How reversed-grids are spicing up All-Star title fights

by Matt Beer
5 min read

One of the biggest changes to The Race All-Star Series – Powered by ROKiT Phones for the second season was the introduction of reversed-grid races across all the Pro Cup and Sim Masters.

They’d been a part of the Legends Trophy format throughout the first season, but the starting grid for the second races there was determined by the finishing positions from the first race.

For the second season the starting positions for the second race in all three categories is a reverse of the qualifying results instead.

While that still generally means the faster drivers start the race at the back of the grid for race two and the slower ones at the front, there have been a number of drivers who have started the reversed-grid events at the front and kept that position throughout the entire race.

Anthony Davidson Gabby Chaves The Race All-Star

The best example of this in the Pro Cup is Anthony Davidson, who won the reversed-grid race in the first round in Malaysia having started on the front row.

His second place starting position was given to him because he didn’t set a lap time in qualifying while everyone else did, except James Pull who started from pole.

Davidson is currently fourth in the Pro Cup drivers’ championship, with just under half of his points being gained from that one result.

In total 79% of his points have been gained through reversed-grid races, although it should be noted that in the second round’s reversed-grid race he made up 24 positions to finish fourth in Portugal – so he hardly inherited that result.

“Putting that perfect lap together in the four minutes we have is unbelievably challenging” :: Alen Terzic

Gabby Chaves’ qualifying time around Sepang at round one was nearly 14 seconds slower than the pole position time but that gave him third on the grid for the second race, a position he maintained across the line.

Third place netted Chaves 40 points, meaning 55% of his total championship points so far were accrued in just one race.

There haven’t been too many Legends drivers that have gained specifically from the reversed-grid races, and while Adrian Fernandez won the reversed-grid race around Malaysia having started from pole, he was one of six drivers who didn’t set a qualifying time.

Adrian Fernandez The Race Legends Trophy

The championship where drivers have been particularly tactical about using the reversed-grid races to their advantage is Sim Masters.

A tweak to the format from this coming weekend’s event will change that, as from now on only the top 32 of the 40 cars in qualifying will be reversed for race two. Those behind will start at the back for both races, making it nearly impossible to deliberately get reversed-grid pole.

Alen Terzic was the sixth slowest driver in the qualifying session for the first round, which was uncharacteristic for him considering he went on to win the reversed-grid race and set the fastest lap – not to mention that Terzic took pole position for the sim drivers’ heat in the final round of the first season.

With 84 of his 94 championship points being scored from the reversed-grid races, Terzic admits he tactically prioritised them up to now.

“I find it is more efficient to start the second race at the front,” Terzic told The Race prior to the rules adjustment.

“Although there are others like me that make the same choice, the grid will still stay more or less in its natural state; faster drivers at the front, slower at the rear.

“This means that starting at the back in the first race gives you a better opportunity to overtake the slower drivers, then in the second race, the fast drivers go at the rear and you have an even better chance of a good result.”

The Race All-Star Series

Team Redline driver Kevin Siggy is currently fourth in the championship with 104 points.

In both rounds of the season so far he’s scored the majority of his points in the reversed-grid races, with only 24 of his points coming from the races where the fastest qualifiers started at the front.

“The Malaysian qualifying was a mistake from my part,” Siggy told The Race.

“I was in voice chat with Rudy van Buren and Bono Huis at the time and it distracted me enough to the point that I didn’t notice the red light at the end of the pitlane, so I couldn’t make a lap.

“I of course realised after race one that the reverse grid is based on qualifying results, so I was pretty lucky to then start first next race.

“For Portugal it was intentional to slow down, Erhan Jajovski and Kuba Brzezinski did the same.”

It has to be pointed out that not everyone who’s at the top end of the championship has deployed this tactic.

The current leader Jernej Simoncic and second-placed Huis have both scored the majority of their points from qualifying well and scoring highly in the first races as well as making up places to finish in the midfield of the reversed-grid races.

Jernej Simoncic

Jordy Zwiers made a mistake on his qualifying lap for the first round that meant he was nearly eight seconds away from the pole and he ran out of time to complete a second lap.

But even as someone who was saved by the reversed-grid format, finishing sixth in the second race having started in second, he had reservations about the initial version of the system – saying it “definitely caused some strategy play from the drivers and then it becomes about the trade-off; when is it worth it to qualify and when are you better off starting at the back?”

And fellow Singularity Racing driver Terzic agreed it’s better for going fastest in qualifying to be the most rewarding tactic.

“Putting that perfect lap together in the four minutes we have is unbelievably challenging,” he said.

The Race All-Star Series

“We mostly get only one lap and it should be rewarded more than just cruising around.”

Siggy believes getting a big points haul has still been a huge achievement in the reversed-grid system whichever tactic was used for it.

“If it was based off of race results it would have been abused in that sense as well. Both have pros and cons,” Siggy said.

“I think qualy-based reverse grid is more rewarding if you start at the back and the opposite if you start first, although there is a lot of luck involved so it negates that advantage every race as every overtake is a gamble and can lead to an accident.

“Nothing is going to be fair for everyone.”

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