As is the tradition at the Indianapolis 500, CIS opened the season finale festivities in iRacing with the first part of qualifying on October 17th.
During the Pole Day sessions, positions from 1st to 24th were locked in the race, with a special Fast 9 shootout taking care of the starting order for the fastest 9 runners of the initial 3 hours and 30 minutes qualifying session.
Each run consists of 4 timed laps, and the qualifying time is the average time of these 4 laps. Only 1 car is on track at a time, which makes strategy an important part of the hotlapping effort, as track temperature can have a massive impact on performance.
Early on, track temps were high, making times slow overall, and teams were estimating to not be able to make the top 24 to have a sure fire spot in the race with these speeds.
With qualifying order based on the points standings, championship contenders were out on track early for what ended up being warmup runs. Intensity heated up mid session, after the first runs were completed by all participants.
Early takers were on their second attempt, and speeds started to increase as the day went on. Front runners were battling to make the Fast 9 shootout for a good spot on the grid, and mostly for the bonus points awarded for the top qualifiers.
Others were fighting for a spot inside the top 24, and with 31 cars registered for the day’s action, 7 drivers would then have to come back on Bump Day the following Sunday.
Rookie drivers such as Sébastien Kinder, Bart Feuerstein or Lewis Woodall (all three driving for Velocity Online Racing) were part of the group fighting hard in their new cars to make the field on day one, which was fierce until the last run of the day.
Other known names in CIS like Caleb Weekley, Stefan Rossmann, or Hannes Pitkänen were unable to make more than one early run due to scheduling conflicts, and their times were not sufficient to beat the final cut line.
Most of the final times for each driver were registered in the final 90 minutes of the session, and with the amount of drivers in the session and the urge to go out on track as late as possible, spots in line were taken very early and some ended up without the opportunity to go again after a slow run or an error.
It was not impossible to qualify with a run coming mid session, however, as drivers such as Art McEwen or Julien Altena qualified 24th and 22nd respectively with runs in the first 90 minutes.
Moreover, Josh Baird, who finished the session 21st in the charts with a run coming in the first 30 minutes of the session with suboptimal track conditions. The biggest surprise came however from championship leader Ethan Agan, who only made 2 total attempts, and crashed during his final one early in the last hour of the session.
As no slots were remaining to make another attempt, Agan failed to lock into the field on Pole Day and will have to resort to qualify on bump day.
Others not making it through Pole Day are the aforementioned Weekley, Pitkänen, and Rossman, as well as Feuerstein and Kinder and Gavin Hibbs, with all 3 crashing out during their last attempt.
Upfront, the battle for the Fast 9 and important bonus points was as intense. Henry Bennett ended up clocking the best time of the collective session, leading the field by more than a tenth of a second of average lap time over the 10 mile effort.
Only 3 teams were represented in the Fast 9, including 4 drivers for Vortex SimRacing of contender Lucas Laville, 2 for Aero-X, and the last 3 for the Powerslide – Team Chimera alliance, led by Henry Bennett and championship hopeful Joshua Chin.
Iconic Motorsports did not manage to get one of their oval specialist drivers in the last part of the dya, with 3 of their drivers locking the 4th row of the grid for positions 10, 11 and 12 with Logan Simmons, Andrew-Adair Saunders, and Willi Schwabauer.
At the end of the day, qualifying favorite and former series champion Henry Bennett gets the pole position for the 4th annual CIS Indianapolis 500. He is also rewarded with 15 championship points thanks to this performance, which will be added to his race total.
The front row is completed by the Vortex duo of Jan Hoffmann and Lucas Laville, leading the championship contenders, and got himself 12 additional points. Row 2 and 3 contain drivers from all 3 teams. Joshua Chin will start the race on the inside of the second row, and collect himself 12 points.
The remaining drivers up are Andrew Aitken, Robert Grosser, Jamie Wilson, Marshall Stanley and Randy Shewmake. The latter crashed in this Fast-9 attempt.
9th on the grid is awarded 6 points, and other qualifiers from 10th to 24th get themselves 5 points. Drivers making the field on bump day will only get 3 bonus points. This means Ethan Agan will lose a healthy amount of points to his direct competition with his issues on Pole Day.
Notable drivers having to qualify on Bump day include 2-time race winner Tristan Hauser, renowned iRacing IndyCar driver and CIS Rookie Adam Blocker, or CIS veterans such as Caleb Weekley, Hannes Pitkänen, Steafan Rossmann, Stefan Schlacher or Karsten Brodowy.
Bump Day will be broadcast on SYM TV on October 24th, starting at 18:00 GMT