DOM2013 Round 3: Las Vegas

03-lasvegas4The poll for Robert Graf‘s primary car for the 2013 season of the DOM – German NASCAR Championship – is still open, but while it runs its course (a few more votes wouldn’t go amiss… come on folks!) he’s sticking with what he knows in the form of the Chevrolet car while visiting the gambling world of Las Vegas for round 3.

As the pic might imply, things didn’t entirely go to plan… Click “Read more” to find out more and whether or not it seriously hurt his chances at this early stage of the season.

Offical race report:

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Some drivers wanted this to be actually true after the race. But more on that later, let’s look at that spectacular racetrack in the gambling metropolis more closely. Las Vegas is a very fast track, the brakes are hardly needed, it can be run multiple lines through the turns and the new Gen6 cars (now with the Ford Fusion) need a sensitive hand, especially down the front stretch, not to break loose.

From the start, Florian Krichhofer dominated the race, a brief attack of Peter Taggeselle at the startup was successfully repelled and in Round 2, the two leaders already developed a small gap. Behind Andreas Wilke, who was always a little slower than his pursuers at the start of the stints, but then later on he kept the pace up. Jonke, Schick and Grotheer right behind, Grotheer overslept the start a bit.

Due to the congestion behind Wilke there are vigorous fight for places down to 10th place. Christian Schick pushes hard into Round 3, overtakes Klaus Jonke for 4th and 2 laps later, he is also collects Andreas Wilke’s 3rd Place. In the same lap Hauke Grotheer snatches 5th from Klaus Jonke. On lap 8, Hauke Grotheer gets loose on the back straight and loses his 5th to Klaus Jonke. Even Stefan Lippert goes past Hauke Grotheer round 11.

On lap 29 two gaps have closed. On the one hand the gap between Christian Schick (P3) and Andreas Wilke, whose car is now much better than at the beginning of his stint and on the other hand the one between Stefan Lippert (P6) and Matthias Bayer. While Andreas Wilke has to wait, Matthias Bayer gains 6th place that lap. In the front nothing changes, Florian Kirchhofer in front of Peter Taggeselle.

In lap 47 Andreas Wilke makes one of his rare mistakes. He touches the wall in Turn 4 and slides down to the apron. He gets the car under control just before the grass and can continue his race. He loses no position, applause for that! A few laps later, pit stops under green start. Peter Taggeselle at P2 goes in in lap 53, Christian Schick in P3 follows a lap later. Again a lap later also the leader, Florian Kirchhofer pits. The lead now belongs to Andreas Wilke he stops on lap 58. Even Robert Graf and Stefan Lippert get their lead laps, they go in in round 59 and 60 respectively. The ranking after the stops: Kirchhofer, Taggeselle, Schick, Wilke, Bayer and Graf, Kirchhofer now with a lead of over a quarter lap. Just a moment, where has Klaus Jonke gone? He had to give up on lap 54 after overtaking a lapped guy and meeting with the inner wall.

All vehicles in the TOP5 are now in more or less dense lapping traffic. No more direct contact with the cars they are racing to the front or rear until round 88, when Rocco Rost toches the wall in Turn2. He slides into the infield, seems to regain control again and on rejoining the track the car breaks loose again. Helpless, he rams the Nr88, Lukas Przybiylski, who afterwards finishes the race with 40 laps down. Into the vehicle of Rocco Rost runs third placed Christian Schick, his race ends here. The rest of the field gets past the smoking car of Schick.

Restart on lap 94, the ranking as follows: Kirchhofer, Taggeselle, Wilke, Bayer, Graf and Lippert. In the 2 laps up to the next caution there are no changes. This time Dmytrov Goncharov is the trigger, he touches the wall in Turn1 and spins. He is sent flying by Fabian Kloth and Mark Mimzeck can’t miss him either. The race is over for all 3 of them. This should be the second caution and the last of the night.

Lap 101, on the green flag, Stefan Lippert pushes past Robert Graf in 5th place on the outside lane, again Andreas Wilke seems to stop the pack behind him, while Kirchhofer and Taggeselle open a gap immediatly. On lap 105, Lippert and Bayer touch, but this remains without consequences. The ensuing battle between Bayer, Lippert, Graf and Grotheer (P4-P7) is worth seeing. These cars ride separated only by tenths and continually ther are attacks, inside and outside. Robert Graf gets 5th on lap 112, but has to wait a full lap to get the “All clear”. On lap 117 the counterattack by Stefan Lippert fails and Hauke Grotheer gets 6th. On lap 119 the attacks pay off, Stefan Lippert and Hauke Grotheer pass Robert Graf in Turn1.

Over the next 10 laps Stefan Lippert and Hauke Grotheer are fighting hard for 5th place. On lap 131 they pay the price. Robert Graf goes past Stefan Lippert and on lap 133 its Hauke Grotheers turn. The immediate counterattack works and Robert Graf has to let Hauke Grotheer and Daniel Franzke by. Daniel Franzle with the clearly faster car tries to overtake Hauke Grotheer. After 3 rounds without success he lets Robert Graf by again. Robert Graf then retakes 5th in lap 141.

Florian Kirchhofer opens the last series of pit stops on lap 145. The ranking after the stops: Kirchhofer, Taggeselle, Wilke, Bayer, Franzke and Leemann. What happened to Graf and Grotheer? Graf gets a black flag for speeding and falls back to 9th and Grotheer overshot his pit stall and falls back to 7th. Grotheer retakes 6th Place on lap 153, after that there are no more changes in positions. Florian Kirchhoffer wins his 2nd DOM race this season, 6 seconds ahead of Peter Taggeselle, 3rd is Andreas Wilke. Matthias Bayer and Daniel Franzke on the 4th and 5th.

In the championship its still Hauke Grotheer in lead (124 pts), just 2 points in front of Florian Kirchhofer (122 pts). Andreas Wilke and Peter Taggselle (both 121 pts) are ex equo 3rd and Stefan Lippert (114 pts) is in 5th. In the team championship, nothing changes: HPM loses only 1 point and is still in front of DIHL. DIHL.AT in 3rd Place.

Bristol is next!

Personal view:

My start in the back was a good move, not so much stress to get your tires melted back there. I moved up the field quite quickly and by lap 100 I was in the TOP5. There I had amazing fights with Hauke Grotheer and Stefan Lippert. One time I even raced as blocker for my teammate Matthias Bayer, who knew that Andreas Wilke in front of him would start to pull away after a couple of laps. Sadly, I ruined this great fight and possible finish on my last pitstop. As I went in I was still fiddling on how much fuel to take and strayed over the pit speed limit of 45 mph. That triggered a 15 secs penalty and since the positions 5 to 10 were tightly packed at that moment, I lost a lot of ground. I then tried to catch 8th place hard. Too hard, with 15 laps to go I hit the wall and bent my right front suspension. I had to settle for 9th afterwards. Still 6th in the championship, but a good 10 pts away form the TOP5 now.

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