With three rounds of intense action in the books, STC Blue Cup 2011 is well and truly underway. And the championship is shaking down into an epic struggle for supremacy already, with three different clubs taking victories. With a two-week break before STC gets back underway, we at RaceDepartment take a team-by-team look at the season and give you guys the shake down, in a completely nonweird airport style way—I promise. Roaring Pipes Maniacs: As highlighted in the season preview article, RPM had a problem going into the season. How do they replace Jesper Taulborg? Well, RPM seem to have moved around that issue rather effectively. In fact, RPM looks better than ever. Marcin 'copy and paste' Skrzypczak, Peter Duivelaar, and Rami Kaukola have all been exceptional thus far this season, shouldering the team to #1 in the standings. What seems to be RPM’s strong point is that these drivers are virtually one in the same. Sure, sometimes one if faster than the other, but it never seems to be by a wide margin, which is blatant evidence that each driver takes the car to the limit. While other teams suffer from a drop off between their no. 1 and 2 drivers, RPM has no such problem. This was in full blossom at Fundidora, as Kaukola and Scrypcak were practically glued to each for the entire race, which led to RPM taking an impressive one-two victory (the first and only team to do so this season so far). Still, one is left to wonder about the 4th driver on the crew, Yoeri Gijsen, who finished 14th at Interlagos in round one. Was it a fluke, or is Yoeri simply off the pace of RPM’s big-three? Time will only tell. Gameracer Flatout: Mikko Korkiakoski was a man on a mission in round one at Interlagos, storming through the field on a two-stop strategy and showing mind-blistering pace as he took his and Flatout’s first win of the season. With his efforts, Flatout started off Blue Cup like they ended Back Cup, and that’s in the lead. Unfortunately, the club ran into some trouble at Fundidora, with Adam Shaw struggling at the back of the field after some woes at the beginning of the race. Coupled with the p7 finish for Kevin Clark, the round turned out badly for Flatout, and saw the club lose the lead in the championship. In Daytona, it was Mike Simian who came in to save the day for FOC, and quickly asserted himself as the class of the field, similar to what he did in Black Cup when he recorded a win at Daytona. However, Simian ran into trouble and crashed, losing his rear wing. This caused the race leader to take a very long and costly pit-stop and fall outside of the top ten. Moving into the middle of the season, the question now is whether or not Flatout can correct their current sloppy form. Risto Kappet, who finished 7th at Daytona, had some very fiery words to say after the race, and told reporters that if Flatout put in the proper testing time, that they would win the series again. He later removed such comments, leaving reporters to speculate about FOC being unhappy with him over such a bold statement. Flying Dutchman Racing: The Dutchman seem to have STC all figured out, as not only is RPM doing well, but so is FDR. With Martijn Van Bommel driving superbly (a 5th, 4th, and 3rd to his name) the Dutchmen of FDR look primed for a podium finish in STC. Their strength as a club is that they are wickedly consistent, despite the fact they seemingly can’t match the qualifying pace of the two clubs ahead of them in RPM and Flatout. Still, FDR manage to get their way up the grid and into the big points paying positions by the end of the race. If they could just push a little more speed out of the car, who knows, maybe it won’t be RPM’s Dutchmen holding the STC Blue Cup trophy, but those of FDR. Gubbklubben: Despite a rather average effort at Interlagos, Gubbklubben is 4th in the table, only a mere point back of FDR for third place. Their season is highlighted by Robin Johansson’s podium finish at Fundidora, and Daniel Beck’s (acquired from Torrent Motorsports) impressive p6 finish in the very same round. Goran Johansson has also driven well, scoring 7th at Interlagos and 6th at Daytona. The one knock on the Sweds of Gubbklubben is their inability to constantly contend for race wins over the last year. If they can do that, then they have as good a chance as any to dethrone Flatout as reigning STC champions. Flying Canadian Racing: This is a scary team. FCR is the highest ranked of the new clubs in the table, but the frightening thing is...[dramatic pause here] that’s virtually supported off the efforts of one driver. Jesper Taulborg hasn’t been good so far this season, he’s been phenomenal. No one can argue that he is the driver on form in the championship thus far, taking two podiums in the first three races, and the outright win at Daytona in what some are calling the greatest STC race in years. The sad part of the FCR story has been with their #2 drivers, as they have failed to finish races, or have finished so far back in the field as to not matter. Most notably Alexander Lauritzen’s mishaps have stirred up quite the talk around the pit wall. Lauritzen has blown his engine twice this season, both times while running inside the top five. One can only wonder how far up the table FCR would have been if not for such blunders… The Black Rebels: The Rebels have had a solid campaign so far this season. They haven’t been really good, but they haven’t been really bad either, and sometimes that’s what simracing is all about: holding the line. With a fifth place finish at Daytona by Gregory Degreef as the club’s high point, fans of the series are wondering if the Rebels can make a charge for the podium as STC moves toward the middle stages of the championship. But they will have to strike fast, as the other clubs are already pulling away at this point. Corse Online Racing: After finishing fifth in last year’s Black Cup, COR has opened up the 2011 Blue Cup… well, average. They sit in seventh at the moment, with Fortunato Fiorito’s efforts leading the way. Fans wonder what has happened to star driver Marco Giuliato, who wasn’t even on the grid for round one at Interlagos, the same race he won in Black Cup 2010. Without him, COR seems to have little chance to regain their 5th place finish of last season. Water Blue Racing: The second of the new teams, WBR are eighth in the championship at the moment. They have capitalized on other clubs’ woes and mistakes to get their way up the grid. Unlike FCR, however, it seems this young team is still trying to come to grips with the Doran, as the team has shown bottom-of-the-barrel pace through qualifying. Steve Bean put in a wonderful effort at Daytona, taking home a p11 finish for the upstart club, and showing himself to be the team’s number one man through the early stages of the season. This club’s strong point is that they finish, whatever the costs, which is the right mentality for any simracing team. Expect them to only get better through mid-season. Torrent Motorsports: This team plays the ying to WBR’s yang… or whatever the black part of that equation is called… yeah, I failed Chinese… or, wait, is it Japanese...? Okay, we’ll say I failed at Asian culture altogether… yeah, that sounds right (Japan is apart of Asia, right...?) Anyhow, TMo has been bad. While teams like WBR finish the race no matter what, Torrent has a ‘why bother’ attitude. They have yet to have two cars finish in any round, and their points total can pretty much be relabeled the ‘Danny Asbury’ total, who has scored 36 out of the team’s 43 points. Basically, it’s a FCR situation, except Asbury is no Taulborg, if I do say so myself (no disrespect to Danny Asbury, in case you’re reading this—given the quality of this prose, I don’t think you are…) Bottom-line, Torrent Motorsports is at the bottom, and that little light at the end of the tunnel… well, that has gone dark like the yang… or is it the ying? Flatout Club: I called this team an enigma in the season preview article. After the first three rounds, I don’t back off that claim. What exactly goes on with Flatout’s junior team I don’t think anyone knows. It’s like Redbull with their kers, I suppose. Flatout Club have drivers like Barry Burke and Ben Tusting on roster, yet this team just can’t score points, or at least not many of them. Some even speculate that the junior club gives their car parts to the main team… well, okay, I’m caught. I’m the only person who thinks that. Or am I? Blue Flag Racing: Umm, their liveries look nice? The positives for this team all but stop there. After having a very solid opening round at Interlagos where Konrad Stanczak took p11, Blue Flag have gone off the map, compiling DNF’s as if they were going out of style. If this team took after WBR’s mentality rather than TMo’s, it could rise up the table, otherwise it could be more of the same through mid-season. O5 Motorsports: Okay, I’ve figured out what the ‘M’ in 05M stands for. Other than that I still don't know anything about this team. They haven’t scored a single point in the championship so far, and were not on the grid at all for Daytona. Rumor has it that 05M are out of STC. I hate to call anyone’s effort pitiful, but this situation speaks for itself, and the words this situation is saying to me aren’t exactly “great” and “good job”. With the beginning of the season now in the books, teams and drivers are mounting up for the mid-season run. Despite the landscape how it is now, the real championship is about to begin. Which teams will find that extra gear? What drivers will find the alien form to win races? How will the driver-lineups change? Will these STC articles ever get good? Tune in on Thursdays at 19:00 GMT to find out. And head over to SimracingTeamChallenge.com to follow the series. Don’t forget to monitor the STC forums here at RaceDepartment as well!