The iRacing.com Grand Prix Series (iGPS) returned to the “Home of British Motor Racing” – Silverstone Circuit for the final race of the 12 week long iGPS Season 1. A historical track which hosted its first Britsh Grand Prix in 1948, Silverstone has been staged on the F1 calendar every year since 1987 and the pedigree hasn’t changed – still a blend of reputable high speed corners that put great stress on the drivers and make overtaking difficult.
Italian Max Dell’Orco led the way again in qualifying, taking his 4th pole in 5 races, closely ahead of Simon Cattell with Wolfgang Reip in third. Pierre Urbizu followed the trio in fourth and fellow Frenchman Laurent Beteille took the fifth fastest qualifying time of the week after some extremely tight lap times between the drivers. This week would also decide who out of Xavier Busoms, Marcus Caton and Pierre Urbizu would be the victor in the fight for the final Pro license, with 12 weeks of work coming down to this.
The first race would see Dell’Orco absent from running, promoting Cattell to his first pole of the season with new team-mate Wolfgang Reip alongside him on the front row. With the competitors and spectators unsure about the chosen strategies and mystery looming in the air, the lights turned to green. Cattell got off the line steadily and held his lead into T1 but Urbizu closed up fast to take 2nd by the first corner. This wouldn’t last long however as the hard-charging Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola starting from 5th found himself in 2nd place by the end of the opening lap.
Very rapidly Uusi-Jaakkola’s FW31 was all over the back of Cattell, it soon became inevitable he would find a way through, eventually taking the lead on Lap 3 into Stowe corner raising suspicions of a 1 stop strategy compared to Cattell’s 0-stopper. Riku Alatalo started way down in 6th but was soon all over the back of 3rd placed Reip – however the two made heavy contact on Lap 2 which forced Reip out of the race to his dismay whilst Alatalo continued unscathed now in pursuit of Cattell’s 2nd place. On lap 8 Alatalo mirrored his fellow Finn Uusi-Jaakkola’s pass to take 2nd position, he too seemingly on a 1 stop strategy.
A bit further down the field the fight for fourth was heating up as team-mates Laurent Beteille and Teemu Iivonen were running in the shades of Pierre Urbizu throughout the whole race, unable to make an attempt to pass in the aero “draft” with Urbizu seemingly not making a mistake. However as the race reached it’s conclusion, an unfortunate incident in the penultimate corner saw fellow Frenchmen Urbizu and Beteille colliding. This invited 1 stopping Alatalo (who rejoined from the pits in 6th place) back into contention for a good points finish as he snatched fourth place over the finish line. Beteille recovered from the incident on track just ahead of the Finn to claim third as Urbizu dropped to fifth putting greater pressure on the Frenchman to achieve a Pro license – but he was helped by his season rivals Busoms and Caton only managing 7th and 8th respectively – not enough points for them to make it through.
Iivonen claimed 6th after also getting caught up in the incident – just 2 seconds away from a podium finish. Back at the front, the battle for the lead began hotting up – with a 28 second gap to Cattell, Uusi-Jaakkola made his pit stop. It looked like enough but as Uusi-Jaakkola left the pits, Cattell was a car length ahead and retook the lead. With both refusing to give up, the two followed each other nose-to-tail for 6 laps until a bravely timed pass from Uusi-Jaakkola saw him take the lead and cruise to victory closely followed by Cattell.
The following race saw this weeks pole-sitter Dell’Orco make his customary appearence. He was joined on the front row by Wolfgang Reip with Pierre Urbizu starting behind them trying to consolidate his strong chance of getting the all important 10th place in the standings. However, his Silverstone bad luck would continue as he became an innocent bystander to a lag crash involving Mogar DG Filho and Teemu Iivonen at the first corner, which ended the Frenchman’s race on the spot. His despair was reduced just moments later however as a Lap 2 crash in Vale corner took Xavier Busoms out of the race.
Now only one of the three contenders – Marcus Caton remained in the race. One-stopping Dell’Orco took off at the start and left the rest of the field to fight for the scrapes. Uusi-Jaakkola got around Reip during the opening laps, only to lose connection to the server on Lap 4 which promoted all cars behind up a place and crucially influencing the battle for 10th place. Richie Stanaway continued his charge from his seventh place on the starting grid as he found his way around Reip on lap 6 for third, albeit with the former on a 1 stop fuel load. Alatalo followed the trio not far behind in fourth.
The race turned on its head in the pit stop phase however as leader Dell’Orco mysteriously began to slow and short-shift. After many fuel errors this season, Dell’Orco’s embarrassment was compounded here with another fuel miscalculation forcing the Italian to drive a whole lap at half pace. Through this, he could only watch as Reip took the lead away as Dell’Orco coasted around the lap on fumes. Alatalo joined this race with a different strategy compared to the previous race and he too got around Dell’Orco’s fuel-stricken FW31.
This enabled 0 stopping Alatalo to finish the race in a strong second position, putting him in contention to leapfrog Dell’Orco in the standings. Dell’Orco’s embarrassment wasn’t over yet though, as he once again found himself being short of fuel towards the end of his final stint which in the end saw him lose out on a podium spot to Richie Stanaway. DWC entrant Aleksi Elomaa started the race way down in 13th place but looked set for a consolation 4th place until Dell’Orco just crept over the finish line two tenths ahead, already with the engine cutting out.
Without a doubt though, all eyes were on the slog for 10th place in the series standings. With Busoms and Urbizu out, the omen rested on Marcus Caton. Despite being understandably passive in his racecraft, he drove a fairly lonely 0-stop race. However with Uusi-Jaakkola’s disconnection and many retirements around him – including his main rivals – Caton held a solid 6th place after the pit stop phase. Despite being put under increasing pressure from lap 1 casualty Iivonen in the closing laps, it became clear Caton would need a 5th place to score enough points to claim 10th in the standings.
The atmosphere became even more tense as the race wore on. It started to look increasingly more of an uphill battle for Caton – still sitting in 6th place with only a few laps to go, until the fuel problems for Dell’Orco brought a possible light at the end of the tunnel. However, with the Italian holding on to the end, Caton had to settle for 6th place and finishing just four points away from a Pro license – in the end it was Frenchman Pierre Urbizu who claimed this 10th position and the long-awaited Pro license.
With the 2012 Season 1 in the books, Jake Stergios claimed his second consecutive iRacing.com Grand Prix Series championship win, averaging an impressive 276 points a week – despite absences from the final two weeks of the season. Riku Alatalo takes the bragging rights for being the highest ranked A-Class driver, as Dell’Orco’s double fuel troubles saw the Finn take enough points from the final race to claim 2nd in the overall standings. With the season over, ten new drivers will be wearing black stripes for the remainder of 2012, they are: Riku Alatalo, Max Dell’Orco, Wolfgang Reip, Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola, Laurent Beteille, Ryan Terpstra, Simon Cattell, Davy Decorps, Teemu Iivonen and Pierre Urbizu. Congratulations go to all for achieving this as they set their sights on the 2012 Road Pro Series at the end of the year.