The months of April and May saw one driver win races in the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series. And as the Fanatec Team Redline machine of Greger Huttu scored victory after victory, it prompted the same f questions we hear every year: Can anyone stop the four time World Champion? Overall, Redline have also been the superior team, winning all but one race othe season, and really outshining their long term rivals, Foracer Coanda Simsport. In a nutshell, as the weather gets warmer and the nights shorter, something had to be done otherwise a championship could well be over before we get to the end of summer. Coanda needed to step up.
Enter Montreal, one of the most entertaining online races of the year. This was a track that a year ago saw underdog Kazuki Oomishima lead 59 of 70 laps, and almost caused the biggest upset in series history. It took a Wall of Champions to stop him that day, as Huttu lucked-out. This isn’t the Finnish driver’s best track; for example, his average starting spot is 6.5 here, compared with the front row of the grid over his five and a half year span in the series. It is a track where Coanda and Redline have shared bragging rights over the years, so this was always going to be interesting come qualifying, and it didn’t fail to spring a surprise or two, as Martin Krönke took pole position, and his team mate Hugo Luis locked out the front road of the grid for Coanda. The second row saw the Redline duo of Olli Pahkala and Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola have their best qualifying in a while, followed by Apex Racing’s Sebastian Job, his, and his team’s best performance in qualifying in series history.
Huttu? P8. Enough said.
As the lights went out for Round 8 of the championship, a surprisingly clean getaway got the field in motion, with Krönke pulling out an early lead from his team mate, and the field looking as though there were settling down for a quiet start to the afternoons events. The end of the first lap proved otherwise however, as Job, from his best qualifying performance, slammed into the famous Wall of Champions, dropping him out of the race. The next big victim of the day was to be Jaakkola, who himself had an uncharacteristic day, and would only be classified in P34.
The chicanes were the most difficult part of the racetrack, and the final chicane lived up to its fiercesome reputation. Perhaps it was the track conditions, perhaps it was the car, or perhaps drivers having to fight for every 0.001s, but this race saw more unforced errors than at any point so far this season. Sim racers up and down the field were affected, including Joni Tormalla (ineX Racing), Justin Lindsay (Coanda Simsport), Marin Colak and Issac Price. Even Pro Series champion, Coanda Simsport’s Mitchell DeJong would fall victim to the high curbs of the chicanes, crashing out at the first chicane late on in the race.
Krönke led the race from the front, through two sequence of pitstops, and dominated the entire day. Notably, this was Luis’ best run in almost half a season, as even though he couldn’t find a way to the race lead, he still kept his team mate honest, finishing within two seconds of the front. The main action however was going on behind. Huttu, realising the power of series momentum pushed hard, moving himself up to third though, of course he was helped by the fact that three drivers ahead of him on the starting line failed to finish, meaning he only gained two additional positions on track, most notably moving ahead of Pahkala who was destined to finish P4. Rounding out the top five would be the Radicals Online Williams-Toyota FW31 of Jeremy Bouteloup, in what had been a mixed day overall for the team. Following the race, team mate Mogar Filho commented on how much stronger the car was in race pace compared to qualifying, and the summed up the importance of qualifying.
In total, only 13 cars finished on the lead lap, with Friction Racing’s Richard Avery the last driver to do so. A further 11 drivers finished a lap down, owing to a multitude of pit, driver, and technical issues, leading to the lowest lead lap driver count of the season. In terms of the championship, Krönke is able to close the gap to the series lead to 39 points, although Huttu still has a drop week, and almost a race win cushion. Luis moves up to third in the championship, yet he’s now 79 points off the championship lead, with drivers behind almost already written out of the championship hunt.
With half the season complete, the series roars into Northamptonshire, England in less than two weeks’ time, for Round 9 of 16. As always, all the action will be on iRacing Live and RaceSpot TV, as drivers move closer to the summer break, at one of the most historic racing venues in the world. With Huttu beaten for the first time in two months, will Krönke and Coanda Simsport be able to capitalize on the momentum in their favour, or will the Redline team bounce back? You’ll have to watch to find out.