With the final week of the season on the horizon, the iRacing Grand Prix Series headed to Victoria, Australia to tackle Phillip Island Circuit in the penultimate week. The 12-turn, 4.445km circuit – which features the 1km Gardner Straight – is notoriously the fastest paced. Although lap times will be less than 70 seconds per lap, three hairpins throughout the lap provide overtaking opportunities throughout the race, as well as Doohan Corner where following cars could have a 10km/h speed advantage heading-in to initiate overtaking opportunities. Patrik Holzmann took pole position ahead of Apex Racing UK’s Peter Berryman.
Much like Canada one week ago the start was not a pretty sight; and this time for both ends of the field. With two separate incidents in two corners it was not the way the drivers would have wanted to start the race. Daniel Bida – for a second week running – was the familiar face in the initial crash towards the rear end of the field; the TNT Racing driver and Diogo Oliveira collided as they rounded the apex of Doohan Corner, sending both shooting to the left of the circuit and directly into the path of Mivano’s Fabio Gonzalez who unfortunately got collected and sent for a wild ride. Pablo Lopez and Cam Stark both warped through the spinning cars without accumulating damage whilst Bida’s teammate Oscar Mangan took to the grass in evasive action.
The opening corner carnage wasn’t over just yet though; the exit of Southern Loop was the next scene of cars dispersing absolutely everywhere to avoid disaster, although for some it would result in an epic fight through the field. Berryman had a good launch off the line to try to attack Holzmann by the time they reached Southern Loop and he did so until the Mivano driver abruptly shut the door. This sent the Northern Irishman to the high side of the track and resulted in him getting loose on exit causing a vast “check-up.” The high-flying Mack Bakkum was the closest competitor and got tapped in the rear and sent all the way over in to the gravel which resulted in the Radicals Online driver losing more than a dozen positions in a few seconds. Berryman was even less fortunate as he fell to the back and had a large mountain to climb to get back up to the leaders.
Towards the front of the pack the first four laps were almost turning into a brawl with the inches separating all the cars as they each tried to hold and gain positions. Glacier Racing’s Petteri Kotovaara had fought his way from seventh to third by Lap Four whilst Bakkum was on a different charge back through the field: he’d just regained a top 10 position and no one had been able to hold him back thus far.
The main casualty in the first qurter of the race was Jorge Montanes. The Spaniard and Positive Sim Racing’s Kevin Siggy made netcode contact at the turn-in for Doohan Corner on the sixth lap which sent Montanes for a ride over the grass, and thence to the back of the field, seriously hindering his race. Meanwhile Bakkum had hindrances of his own at the beginning but nevertheless was putting a seriously good fight on to get up to where he essentially would’ve been if everything had been cancelled-out from the beginning. He’d made it up to seventh and was only a few tenths away from his teammate Enzo Amico who’d more than likely give him an easier ride past. Meanwhile Tim Berti was running solidly up in second having scampered through the early mayhem, and for the meantime looked like he’d be staying there.
Lap 23 was when the first of the front runners dived in to pit lane, namely Amico, who would face a significant disadvantage should a large overcut be used by other drivers. Lopez also pitted, although he was in a different battle which was surprisingly one further back. Bakkum pitted two laps later than Amico and gained three to four seconds where prior to the stops less than a second separated the two drivers. Kotovarra, Loozenoord and Siggy all came called in the pits on Lap 26 and left in that exact order . . . except Bakkum made sure it wasn’t that order as they headed to Doohan Corner. The Radicals Online driver’s superior pace – even on the higher fuel – had played to his advantage as he jumped one and gained on the others. Holzmann and Berti both opted to go much longer, pitting on the end of Lap 28. The German easily came out in the lead, whilst Berti slotted in behind Bakkum and was under pressure right away from an up-to-speed Siggy. It didn’t take long for Siggy to pass Berti: just a lap later at Stone Corner to be precise. Amico, meanwhile, was lagging a few seconds behind due to his much earlier stop.
Berryman had been charging hard through the field all race, and broke in to the top seven on Lap 32 by passing a virtually stranded Amcio around Southern loop after making use of the huge speed advantage he got down the long Gardner Straight. Amico’s early stop had caused him some grief, dropping him away from the pack ahead and falling into the clutches of the Apex driver – who would later take a brief trip through the gravel before re-passing. Eighth wouldn’t have been a bad result at all, but it wasn’t to be: coming out of Turn 11 the car snapped and spun, demoting the UK&I driver to tenth, and gifting Berryman back his originally gained seventh.
By the time the end of Lap 42 came Holzmann had once again taken the checkered flag first. He collected 300 points for his efforts, and all but consolidated his position for winning the overall title. Kotovaara gained 282 points for finishing second whilst Loozenoord collected 264 markers from the 4780 SOF in third. Bakkum rebounded from almost last to finish fourth whilst Siggy brought his car home fifth.
With a week left, who will be placed in the top 15 come the end of it? Apex Racing TV will once again be live streaming the race, so be sure to check out the 16:00GMT Saturday race for what’s bound to be some interesting online racing for sure!