The Okayama International Circuit (aka TI Circuit Aida between 1992-2004) was the host for the eight week of the iRacing.com Grand Prix Series. The course was built in 1992 and hosted the Formula One Pacific Grand Prix in 1994 and 1995; both events were won by Michael Schumacher in his early title-winning years.
In qualifying Italian Max Dell’Orco would continue on his supreme form as he positioned his Williams-Toyota FW31 on pole position this week ahead of Jake Stergios, the latter would however be absent from Friday’s Strength of Field (SoF) online race.
Starting next to Dell’Orco on the front-row would be Australian Danny Davidson followed by Ryan Terpstra. As the race got underway, there would be a big shuffle in the positions as Terpstra got off to a flying start, taking the lead on the opening lap ahead of Dell’Orco. Davison from second dropped back to fourth after an earlier contact with one of his rivals on track. Stephen Michaels made great progress early on and would find himself in third as the first lap was completed. He would not stay there for long though, as leader Tersptra made a mistake on his 3rd lap which saw his car going sideways – handing second place to Michaels. New leader Dell’Orco started putting down some serious pace at this moment, increasing the gap to the cars behind. But the race would not be over as the Italian received a 15 second penalty for an unsafe pit entry during his pit stop. Terpstra – due to his earlier spin — was unable to retake the lead as he finished 5 seconds behind Dell’Orco. Front row starting Davidson, who dropped to fourth at the start found his way around Michaels during the pit stop sequence to take third. Rumyana Nikova came home in a solid fifth.
The start of Sunday’s 17:15GMT race saw a big Turn 1 incident as fast starters Ryan Terpstra and Teemu Iivonen made contact entering turn 1, sending them sideways in the middle of the path of oncoming cars. This incident would bring damage on a big part of the field who had to pit for damage repairs on the opening lap. As the melee was cleared, Wolfgang Reip and Jake Stergios were running nose-to-tail for the lead, followed by unuwell Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola. Cristian Lorente starting in tenth on the grid found himself running in fourth as he had cleared the first lap pile-up. Reip starting progressively putting a gap to the chasing Stergios and Uusi-Jaakkola, but a different fuel strategy would see him lose out to both of the cars behind, as non-stopping Stergios would go on to take the win ahead of also 0-stopping and Uusi-Jaakkola. Reip was followed by Lorente who drove a consistant race to finish just outside the podium in fourth. Simon Cattell made his way through the field to take fifth after being involved in the opening-lap mayhem.
To everyone’s pleasure, the 19:15 saw a cleaner start then in the previous race and upfront the pole-position sitter Dell’Orco would once again lose the lead to his fellow row-starter, this time Davy Decorps. Dell’Orco pushed to regain the lead position, but a small mistake in the last sector saw his Williams-Toyota FW31 taking a hit to the wall and forcing him to retire from the race. Thanks to this, Steve Kasimatis would advance to second place behind Decorps. Pierre Urbizu was on the button and had made his way all the way up to third from his ninth place starting position. The top 3 would however all lose to one driver behind them that they had forgot about – Wolfgang Reip in fourth – who this time was on a different strategy than the previous race where he lost the lead, this time the Belgian did a clean and consistant race and as the pit stops had cycled through, found himself in the lead which he held on to the chequered. Decorps took the runner-up position followed by Simon Cattell who after a great battle earlier in the race with Riku Alatalo took the last podium spot after passing Kasimatis during his pit-stop. Pierre Urbizu clung on to take the fifth position.
The final SoF race this week had Stergios lining-up to lead the field away followed by Marcus Caton and Pierre Urbizu. The latter would however be the leading car as they manouvered their cars through the first turn. Pierre Urbizu held off charging Stergios until lap 6 as the American found his around the Frenchman entering Turn 3 – a lead he held to the end of the race increasing the gap to 19.9 seconds. Xavier Busoms rolled over the finish-line in third place after a few close incidents that could have ended his race. Laurent Beteille drove a feisty race to take fourth after running outside the top ten for a big part of the event – closely followed by Caton in 5th as three tenths of a second separated the two over the finish-line.
Although familiar names dominate the top five positions overall, a small shuffle of names occured as Dell’Orco now follows series leader Stergios with Beteille sitting third. Countrymen and team-mates Uusi-Jaakkola and Alatalo also shuffled their positions as they sit in fourth and fifth respectively with Marcus Caton now holding the last position eligible for a Pro license.