In an action-packed Round Six of the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series, Greger Huttu claimed victory at Sebring International Raceway to further extend his lead at the top of the standings. Huttu’s fourth win of the year sees his bid to retain the world title move another step closer, with a third of the 2013 season remaining.
Starting second on the grid, alongside pole-sitter Martin Krönke, Team Redline’s Huttu was able to avoid a start-line incident that embroiled several mid-field runners. Spinning his wheels at the start, Mogar Filho’s virtual Williams-Toyota FW31 headed right, bounced off the pit wall and turned perpendicular into traffic. This put the Brazilian in the paths of Teemu Iivonen, Jason Lovett, and Pierre Urbizu, who collided with the Radicals Racing car in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, a touch of wheels between Riku Alatalo and Jesper Pedersen sent the latter hurtling into the air and onto the scene of Filho’s incident as well.
Whilst all hell was breaking loose behind them, Krönke, Huttu and Hugo Luis were making their own waves as they diced for the lead. Although My3id’s Krönke maintained his position at the front for the opening lap, Huttu was making it as difficult as possible for the German. As Krönke and Huttu entered Turn 17, the Finn spotted an opportunity to take the lead, running side-by-side over the bumpy concrete of the final corner. Krönke was able to hold his position, but Huttu’s attack left him compromised, as Luis got a run along the finishing straight and passed the champion for second in Turns One and Two. However, Huttu reclaimed the position a few corners later, slipping past the Brazilian at The Hairpin. Then, on the same lap, he got a second chance to pass Krönke for the lead at Turn 17 and this time he made it stick to head the field by the time they started Lap Three.
With the pair of My3id cars dispatched, Huttu was able to stretch his legs and by the end of Lap Five he was off into the distance by a margin of eight seconds. It became apparent at this point that Huttu was playing-out a two stop strategy, whilst Luis, now in second, Krönke, and the majority of the field were planning on visiting pit-road only once. On Lap 18 of 52, Huttu confirmed the suspicions and dived into the pits for fuel and tyres. Amazingly, such was his advantage at this point, when the Team Redline driver rejoined proceedings, he was still had the net lead.
A few seconds down the road, Luis was now fighting-off the advances of Max Dell’Orco, who’d worked his way up from eleventh on the grid to third. As Huttu took service, Dell’Orco was able to pass Luis’ fuel laden car at Turn 17 to move into the provisional runners-up spot. The Italian’s charge wasn’t to last as, four-laps later, after inheriting the lead by way of Huttu’s pit-stop, he headed into the pits for fuel and tyres. This left a clear track for Luis over the ensuing eight circuits of the 3.7 mile course to post some hot-laps, before diving into the pits for his only scheduled stop of the race on Lap 30. Five laps later, Huttu was making his second stop of the race, and rejoining the Sebring concrete with a six-second advantage over Luis.
With no stops scheduled for the top-two runners, it was a dash to the finish line, but despite Luis’ best efforts — including fastest lap of the race on the final lap – the 2011 champion was unable to make significant inroads on Huttu, who brought home the No.1car to the flag enjoying the same margin he’d had exiting the pits.
In the fight for the final Sebring podium position, Krönke was able to keep an on-form Stephen Michaels at bay. Once Dell’Orco had made his way past the pair of them in the early stages, Krönke and Michaels never lost sight of each other, as they matched each other lap for lap. After both pitted on Lap 30, they had moved back into third and fourth spots respectively, with just a couple of seconds between them. This is how they remained, snaking their way around the 17 corners of Sebring, until the final handful of laps. Putting in a late attack, Michaels launched a last ditch effort on Krönke, which brought the American onto the gearbox of the My3id Williams-Toyota FW31 on the final lap. But despite the pressure, the German was able to hold off Michaels, and beat him to the checkered flag by a couple of car lengths. Despite just missing the podium, Michaels’ fourth place finish represented a great return to form following several DNFs.
The battle for the final top-five slot was as equally hard fought, with Atze Kerkhof and Jake Stergios in a relentless fight to the finish. Starting from fifteenth on the grid, Stergios made his way through the field to seventh position within a few laps of the green flag, gaining one of those spots at the expense of Kerkhof. The American was now glued to the tail of Ilkka Haapala, with Kerkhof and Antoine Higelin closely following. Stergios dispatched with Haapala on Lap 20 to move into sixth position, which would become fifth a couple of laps later when Dell ‘Orco headed to the pits.
Stergios may have worked his way past him, but Haapala was in no mood to yield what was now sixth position, and absorbed the pressure from Kerkhof and Higelin behind. Until Lap 28 that is, when the Orion Racing driver out braked himself heading into Turn Two, and took an excursion across the grass, leaving the door open for the Dutchman and Frenchman to cruise by and drop the Finn to ninth.
By this point, Stergios was a couple of seconds clear, and looked to have the pace to keep Kerkhof at bay, but the ensuing pit-stops proved to be decisive for him, Kerkhof, Higelin and Haapala. Stergios was the first to stop for fuel and tyres, followed a couple of laps later by Kerkhof, who amazingly rejoined a couple of car lengths ahead of the American. Meanwhile, Higelin who’d pitted on Lap 29, had his mirrors filled with Haapala’s car once he’d taken service three laps later.
With his Team Redline car now in fifth position, Kerkhof gradually edged out a margin over Stergios to break clear and get within a couple of seconds of the podium battle ahead. However, there weren’t enough laps for Kerkhof to reel-in Michaels and Krönke, and he had to settle for fifth at the finish line, nearly three-seconds clear of Stergios.
After making his early pit-stop, Dell’Orco found himself in a lone run to seventh place, out of touch with Kerkhof and Stergios ahead, and well clear of Higelin and Haapala behind. In the fight for eighth position, debutant Higelin put up a valiant defense to hold the place, but with 10 laps remaining, following a series of blistering lap times, Haapala got underneath the rookie’s rear-wing and took the spot down the inside of Turn10.
Rounding out the top 10, Matthias Egger jumped a dozen positions over the course of the race to beat Daniel Lopez to the line. Starting in twenty-second, the Italian was eighteenth on Lap Two, twelfth by Lap Five and tenth by Lap 13, which he then held until the checkered flag.
With six-rounds of the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series complete, Huttu holds 275 points, an advantage of 55 over Luis. The podium finish for Krönke means he moves within three-points of third-placed Kerkhof on 174 points, with Stergios fifth on 150.
Round Seven of the championship heads to Watkins Glen, where Huttu will be looking to continue his recent run on form to keep Luis at bay, whilst Kerkhof will be hoping to prevent Krönke from closing in any further on his position. Tune-in to iRacing.com/live to see how it pans out, and read about it here on inRacingNews.com shortly afterward.