car that handles like a power boat whereas the Kia is a heavy, underpowered, front wheel drive car that is more akin to a dump truck. I initially intended to run the Cadillac as it has more competition and is really fun to drive. However, the Kia is also included with the base subscription so I thought I would give it a go.
Each season is divided out into 10 divisions championships with Division 1 being the “highest skilled” and Division 10 being the not as seasoned. I was placed in Division 5 which means that I was solidly average. In the end, I was competing in this series just for fun so I didn’t really care where I was placed. Coming from the NASCAR oval side and being a pretty bad road racer in general yielded no thought of being competitive for a season long championship.
The first week of the season sent us to Okayama, a track that you become intimately familiar with as a road racing rookie. Okayama is not my best track, but it was a familiar stomping ground. Going to a track you are familiar with means I could focus my time learning the car, not the track. The Cadillac is an extremely fun car to drive. I highly recommend it as a beginning step into sports car, especially if Aussie V8 Supercar racing is where you want to go. It goes fast, has large brakes, and the competition is intense. A solid race and a top half of the finish was a great start to the season.
With that solid start in the Cadillac, I tried the Kia. It was a completely new experience. The Kia is very slow and quite heavy in comparison. All of the cars I am used to racing are RWD; being FWD made the Kia a challenge. Understeer was the theme of the car, get off the gas and it understeers, get on the throttle it chatters and understeers. No weight on the rear tires meant that wheel hop into the corner was very common. It was like driving a very unstable dump truck.
The Kia field is substantially smaller with 5 or 6 cars max compared to 15 or more Cadillacs. No matter the race is competitive. After a tough fight Team Oppo claimed its first win.
The season marched on. The Cadillac was pretty mundane. Balancing between aggressive and conservative running found top-half finishes. This resulted in being in the upper part of the points. Far enough from competing for a title, but close enough for a nice season finish.
The Kia was a different story. Coming out of Week 1 with an epic win. Good finishes and podiums continued (I mean with 5 cars, podiums aren’t hard, but competition was pretty stiff). By the time the season finale rolled around it was a 35 point difference between us and the title. 6 Kias started the race. I believe I needed to finish 3rd or better to get enough points. How hard could it be? The race started off rough as my computer crashed during qualifying. I wasn’t able to set a time, but at least I was able to get back in time to grid. Looking at the times of my competitors I noticed the Top 3 were faster than me, and the bottom 2 were substantially slower. The good is that I could easily get 4th place; however, I would need to fight through the 2 slower cars quickly to make sure the front runners didn’t build up an insurmountable lead.
The green flag comes out and I pass 5th with relative ease. I could not quite get around the 4th place car, and I soon realized that he was not slow, he just had a bad q lap. We were sticking with the leaders and I caught a huge break. Before Lap 5, 2nd and 3rd came together pushing me into 3rd. Soon after I passed for 2nd. Then it was smooth sailing. The leader had separated themself, but I didn’t really care. We weren’t here just to win a race, this was bigger.
The race could not have gone better. I would post the full race video on this article, but frankly, it was boring and uneventful. However, that is exactly the type of race I needed. By the time the checkered flag flew, Team Oppo crossed the line 2nd and brought home the 2020 Season 1 Championship!