Battles Abound at Phillip Island
A few weeks after a solid opening round of the 2019 V8 SuperTrucks World Championship, the series’ drivers looked to bump and bang their way around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.
A field of twenty drivers took part in the second round of the season at the infamous 4.5-kilometer Phillip Island GP circuit on March 17. Last year’s race had featured numerous side-by-side battles and incidents throughout the tight course.
For the second race in a row, Dallas Pataska and Radicals Online JRT started from the pole position, recording a time of 1:29.782. VRS Coanda Simsport’s Bobby Zalenski qualified in second. Zalenski’s time was half a second slower than Pataska’s.
This year’s event also featured the series driving debuts of Conor Horn, Andrew Caron, and Vaughn Glace. Caron and Glace, who are representing the Chicago-based road racing team: RSR eSports, started 14th and 17th respectively. Meanwhile, Horn, an up-and-coming privateer racer on the iRacing service, arrived late to qualifying which resulted in a race start from the rear of the grid.
Unlike the opening round of the season, Pataska could not pull away from the rest of the field during the first lap. Zalenski, who dominated much of last year’s race, quickly took the lead on the outside of Doohan Corner after a bad start by Pataska.
Further back, the field bunched up from the start, then Martin Kapal would make contact with Paul Slavonik sending him into the inside tire barrier of Doohan Corner. Slavonik would rebound off the wall and would collect Steve Seilstad and Vaughn Glace. Although all four trucks would go on to finish the race, Martin Kapal would earn a preventative contact penalty leaving him to start the next race from pit lane.
However, Zalenski did not lead the race for long. After leading the first five laps, the 2017 series champion felt pressure from teammates Pataska and Sven Cammaerts. Pataska attempted to pass Zalenski on the bottom of the track heading into Honda Corner. Zalenski then slid his back tires while driving on the curbing on the outside of the corner exit, opening the door for the rookie to complete the pass in Siberia.
Shortly after the pass, both Zalenski and his teammate, David Williams, started losing time on the long run. Zalenski lost as much as three seconds to the race leader in seven laps while Williams, who had run as high as fifth in the first six laps, fell back to seventh by the time the pit window opened. Meanwhile, Radicals Online’s Thomas O’Leary, who dropped outside of the top ten at the start of the race, was able to move into fourth in that same time frame.
“We set up our trucks to go to the pit stop and we emphasize that because it’s very important,” said Pataska to RaceSpot TV after the race. “You could bust off a hot lap, but if you can’t be consistent seven laps into the run, it doesn’t matter … We feel it really helps us building trucks and helps us (Radicals Online) with driving.”
While Pataska pulled away by as much as four seconds a lap in the second half of the race, there was still an intense battle for second. Zalenski, Cammaerts, O’Leary and Erik Blixt spent eight laps fighting for the position.
Then, with three laps to go, O’Leary would move to the inside of Zalenski into Honda. Zalenski would then make contact with O’Leary, nearly spinning him out into Siberia. The two drivers bumped doors, holding up Cammaerts. Blixt would drive deep into the corner, bouncing off Zalenski to move from fifth to second in one corner.
“The setup started working better when the track temperatures dropped when the sun started setting,” said Blixt, who gained five seconds in 10 laps to battle for the spot. “After the pit stop, the truck was way faster on the long run.”
For the second straight round, Pataska took the checkered flag to win in the 2019 V8 SuperTrucks World Championship season by 18 seconds.
Blixt, Cammaerts, Zalenski, and O’Leary rounded out the top five.
“The win shows that the race wasn’t a knocking off the dust kind of fluke win over Bobby and everyone else,” said Pataska. “It’s another huge confidence booster.”
The V8 SuperTrucks World Championship heads to Sebring International Raceway for the third round of the 2019 season on March 30, 2019. Be sure to tune into the action on Twitch this Saturday for the RaceSpotTV coverage of Round 3 starting at 20:00 UTC (4 p.m. EDT).