Week Three of the iRacing.com Skip Barber Race Series saw a return to US soil for the Classic Course at Watkins Glen in New York State. This 2.4 mile long circuit only has seven corners in this classic configuration, with the drivers never going below 70mph and having an average lap speed of about 100mph, even higher if you’ve got the right stuff. On the final day of the week there were three races with an SOF above 3,000 but only one of them ended in a finish where first and second place we separated by less than 0.01 seconds after the 18 laps were completed.
Some big name Skippy drivers lined up on the grid with Brazil’s André Cunha starting from pole position. Ari Härö of Finland started from P2 with his compatriot Toni Kurkinen just to his side and Christiaan Tanahatoe (Benelux) was in P4. The start of the race was clean and without incident as Cunha and Härö began to deliberate P1 almost immediately, while Kurkinen and Tanahatoe did the same for P3 (with Härö and Kurkinen coming out on top for the time being).
By Lap Two it was already very obvious that the place to pass for all 20 of the sim-racers was after Turn Four on the long run down towards the Loop where the slipstream is strongest, and Cunha used this strategy to retake the lead of the race from Härö. Not far behind the leaders Tanahatoe went deep into turn one and lost P4 to Mike McCormick of Texas who had started from P5 of on the grid. Tanahatoe would continue losing positions over the next few laps dropping as low as P8 but never far from the pack.
Meanwhile a six-way battle for P3 emerged when Dominic Brennan (UK&IRL) closed the gap to the already existent five-way battle between Tanahatoe, McCormick, Kurkinen, Christian Manzini (Iberia) and Rudi Reinkort (Central-Eastern EU). The whole lot of them drove in close formation, almost choreographed, until Lap Seven when McCormick took P3 as the group made the run down to The Loop, and then had a moment of oversteer at turn six which sent him off the track, dropping him to P13 after nearly getting collected by a back-marker.
Back at the front Cunha and Härö continued battling, passing each other on the straight lap after lap, no less than thirteen times over the course of the race. There were some more inventive attempts (some successful) made at other parts of the track but they never worked as effectively. In fact Lap 16 was the only lap where the two drivers didn’t trade places at least once. Somewhere past the half-way point of the race it started to become obvious that the driver in P2 at the start of Lap 18 would likely win the race, adding an extra element of strategy to an already exciting day.
As the white flag flew it was Cunha in P2, he got a good run through The Esses and took the lead of the race in predictable fashion. To the shock of spectators and Cunha alike, Härö had a trick up his sleeve and took to the outside of Turn Six (and consequently the inside of Turn Seven) and edged-out Cunha by just 0.006 seconds to take the win and 193 points, currently 9th in the championship. Cunha earned 182 points for his efforts and is in the eighth spot just ahead of Härö.
In the battle for P3 it was Tanahatoe who played it smart and picked off the other drivers one by one from Lap 14 right until the end of the race. First he took P6 from Manzini, then P5 from Kurkinen, then Reinkort for P4. Lastly he made the same move as Härö around the outside of Turn Six, but on Brennan for the final podium position, giving him 172 points and a 13th place position in the championship.