Greger Huttu, Enzo Bonito, Wyatt Gooden, Jake Stergios, Rens Broekman; These are just a few of the names which are synonymous with the sim-racing term affectionately known as ‘alien.’ To be classified as such, one must be more than just fast but, rather, ridiculously fast. Referencing the movie Space Balls, these drivers can be racing others who are maneuvering at ‘ludicrous speed’ and put the moves on them because they’re driving at the speed of ‘plaid.’
As the drivers lined up for the start of Season 4 of the iRacing.com Blancpain Endurance Series, it was standing room only for us mere mortals who simply wanted to spectate. Indeed, even this writer was initially unable to gain entry to the race due to the spectator spots being completely full.
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With this season being a shortened six-week qualification season for the upcoming Blancpain GT Series, the best sim-racers in the world descended on Road Atlanta for three hours of endurance sim-racing.
With the top SoF (Strength of Field) race being 5455, the competition was incredibly fierce as everyone wanted to be the first one to stick it onto pole position for the first race. Only one man was up to the task, however, and that was Italian sim racer Enzo Bonito of Team Redline Black. With a time of 1:18.179, Bonito placed the RUF RT 12R which he shared with the recently crowned 5-time World Champion, Greger Huttu, .2 seconds ahead of Jesus Sicilia of DarContigo Racing Team who would start second in what was a RUF front row lock-out.
Starting on the second row was Riku Alatalo of Glacier Racing BES #2 followed by Tommy Nilsson of ineX Racing Blue ahead of Alexander Voß of CORE Motorsports.
Others of note were NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series and iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series driver, Jake Stergios, who qualified in seventh in the BMW Z4 he shared with his teammate William Levesque of ineX Racing Yellow.
With 39 cars taking the grid in the top split, it was destined to be an action-packed race.
Team Redline FTW
As the race rolled on and the laps ticked away, the Team Redline duo of Huttu and Bonito charged on with what was a dominating race from the start. With Bonito taking the bulk of the driving duties by carrying 88 of the 134 laps, the pair crossed the finish line to win the first race of the Blancpain Endurance Series this season after leading an impressive 130 of 134 laps. Keeping their RUF out of trouble, Huttu and Bonito would also finish the race over 38 seconds ahead of their closest competitor. Additionally, Bonito set the fastest lap of the race with a blistering 1:18.805.
Although it’s still early days, the shortened six-week season currently plays into their favor as they hold the championship lead with 335 points.
Keeping it clean
After securing a seventh place starting position, the ineX Racing Yellow squad of Stergios and Levesque kept their nose clean as they moved their way up through the field. Only collectively accruing four incident points over the course of the three-hour online race, the duo eventually worked their into second position but were well outside of striking distance to challenge for the lead.
By the end of the race, the pair were able to maintain second spot as they crossed the line for a solid start to the season. Like Huttu and Bonito, Stergios and Levesque distributed their driving duties 33/66% respectively.
A win is a win
Although they were in a lower SoF race (5283), Foracer Coanda Simsport #18 made the most of it by taking the win after starting in fifth. The trio of Klaus Kivekäs, Jörn Jens and Markus Lendermann brought their BMW home with 325 championship from their win which currently puts them only one point behind ineX Racing Yellow. Additionally, Lendermann set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:18.388.
Team Redline Black, ineX Racing Yellow and Foracer Coanda Simsport #18 make up the top-three in the championship thus far. Holding down a very close fourth place are Dave Gelink, Tommy Nilsson and Teemu Iivonen of ineX Racing Blue with 323 points followed by the Australian duo of Richard Hamstead and Dylan Sharman of TTLR Orange with 317 points.
God Save the Queen
Week 2 of the iRacing.com Blancpain Endurance Series takes us to Kent, England for three hours of sim-racing around the tight twists and bends of Brands Hatch. Slightly shorter than Road Atlanta, this 2.3 mile circuit features nine various turns; many of which consist of only one driving line so passing will be difficult here.
You can certainly expect Team Redline to bring their A-game as they look to bring their dominating form to this series but don’t count out the boys from ineX and Foracer Coanda as they look to be solid contenders for the top-spot, as well. Regardless, you won’t want to miss the action as the best sim-racers in the world all gather together once again to fight for entry into the upcoming Blancpain GT Series.