After a brief spring break, the iRacing.com Skip Barber Racing School Premier Series headed over to the west coast for Week 2 action at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Laguna Seca, known famously for its Corkscrew turn, provided excitement for drivers on the virtual circuit. Some new faces made their presence known during Week 2, as well as the contenders who elected not to drop Week 1 of the series championship. Last week, for Christian Aranha went undefeated in his two starts. His good fortune allowed him to have a repeat performance at Laguna Seca, but a high strength of field race win enabled iRacing.com Grand Prix World Championship Series regular David Williams to join Aranha atop the overall standings.
The first race of week two (2:00 GMT) saw three splits with a Strength of Field (SoF) varying from 1977 to 2054. The highest strength of field split went to Kurt Krumm after leading all 30 laps en route to a 17s margin of victory over Amjed Yamin. Wrapping-up the final podium spot was Joseph Peak, who finished 46 seconds off of Krumm. Club Atlantic’s Krumm earned 129 points for his victory, good for a comfortable seat in 8th place in the overall standings.
The second split of race one saw Stuart Adcock earning his victory in similar fashion, leading every lap of the online race to collect his second series win. But where Krumm led every inch of the way, Adcock started second. Within the first lap, however, he had already overtaken polesitter Andrea Ventura who, in turn, went on to finish second, about nine seconds off the lead. Scandinavian Thorleif Lunde rounded-out the podium after starting fourth for the day. Adcock is undefeated for the season, and now sits third in the overall standings with a points pickup of 127, behind Williams and Aranha who are tied at the top.
The third split three was no different, as Curtis Fung outraced the 18 other sim racers in the field. He started on the pole and never looked back, leading all 30 laps to best Jim Shedlick by over 12 seconds with Kevin Vaughn rounding-out the top three. Fung, now 124 points stronger, sits 11 th in the standings, with two wins in two starts to his name.
Although Fung shares the same stats as third-placed Adcock, he has had little luck in getting into high SoF races. “If things stay the same, I’m already dead in the water,” he commented. With two flawless performances and sitting 33 points back to Williams and Aranha, Fung seems more driven than ever to chase down the ten contenders at the top.
“I have a feeling that . . . eventually (David and I) could get stuck in the same split and then that will likely be the race that determines the championship.” — Christian Aranha
Race Two (10:00 GMT) was the smallest race of the week, with no splits and only 15 drivers. In factm the top four drivers dropped this race because of the higher SoF races throughout the day. While points didn’t play much of a factor in race two, big names in the Skip Barber Premier Series waged war, serving as a precursor to the exciting racing that would follow. Aranha, fastest qualifier of the week (1:36.471) and the defending points leader, won in what is fast becoming the normal Skip Barber Series fashion, first taking the green, then the checkers just thirty laps later. However the likes of Jan Niesiolowski, a frontrunner from last week at Lime Rock, applied pressure to Aranha consistently throughout the race, and just finished 7 seconds back. Marco Corti finished third, after rallying from sixth place on the grid.
The points were on the line for drivers in Race three (20:00 GMT). Niesielowski clinched his split with 141 points for his victory over Kimmo Suominen, who led a lap and was ready to take advantage of a potential mistake if Niewsielowski were to faulter during the race. However, the ? never put a wheel wrong and Suominen finished six seconds back from Niesiolowski who earned his first win of the season. Tim Claessens completed the podium finishers, earning 126 points for his efforts in the 2236 SoF split.
Split two had the second highest SoF in Race 3, dishing-out 146 points to the winner. Still hungry for a second course, Aranha made it the fourth race in a row where he has proven to flawless from start to finish, with Xavier Busoms and Keith Sharp joining him on the podium.
Split three was just enough to give David Williams the edge to tie the dominant Aranha for the overall series lead. While Aranha got the luck of the draw in winning last week’s highest SoF race, this time Williams was able to capitalize on the 2330 SoF. As a result, he earned an extra point for his win, 147 to Aranha’s 146, enough to take a share of the overall lead.
Although the race was a blowout victory for Williams, third-starting Emmanuel Menendez made his presence known by leading the first lap. Unfortunately, he was destined to retire due to engine woes and end up in the 19th position. Duncan Coppedge finished second, 19 seconds back of Williams with Marco Corti, a man familiar with podiums in the series, finished third yet for the second time this week.
Across the board, the first two weeks have shown drivers taking the the Skip Barber Premier Series very seriously. The snake split system has allowed some of them to get a great jump in the standings, as well as creating a few “sleepers” who are but one win in a high strength of field race away from dethroning the leaders.
Point leaders Aranha and Williams have yet to race each other in the same split, and both hope the outright championship lead will be determined in head-to-head competition.
“Tied now for the lead with Christian in the champ, so very pleased,” Williams said, “just a shame the snake split prevents us from directly racing!”
To which Aranha responded: “If things keep going the way they are and the points stay evenly the whole season it should turn out OK. I have a feeling that eventually, given the right circumstances, with a low turnout of drivers that we could get stuck in the same split and then that will likely be the race that determines the championship”.
But the friendly rivalry heating up between Aranha and Williams doesn’t mean they should be getting all of the attention. Adcock, Coppedge, Corti and Niesiolowski are all within striking distance after consistent performances at Lime Rock and Laguna Seca. Week 3 will keep the drivers enjoying the west coast, as the Skip Barber Premier Series visits wine country in Sonoma, California at Infineon Raceway. Will more drivers be able to take a share of the lead? Or will it be one driver at the top, leaving Sonoma sipping champagne?
Images courtesy of Christian Aranha