SMP RSKG: one more mixed weekend for Irina Sidorkova at Igora Drive
Teenage driver Irina Sidorkova headed to the newly-built Igora Drive circuit for the second round of the SMP RSKG Russian touring car series. After two tightly fought races, she offered a thoroughly analysis of her first two rounds, where she clearly showed potential but could not ultimately capitalize on race results.
The second round of the Russian-based SMP RSKG touring car championship was back on track this weekend for the second round of its revised schedule.
Teenage driver Irina Sidorkova had a mixed first round at Smolensk Ring two weeks ago, where she secured a sixth place finish in Race 1 and was out of the second race for a technical issue.
The series then headed to the newly-built Igora Drive facility, outskirt of Saint Petersburg, where Sidorkova should have made her W Series debut earlier this year. The cancellation of the fully-female F3 championship led to the launch of the W Series Esports League, where the young Russian talent was quickly up to speed and currently sits third in the championship standings.
With the support from the SMP development program, Sidorkova was back to her homeland national touring car championship, where she already competed in 2018 prior to her switch to Formula 4.
At the impressive Igora Drive venue, Irina was 5th in free practice and showed promising pace in wet conditions: "We know for sure - we need rain!" - she wrote on her Instagram.
"All our test days have shown that in the rain we are one of the leaders with Smurf-II", which is her Volkswagen Polo's nickname for its light blue colour.
"In Quali we also started on wet asphalt and we were among the leaders for a long time, but there was no further rain, and the track Igora Drive was done so well, that all the water goes away instantly and the track dries fast." She qualified fifth but was later demoted to eighth for overtaking under yellow flags, a penalty that the 17-year old said was unexpected.
"On a straight line before the last turn, a car from a slower class 'gave way' and went to the side, and the three of us rushed forward and found ourselves under the yellow one. But I was the first and at the moment the flag appeared I was already even in front of the losing car."
"One of the first times in my races when I completely disagree with the judge's decision".
Under sunny skies, the first race on Sunday morning saw the huge 34-cars grid rolling with Sheshenin immediately up into the lead. Behind him it was a rather chaotic getaway, with a three-wide action for second place, ultimately won by Panfilov. Sidorkova had a good start and was quickly up to seventh place, despite her #5 VW Polo was frequently squeezed and pushed in the very heated battles of the opening laps.
Just as Sheshenin had signed off, a big off in the last corner required the intervention of the Safety Car: Rakhmatullin lost the car and cut across the track, collecting the #17 of Cherevan. Sidorkova had to take evasive action and dropped to tenth.
With the two cars stuck in the gravel, a lengthy Safety Car phase followed.
The race resumed on lap 8, with Sheshenin ahead of Panfilov and Karamshev. At the restart, Sidorkova attacked Simonov but locked her front wheels and went too deep into the run-off area of Turn 1. She rejoined in P15, luckily avoiding damages.
Soon, the young Academy Rally driver started to make up positions and could advance to P12 with a great move on the #1 Lada driven by Melnikov. With the whole field still very much bunched up, the first race offered plenty of overtaking action throughout the grid.
Sidorkova showed great speed in the second half of the race and caught up with the #55 of Plotnikov, which she passed on lap 11, opening up a gap.
Sheshenin took the chequered flag to win over Panfilov by less then a second, while Fridman claimed third. After a charging race, Irina Sidorkova had to settle for ninth place and signed her best time on the last lap of the race in free air.
"In the first race, due to an extremely dubious penalty, I started eighth, but after a couple of turns I went to P5, but an accident in front of me blocked my car very unsuccessfully, and then 7 laps behind a safety car." - wrote Irina. "I had an excellent restart and I decided to attack aggressively - in what way, when there were only 5 laps left to the finish line and missed on braking."
Mikhail Simonov started on pole for the second race, lining up alongside Artem Fridman. Irina Sidorkova was third, sharing the second row with Nikolay Karamshev.
And, as the lights went out, it was fourth-placed Karamshev to have the better start, with the three leading drivers going wheel-to-wheel towards the first corner. Sidorkova, right in the midst of the battle, managed to briefly advance into second, but as Sheshenin switched back, she was down to fourth.
After a very promising start, Sidorkova found herself often locking up under braking and came under increasing pressure from Panfilov.
Meanwhile, the leader Simonov had to defend from the attacks of Karamshev, who finally made the decisive pass for the lead on lap 3.
From then on, Sidorkova hit trouble as she lost gears and couldn't do anything to defend positions in such a difficult situation. Lapping almost 10 seconds slower than the front runners, she dropped several places and finished P12.
After a flawless race, Nikolay Karamshev crossed the line to take victory from the two Lada Rosneft, with Sheshenin just ahead of Panfilov.
"After the start, I even broke into 2nd place! But then everything went against the plan." - commented Sidorkova. "At first I had problems with switching 2nd gear, then the fifth. And then I completely lost gears 1,2 and 5. I decided to continue the race for any points. However, driving only with 3rd and 4th gears makes you a turtle."
She also offered a thoroughly analysis of her first two race weekends, where the Russian driver clearly showed potential but could not ultimately capitalize on race results.
"Our problems turned out to be much more complex than we expected." - she wrote. "When, one and a half weeks before the start of the Russian Championship, we were able to find the budget and a car for it, we understood that with such preparation we could only set training tasks, and not a planned battle for the championship. We hoped that we would bring a lot of things along the way. But Smolensk has already shown that everything is much more complicated than we thought. The technical gap is large. We can fight leaders on equal terms only in the rain. And, as luck would have it, it rains only in tests."
"We are lagging behind in the dry. In Smolensk I lost both starts, but in St. Petersburg I won the starts. But in both races we could not impose any competition."
Sidorkova identified her team's main problem as the current compressed schedule, which sees practice and qualifying on Saturdays and two races in rapid sequence on Sundays.
"With the new schedule, when on Sunday 2 races in every class mechanics and engineers in teams, where there are a lot of cars - like in the Academy Rally - there is simply not enough time for a deep analysis of the problems."
The SMP RSKG championship will hit the track once again on 8-9 August for the third round at the Kazan Ring circuit. Meanwhile, Irina Sidorkova will focus on the closing stages of the virtual W Series Esports League championship.