May 10th, 2020 by Matt Kalish
Coanda Simsport driver Mitchell deJong earned his fourth win of the Subaru iRX All-Star Invitational Presented by Yokohama in a stunning drive that saw him take a car with damaged suspension from sixth to first on the final lap of this weekend’s Feeding America iRX Battle of Atlanta. The victory sees DeJong mathematically win the championship and earn the right to donate $5,000 to the charity of his choice as Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam finished a close second and Subaru Motorsports USA driver Scott Speed earn a hard-fought third place finish.
“Honestly, I was as surprised as everyone else. I had no idea that I was in the mix,” said deJong. “Oh my goodness, what a race. My heart is racing right now. It’s insane.”
The speed of Atlanta’s one mile rallycross layout promotes close racing, but the flowing corners also have single racing line preferred by most drivers. That line was best driven by Sami-Matti Trogen of Williams Esports in qualifying, setting a time that earned the iRX of Indianapolis main event winner his third Yokohama Pole Position Award of the season.
The wheel to wheel competition kicked off with stellar battles in all four heat races and both last chance qualifiers. In what would become a theme for the weekend, deJong secured his spot in the final behind Jim Beaver eSports driver Cabot Bigham after recovering from a collision in turn 1 of the race.
Speed, CJJ Motorsports driver Craig Breen, and Yellow Squad RX’s Kevin Hansen won their heat races, with Breen becoming a first-time heat winner in the process. Karam and Brandon Semenuk of Subaru Motorsports USA won the LCQs. Heading home early were a number of podium threats, like Alexander Rossi, Conner Martell, James Hinchcliffe, Parker Kligerman, and Christian Brooks.
Right from the lights of the ten lap final, each of the ten cars made moves to establish their presence on the preferred racing line. The close competition resulted in multiple turn 1 collisions that took Bigham and Breen out of contention. Just a few seconds later, Trogen and Hansen made contact over the jump, sending both into the fencing that lines the course and ending Hansen’s race as Trogen recovered from a spin. deJong, right in the heart of the carnage, suffered suspension damage that caused his car to become highly unstable, but chose to press on.
At the front, Karam made a clean break from the incidents with Nitro Circus Star Car driver Kevin Carlisle hot on his tail. The two battled for the lead over several laps before door-to-door contact in the dirt sent Carlisle spinning into the barrier, ending his hope of a podium. But Karam wasn’t about to get a break, as Speed immediately began to apply pressure on the leader. Close behind, Trogen and Semenuk fought for the final podium spot.
Further behind in sixth, a hard working deJong was shimmying down the straights, his car unable to maintain a stable attitude without intervention from the steering wheel. Though struggling, he was alone on the track and in clean air, allowing him to concentrate on turning consistent laps. deJong also had another stroke of good fortune, as unlike the rest of the field, he saved his Joker Lap until the last possible moment. A 7-8 second shortcut, the Joker at Atlanta is a nearly straight corner that exits directly onto the track’s back straight. On the final lap, DeJong jokered from sixth, exited in second, and had the speed advantage to overtake Karam before Atlanta’s final corner to ultimately win his fourth main event of the series by half a second.
The final round of the Subaru iRX All-Star Invitational Presented by Yokohama sees a return to Hell, Norway on Friday May 15, where Lånkebanen will bookend the series. The race will stream live at 6PM ET/3PM PT on the iRacing eSports Network and be simulcast through competitor and partner Facebook pages. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.