Victory in the inaugural IndyVirtual Triple Crown race – the Toyota Japan 500 – went the way of Formula Virtual driver Felix Beyer for Kannan GP. In a battle involving both the best of the full-time field and some FV guest stars, the Dutchman took the victory ahead of championship leader Brock Kidd and reigning FV world champion Adrien Simon.
From the start, polesitter Nathaniel Powers led the field away ahead of Beyer, Felipe Cesar and Kip Maxwell, and began to build a lead. From 5th place, Kidd fell back in the early stages as Nick Addison found his way past, but it was Simon who made waves early on. After a poor qualifying session during a weekend where the Frenchman had found it difficult to adapt to the Motegi oval, the opening stage of the race saw him make up 3 places to reach 6th position, including a ballsy move up high against Lewis Ellington who pushed him all the way up towards the wall on lap 43. Sergio Alvarez was also a big mover, taking advantage of the unusually cool track temperature to move up from 30th to 26th. On lap 71, the front runners were starting to make their way through traffic, and Maxwell took full advantage to overtake Cesar in the confusion, moving up to third.
Lap 79 saw the first caution period of the race when home favourite Yakumi Takahashi in the Toyota-engined Morley car came unstuck in the final turn after suffering a right rear puncture. It took 10 laps to clear the debris, but when the green flags flew once more it didn’t take long for the action to continue – Beyer this time managed to stay on Powers’ tail, and within 5 laps was looking hard for a way past. After finally finding a way through with a divebomb into the first turn, Beyer couldn’t build a lead, and Powers retook first place on lap 106. Addison had a huge moment in turn two on lap 134, scattering Simon, Kidd and Ellington who were following behind him, and allowing Ellington up into 5th, with Simon, Kidd and Addison slotting in behind, each lucky to continue without losing more than a couple of seconds.
Beyer managed to hold on to Powers’ coat-tails, and despite the 2013 FV champion’s pace, he managed to take the lead decisively on lap 146 with a huge slingshot onto the back straight. Ezequiel Tanner’s Triple Crown debut ended in disappointment when his Chevrolet engine expired on lap 158, but considerate driving from the Brazilian ensured the race could continue uninterrupted, with only a single caution period in the first half.
As the race continued, temperatures dropped, and drivers who could look after their tyres came to the fore. Simon and Kidd both seemed to have this touch, with the two of them moving up from 6th and 7th on lap 162 to 2nd and 3rd by lap 240. This included a heart stopping moment when they were running three abreast with Lewis Ellington as they reached a lapped Callum Brandon. Ellington came off worst, having to take avoiding action and losing out down to 8th position. Powers, Maxwell and Cesar all suffered with tyre wear during this stage of the race, rendering their challenges to Simon and Kidd meaningless. Ultimately, this all played into the hands of Beyer, who managed to continue unhindered to a 5 second lead on lap 240.
The reliability of the Signature-run cars again came into question when Didier Arnaud ground to a halt from 25th on the back straight, while the second caution period of the race came into effect on lap 238 when Will Hoskins was lapping Luke Stokey – all the Triple Crown-only drivers have struggled with the aero effect of running in a pack, and Hoskins drifted wide into the path of Stokey, spearing both into the wall.
As the race entered its closing stages, Beyer continued to assert his dominance from the restart. Adrien Simon’s lack of experience in oval racing was exposed when he was left powerless to Kidd’s attack, falling to third place, though Powers’ challenge had also started to fade meaning his position wasn’t under immediate threat. On lap 282, Addison managed to get the jump on Cesar, while Ellington and Maxwell’s race-long fight ended with the former taking 7th place. Michal Kubat’s disappointing day came to a premature end when he retired from 25th place with a left-rear suspension failure on lap 288, while a lap later Will Taylor hit the wall hard in turn 2, causing the third and final caution period, eliminating Beyer’s commanding lead.
The race resumed on lap 303, with a 20 lap shootout for the win. Beyer came under severe pressure from Kidd, while Simon and Powers regained some of their pace to form a four way battle for the victory. Each held the lead for at least a lap, but on lap 314, Beyer took the lead and continued on to take the chequered flag ahead of Kidd, Simon, Powers, and Addison.
See full results below:
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.