The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located in Speedway, Indiana is the home of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the Brickyard 400. A modern infield road course was constructed between 1998 and 2000, incorporating the western and southern portions of the oval (including the southwest turn) to create a 2.605-mile (4.192 km) track that hosted the United States Grand Prix for Formula One between 2000 and 2007.
This was the venue for both the iRacing.com Grand Prix World Championship Series as well as its sister class, the iRacing Grand Prix Series (iGPS). Qualifying for the iGPS saw a wave of black striped helmets (indicating DWC drivers) taking the top-positions on the timesheets. However – they were all bested by A-class driver Max Dell’Orco who once again took the pole position spot for the week with a mind-blowing time of 1:04.166. For the first time this season though, only two Strength of Field (SoF) races were staged during the week – both of these races occurring on Sunday.
In Sunday’s 17:15 GMT SoF race, the grid would get off to a clean start. Jake Stergios and Riku Alatalo managed to get past Dell’Orco before Turn 1. Alatalo’s start and race lead would be short-lived however, as he overshot his braking point for Turn 1. As the Finn recollected his car from the outside kerb, contact was made with Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola that created an accident reminiscent of Nick Heidfeld’s spectacular flip in the 2006 United States GP. The incident saw the field checking up and inevitably many cars collected damage, one being pole sitter Dell’Orco who was again forced to retire – continuing from his Okayama first stint crash. An unthreatened Jake Stergios upfront pulled a huge gap to the rest of the field to take the win.
Alatalo came out of Turn 1 in second place, but a damaged car saw him dropping down the field and eventually finishing outside the top five. New face Enzo Bonito would find himself in the runner-up spot to take some huge points, followed by Teemu Iivonen in third. Simon Cattell followed Iivonen 4 seconds adrift after a strong comeback drive off the back of a collision with Ryan Terpstra – the latter dropping way down the order. Phillip Diaz rounded out the top five, finishing only 1 tenth of a second ahead of Xavier Busoms in 6th after a great race long scrap.
In the 19:15 GMT race, Dell’Orco was joined by DWC driver and team-mate Roland Ehnström on the front row – fresh off the back of his top 5 WC finish. Once again the Italian could not take advantage of his pole-position as Ehnström got through on the opening lap. Seemingly on faster pace, Dell’Orco found his way around the Swede on lap 7, and held the lead to the chequered flag – eventually finishing 5.1 seconds ahead. An epic battle for third arose behind this duo – featuring another duo of Alatalo and Cattell. Despite a big slipstream down the 1.5km straight on many occasions, the Brit just could not find his way around the defending Finn.
On lap 29 the two would come together entering the tricky turn 7 which saw Cattell pirouette and damage Alatalo’s rear wing. This handed third place to closely following Ryan Terpstra – who kept a watching eye on the battle in front – with Andrew Slocombe following suit as the new fourth placed driver. Cattell climbed back to pass the wounded Alatalo to round out the top five, whilst the latter would go on to lose another place to Pierre Urbizu. Dell’Orco’s victory saw him take home a huge amount of points in a surprisingly high SoF as the Italian again cemented himself as a contender for greater things in DWC.
With Week 9 in the books, Stergios looks comfortable to take back-to-back series wins as he continues to be chased by Italian Dell’Orco. Terpstra sits in third with the absent Laurent Beteille in fourth. Alatalo’s troubled week still sees him round out the top five. As of the end of Week 9, the battle for the 10th and last place eligible for a Pro license continues as the series moves onto the popular Suzuka International Circuit next week – an event which will surely be a crucial and deciding one.