Ford #LockdownLaps: Struggling to get into the groove at Laguna Seca
The first race of the 2020 Ford Performance #LockdownLaps competition played out on Saturday afternoon at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Fresh from the initial qualifying round held a week earlier at the Red Bull Ring, the 72 finalists were divided into six pools of 12 drivers. I found myself in Pool Five and spent much of the lead-up to the race struggling to get to grips with the car Ford had allocated us - the 2015 Focus ST.
Now it is no secret that I have never enjoyed piloting front-wheel drive cars around race tracks. Everything I have ever raced out in the real world has been rear-wheel drive, so I find switching to front-driven cars totally counterintuitive as they require a notably different driving technique to get the best out of them. The same is true in the virtual world as GT Sport replicates faithfully all the physics that make this breed of vehicle so frustrating in reality. Consequently I didn't find my groove despite a good few hours of practice and another coaching session from sim racing guru, Tristan de Nobrega. While the fastest guys were running 1:41s, I was struggling to dip into the 1:43s. No good.
As such as I went into Saturday's qualifying session with no real expectations. Thanks to “The Prince of Darkness” (aka Eskom) there were now only nine drivers in my pool and I somehow managed to not completely embarrass myself by qualifying seventh on the grid.
The main race was a 20-minute sprint that started off well with no major incidents. I held my position from the moment the lights went green and duly concentrated on catching the orange (Tangerine Scream if you want to be precise) Focus ST in front of me while keeping a mindful eye on the two cars lurking in my review mirror.
Having something to chase definitely helped my cause as far as lap-times were concerned and I was getting quicker and quicker as the clock counted down the minutes. I don't have the timing sheet but I think I cracked a low 1:43, which is light years better than what I'd achieved before.
With about five minutes to go I'd closed right up to the bumper of that aforementioned Focus (piloted by Myrmidon_d-_-b_) and eventually managed to sneak past him on the inside of the final corner leading onto the pit straight. From there on in I was able to build a reasonably comfortable gap and focus on keeping things tidy until the checkers unfurled two laps later. And that was it. In what felt like 10 minutes, the first 20 minute Ford Performance #LockdownLaps race was over and I'd gained a place to finish sixth overall. Not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination but not a total disgrace either.
The next round of the competition is taking place this Saturday at Willow Springs International Raceway: Big Willow - one of America's most iconic circuits. Thankfully this time around we'll also be using a proper race car, as the front-driven Ford Focus ST makes way for a rear-wheel drive Ford GT LM Spec II Test Car Gr.3. Here's hoping that it makes me a little bit more competitive. Stay tuned for more updates.
- For more information on the event follow “Ford Sim Racing” on Discord.