The third annual iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series gets underway on Saturday with cash and prizes valued at more than $20,000 on the line, and a live broadast on iRacing.com at 5 PM EST/22:00 GMT. The 16 race series looks set to be its most competitive so far, with several names carrying viable claims to the 2012 title, including inaugural champion Greger Huttu and reigning champion Hugo Luis. The excitement starts at Watkins Glen, a 3.4 mile, eleven-turn course in New York’s scenic Finger Lake region that has been lovingly recreated with millimetre precision on the iRacing Motorsport Simulation service.
Looking to make his mark in the first outing of the 2012 season, Pablo Lopez will be hoping his first Watkins Glen appearance in the iWCGP will yield positive results, and set an early benchmark for his Radicals Racing team-mates. Hailing from Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Lopez has been sim racing since the days of the Sega Megadrive’s Monaco GP title. After joining the iRacing service two-years ago, he quickly made a name for himself, taking the 2010 Season 3 Radical SR8 title in the mixed-class Prototype series. This was followed up by top-five placings in the 2011 Nvidia MX5 Cup Series, outright victories in ISRA, Simdrivers.net and Simulacionline.com leagues, and ninth in the iRacing A-Class Grand Prix series – a result that led to several appearances in last season’s World Championship.
With such glowing credentials, the former rapper from the Spanish group ‘504’ and now C# programmer, was the perfect selection for inRacingNews‘ guide to muscling the virtual Williams-Toyota FW31 around the ‘Classic Boot’ configuration of Watkins Glen.
“The lap really starts at the corner before the start-finish line,” explains Lopez. “You need to take the most speed you can exiting the last turn for a flying lap.
“Approaching Turn One, you prepare yourself to down-shift from seventh to fourth gear, whilst threshold braking at just past the 100 marker board. Throwing the car at the apex, the aim is to be on full-throttle when hitting the kerb and to take an open exit line to take advantage of the asphalt run-off area on the outside – although you do need to take care and slightly lift when going over the curb, before coming back onto the track. It’s then full throttle through the uphill Esses up-shifting through to top gear, by the back-straight.
“At the Carousel, keep the car on the left line, then aim to run an outside-inside-outside line full throttle and using all the aero down-force of the car to your advantage. Turn Six can be difficult because the corner slopes downwards, meaning there’s less grip at the front as the corner falls away. So keep to the right down the hill and start braking just after the tarmac strip, whilst dropping to third gear. You need to keep the car close to the curb, until you can accelerate and track-out of the corner; if an up-shift to fourth is needed before the exit, you know you’ve taken the corner well.
“If an up-shift to fourth is needed before the exit, you know you’ve taken the corner well.” – Pablo Lopez
“Turn Seven is a second gear corner, which despite being uphill, pushes the rear tyres to the limit. So, after braking at around the 100 board and grabbing second gear, it’s a late apex in, as you’ll need to select third mid-corner and then fourth just after the exit if you’ve nailed it.
“Approaching the slightly downhill eighth corner in sixth gear, you need to brake about 40 meters before the 100 marker, drop to second, and throttle your way in to the apex – the aim is to take some exit curb, to maintain momentum. As soon as you are out of Turn Eight, it’s an up-shift to third then fourth, and a dart to the right lane to prepare for the hairpin. As there’s no marker boards for this corner you need to judge a braking distance of around 70-80 meters before the turn. Take it in first gear, keep the inside wheel tight to the white line, and start accelerating through the middle of the corner; you should get up to third gear just after the exit.
“By the time you reach Turn Ten, you should be in fifth gear, with the pedal to the metal. This corner is about precision and bravery, as you remain flat out, and even select sixth, mid-turn. Once clear, it’s an immediate switch to the left lane as you set the car up for the last turn. For this, it’s a slight lift of the gas pedal as you throw the car towards the apex, then returning to full throttle before you reach mid-corner, and opening out the steering on the exit for the dash to the finish line.”
You can follow the progress of Radical Racing’s Pablo Lopez in the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series on iRacing’s broadcast of the opening round of the series beginning at 5PM(EST)/22:00 GMT on Saturday, March 3.