With three races remaining and the Crazy Cat’s Eyes ahead in the standings by a wide margin, the antepenultimate race at Misty Mountain is the most consequential GP yet… and oh boy, does it deliver on the drama.
Let’s work backwards and discuss the dramatic finish right off the bat: Hazy (Hazers), Mallard (Green Ducks), and Rapidly (Savage Speeders) battled vigorously against one another for the final few laps. In the end, the three podium finishers cross the line within 0.68 seconds of one another with Hazy holding onto the top spot. It is an incredible sequence that, on another day, would justify an entire article devoted to the final maneuvers that decided the winner.
But this race gave us a little something extra. And then it added on more controversy. And then one final cherry–erm, orange–on top to keep the conversation on anything but the wonderful racing that took place in the final laps.
Critics of this track mentioned after qualifiers that the sharp left-hander coming off the long straightaway (and speed boost) could create issues, with racers essentially slamming into the barrier at full speed in preparation for a hairpin turn. A slight mistake and not only could a marble lose several precious seconds off their lap time, but potentially lead to a major collision or pile-up. Those critics likely feel justified after watching today’s event.
The first hiccup occurs right off the belt on lap seven, with Clutter (Balls of Chaos) awkwardly slipping into the safety marble lane and getting stuck (you can see this on screen just after 4:00). Race Control makes the controversial decision that, because Clutter put themselves into an immobile position, the safety marble would not be released in order to free up the Balls of Chaos from their predicament. It is a brutal ruling against the former pole-sitters, who were in sixth place at the time of the mishap.
The race continues with only fifteen active racers, but another altercation in lap nine sees another stalled marble. This time, it is a hard jostle between Cerulean (Kobalts) and Bumble (Bumblebees) at turn six — the sharp left-hander after the straightaway — that stops Bumble in its tracks. To Clutter’s relief, and likely consternation, this is deemed worthy of a safety marble release, which in turn frees up Clutter…
…but only momentarily. Once again at turn six, Clutter gets stalled alongside Bumble as the safety marble is unable to make a difference. In their second baffling ruling of the day, Race Control does not immediately call for a red flag, instead allowing another three laps to run before finally pausing the race to clear the stalled racers. In those three laps, Cerulean and Mimo (Team Momo) open an enormous lead on the field, running over three seconds ahead of the pack.
The race resumes at lap thirteen, and Cerulean and Mimo both suffer mightily from the condensed restart. After opening such a wide lead prior to the red flag, the two fall to fifth and thirteenth, respectively, by the end of lap fourteen. Hazy and Mallard are the beneficiaries of the restart, jumping from the middle of the pack into the top three within a few laps.
In the end, Hazy rises from being the final qualifying marble to a gold medal in front of the home crowd, while Cerulean finishes fifth and Mimo finishes eighth. In one final joke, the camera lingers on the finish line as the marbles who lasted past the restart finish but only catches thirteen crossing the barrier. Clementin (O’Rangers) is our third and final DNF marble, stalling out on the final lap … on turn six, after that straightaway.
- Team Momo has very, very good reason to be upset about the wonky rulings by Race Control today. Had they managed to hold onto a second place finish, they would have 99 points overall and be in position for a podium. Instead, they suffer while the Green Ducks and Hazers benefit — who vault into second and third place after today.
- The Crazy Cat’s Eyes do not clinch overall gold today, as the Green Ducks score enough to keep within 54 points of the leaders. They are the only two teams alive for first place, and the Green Ducks pretty much need to win the next two races to pass CCE. It is a good thing CCE built such a massive lead, because they have exactly 0 points in the last two races.
- So many controversies may have been avoided if something were done to mitigate the danger of turn six between qualifiers and today. Failing that, simply releasing the safety marble when Clutter gets stuck could cause major differences in the results. So much could have been done differently to avoid the mess that this race turned into.
- Presentation notes: Camera work was actually focusing on the important racers today! Much improved from recent weeks when the camera seemed all over the place. I especially enjoyed the immediate replays of the incident that caused Bumble to stall.