Steady & Patient Wins the Day
Kevin Keller bides his time as Dennis
Don Tatum, Rob Kircher and Randy Needham
await their chance.
Over three days at WBC, 33 drivers competed to qualify for the Final on day 4. Qualifying heats were split into two (or three) different tracks, with the top qualifiers from each advancing. There were a lot of familiar faces as well as a mix of welcome new drivers. In the end, Mike Aubuchon took home the title, winning his first WBC Shield to become our 19th champion in 25 years.
The first heat’s tracks, Hockenheim and Monza, were long and fast. The second day’s tracks were Melbourne, Monaco, and Valencia, where a wide range of strategies were possible. The third qualifying heat tracks were COTA and India, where racing slow and saving wear seemed to be the best strategy.
Mike, Chris Long, and Randy Needham all managed to double-qualify with first and second place finishes. This meant that the last qualifier was one of the third place finishers, who turned out to be another one of our new players: Jonathan Winicki. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be present on Sunday, and neither did our alternates, so only 11 qualifiers made the Final track this year.
The Final was a familiar track: Singapore. We’ve seen this track in the past both online and in the qualifying heats, but this was the first time it was a WBC Final. As we discovered through the course of the race, there was a reason for that. It was a tight and unforgiving track, and it led to some very risky play, as each racer went all out to take home the title.
There was heavy bidding for the front with five cars that built 100 start speed. As the cars negotiated the first corner, the lead pack solidified into Don Tatum, Dennis Nicholson, Seth Kirchner, and Jim Fleckenstein. Doug Galullo, defending champ Kevin Keller, Rob Kircher, and Randy Needham became the chase pack, with Chris Long, Mike, and Tim Mossman rounding out the back.
The first lap saw Tatum and Nicholson spend a lot of wear to maintain their lead, but it was all for naught. Galullo caught up to them, and then Kirchner passed them both early in the second lap. At that point in the second lap, Fleckenstein broke his brakes for a second time (at the very same spot) and was forced to retire. Tatum also broke his car’s accel, which signaled the beginning of the end for him.
Meanwhile, at the back of the race, Mike spent only two wear in the first lap and realistically lost no position doing it. This was an early signal that things likely weren’t going to go well for the current leaders. The chase pack had also rearranged itself a bit, but the defending champ was still at the head and had managed to spend his least wear doing so. By the start of the third lap, Kirchner had gained a significant lead but had spent all of his wear doing so. The chase pack began to gain, and then the chaos started. Within three turns, over a third of the field was lost. Tatum tried to push accel again and his engine finally broke, forcing him out of the race. Galullo crashed in the fourth corner while rolling chance and took Nicholson out along with him. Then Kircher broke his engine as well trying to push a second time and failing.
Suddenly, Keller and Mike were less than a turn behind Kirchner with a lot fewer racers left to pass. They proceeded to pass him and set themselves up for the win. However, Mossman and Long were gaining quickly and were looking to pass Keller. Lining up behind Keller in the second to last corner left Long with few options, however. He was forced to roll a forced pass just to have a chance at clearing the corner, and wound up spinning when the dice came up boxcars.
Mike spent the last of his wear to win the race easily, a full turn and a half ahead of the rest of the field. He built a solid car and then spent little to no wear until the later stages of the race, at which point he could glide by everyone else like they were standing still.
That meant Keller and Mossman were now lining up to finish second and third, but Needham still had wear to spend. He rolled chance into the penultimate corner and spent his last two wear going full out through the last corner to line up next to Keller and Mossman. Kevin, who played his usual conservative and opportunistic race, came very close to winning for the second year in a row, but couldn’t compete with Mike’s wear and fell back to second place. With some final die rolls to break ties, Needham managed to push ahead of Mossman, as they finished third and fourth respectively. Finally, Long and Kirchner limped across the finish to take the remaining laurels as Lampeter emptied out for the last time.
GM Chris Long (second from right) and
his ten co-finalists.