A searing start from Darryn Lobb was key to the South African taking victory in race one from Laguna Seca while Shane Van Gisbergen eradicated any competition in race two to claim the most dominate victory in the series to date.
Matthew Payne obliterated the field in qualifying. A scintillating lap by the KZ2 Kartsport national champion was more than 4-tenths faster than second-placed Liam Lawson. Toyota 86 regular Jaden Ransley rounded off the top three.
Shane Van Gisbergen was the only driver not to set a lap time. The 2016 Supercars champion opting to start the race from the rear of the grid and make his way up through the field.
For the round’s opening race, the drivers were ordered in reverse top-ten of the qualifying results.
Subsequent pole sitter Mathew Smith enjoyed a silky smooth start, fending off his more experienced rivals through the circuit’s opening complex
Smith’s lead wouldn’t last too long however as, after a shaky start, second-placed Darryn Lobb began cutting into his early advantage. An audacious move at turn four would see the race lead change hands.
After being forced to start tenth, Payne began to apply early pressure on the front runners. By the second lap Payne had worked himself up within the top-five and by lap four was breathing down the neck of race leader Lobb.
Lap six and Payne saw his opportunity for the lead open when he capitalised on a lousy exit by Lobb at the final turn. Payne drew level with Lobb down the main straight and edged himself towards the inside for turn one.
But Payne would ultimately beseech too much of his car, forcing himself to miss a gear on the downshift, blowing the engine on his MX-5 and forcing the race favourite to retire.
Lobb’s margin had extended to over four-seconds by half-race distance. Jaden Ransely took a venturesome approach to the race, executing a double-overtake dive bomb on Matt Stevens and James Watson to place himself second.
Double World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley had wrestled himself into a top-five position and was within earshot of a podium position. But a half-hearted move at the corkscrew put the 30-year-old out of shape, spinning on the exit and falling back to the fringe of the top-ten.
As expected, Van Gisbergen made light work of the backmarkers, up to 12th with a handful of laps in the bank.
But SVG’s progress was hindered when he come across Brendon Hartley and series leader James Anderson. The duo trading paint on several occasions in the scrape for tenth.
Van Gisbergen capitalised on a wounded Hartley and pursued after Anderson, eventually making his move stick with three laps remaining.
Then on the race’s penultimate lap Anderson, who had been adamant in his defence over Hartley all race, was tipped into a spin due to an overly ambitious move by the ex-Formula One driver.
Up front and Darryn Lobb was in another postcode from everybody else at the chequered flag, finishing 5.246s ahead of Stevens who reclaimed second over Ransley with five laps remaining.
Race Two was a reverse top-ten from the previous race’s finishing order, gifting pole position to Shane van Gisbergen.
A blistering start from SVG was enough to maintain the race lead and avoid the anticipated lap one shenanigans.
Liam Lawson, who started race two from last position after retiring from the earlier race, capitalised on the melee that ensued ahead of him, and by lap two the Formula 3 driver had gained 17 positions to sit 20th.
Brendon Hartley’s day was ended prematurely when he spun at turn one and was collected by oncoming traffic. A bitter end to the highly anticipated 2KCUP sim-racing debut for the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans victor.
Van Gisbergen was making light work of the competition, having extended his advantage at the front by 5seconds after five laps.
Ransley’s race one heroics showed zero signs of absconding. The Toyota 86 ace going four-wide with his rivals on numerous occasions to defend sixth position.
But ultimately it was to no avail as Ransley would blow his engine in an almost identical incident that witnessed Payne retire in race one.
But Van Gisbergen would remain untouched as he extended his margin up front to a mightily impressive 17seconds at the chequered flag.
Matt Stevens concluded a strong round in second place while Mathew Smith rounded off the podium.
|1||Darryn Lobb||21 laps|
|10||Shane Van Gisbergen||+27.549|
|1||Shane Van Gisbergen||21 laps|