Dark clouds over Imola
Round six of the CrewChief GT3 Masters VI is upon us. Come Sunday, the grid will form on the 'straight' at Imola for another intense 90 minute race.
Turning laps at the 'Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari' every (sim) racer will experience two distinct emotions.
It will put a big smile on their face - which might turn into a grimace while trying to 'thread the needle' in Acque Minerale at high speed - as it is such a lovely, exciting old-school track. The flow of the circuit, the height differences and the iconic corners are just so much fun no matter what race car you drive.
But it will also give them chills, every time they navigate their way through Tamburello and while thundering down towards Villeneuve.
Prior to that disastrous weekend in 1994, this corner was just a bend taken at (almost) full throttle. Mind you, it still required total commitment from the driver, as the tyres struggled for grip throughout this section. They all knew, that having an accident there would put them in grave danger. As the fiery crash of Gerhard Berger in 1989 and the fatal accidents of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger a few years later proved.
After the fatal accident of Ayrton Senna this iconic corner was altered dramatically in an attempt to decrease speeds and increase safety. Out went the kink, and in came the - at the time - default solution: a chicane of some sort.
Luckily for us drivers it is not an ordinary chicane like Variante Alta (now named Curva Fausto Gresini), but a double one with longer middle sections and with a slightly less conventional entry line. This meant that it is still a challenge to get it right.
It also meant that, while racing, one tends to forget the tragedies that happened there as full focus is needed to nail those corners.
But the dark clouds of 1989 and 1994 will always hang over that section of the circuit, no matter how sunny the weather...
Round six of the Masters
Yes, this current season has also had a fair share of accidents and carnage. But unlike the accidents mentioned above only egos were hurt, so no 'black clouds' hang above our current series.
No, the only black clouds on Sunday will be weather related. The forecast varies quite a bit, depending who you ask. Some drivers have had several bone dry sessions when joining the practice server, but there are also reports of torrential rain and a flooded track.
Preparation will therefore be key. Or maybe it will mean nothing, and patience and restraint may be king. Nobody really knows...
No matter the weather, it will again be an epic battle throughout the field. With only two races to go, there is still a lot to race for. So make sure to tune in to another excellent broadcast by our famous Hughsey, who will again do his utmost to keep track of positions and fortunes of the drivers in round six...