Freshly-crowned iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series champion Greger Huttu secured his ninth finish on the top step of the podium with a dominant pole-to-flag performance at Suzuka International. The Finn, who recently secured his third world title, held-off a spirited early challenge from his erstwhile championship rival, Hugo Luis, to cruise to victory, with his Redline team-mate Atze Kerkhof ultimately coming home second. A reflection of Huttu’s dominance was the fact his virtual Williams-Toyota FW31 only yielded the lead when heading to the pits for service mid-way through the 53 lap race.
Kerkhof’s runner-up spot keeps him ahead of Luis in the championship standings with just one round remaining, and should he maintain the second position, he’ll be in line for $3000 in prize money. The Dutchman started the race in fifth position, but by the time the field was heading to pit-road, he was up to third. With extra fuel on board, the former speed skater was able to put in some extra high-speed laps, so when he’d completed his scheduled stop, he was into second, ahead of Luis by three seconds. By the time Kerkhof reached the chequered flag, his advantage over Luis was six-seconds, with his team-mate a further 19s ahead.
After contact with Ilkka Haapala on the opening lap, My3id’s Luis was able to continue unscathed and lead the chase to catch Huttu for the opening stint. Finland’s Haapala wasn’t so fortunate, and as a result of the collision, the Team Orion racer saw his second place on the grid evaporate into retirement within a few corners.
For the first 29 laps, Luis kept Huttu in his sights, with the gap between them pegged at half-a-second. However, with less fuel in his car, the Brazilian headed to the pits several laps before Huttu and Kerkhof, which effectively handed them both the initiative. With the Redline duo disappearing into the distance, and with no challengers to his position, Luis cruised to the finish for his tenth podium of the year.
With the demise of Haapala, American Jake Stergios had been eyeing a podium finish for himself. That was until Lap 17, when a slight mistake around ‘Spoon Curve’ allowed Kerkhof to outrun Stergios along the back straight and demote him to fourth – the same position he started the race in. Once he’d visited the pits Stergios looked comfortable with a three-second gap over fifth place, but a late attack by Enzo Bonito meant the ineX Racing driver had to defend to the line. Having started in fifteenth, Bonito had run a lengthy first stint of 36 laps to work his way through the field into fifth place. At this point he was several seconds behind Stergios, but as the five laps to go board was shown, there was just a few tenths between them. Although he filled Stergios’ mirrors for the closing laps, Bonito was unable to find a way past, and had to settle for fifth at the finish line.
In only his second outing in the iWCGPS, Alex Simpson secured a sixth place finish. The British sim-racer had already impressed on his début at Interlagos with a sixteenth position, and this result earmarks him as one to watch in the future. Simpson had been heading for a top-five, but Bonito’s long first stint meant the potential fifth spot eluded him – although it wasn’t from lack of trying, as he finished just a second behind the Italian.
Putting on a thrilling show at Suzuka was Teemu Iivonen, who tigered his way from the fourteenth row of the grid to seventh by the chequered flag. The Finn had started the race in twenty-eighth place, and by the end of lap one worked his way to fourteenth, as he tip-toed around several incidents. Once Iivonen had taken service he was in eighth, which became his eventual seventh place finish when Stephen Michaels ahead had a race ending incident on Lap 47.
For Jason Lovett, his eighth place finish ahead of Andre Boettcher was his fourth top-ten of the 2013 season, while ninth place moves the German sim-racer into the top-ten of the championship standings, ahead of Luke McLean and Mogar Filho, by a margin of two-points. Rounding out the top-ten finishers, Michael Gomen claimed 20 points in his first ever iWCGPS event. The American had qualified in twenty-second place, and with an accomplished drive, stayed out of trouble to finish the race on the lead lap.
Although Huttu has already sealed his crown, the final round of the championship at iRacing’s latest rendition, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, will be the decider for many. Kerkhof has a 16 point advantage over Luis in the battle for second. With $2000 difference between second and third, the pair head to the shores of the St Lawrence River for a winner takes all showdown. Further down the order, in the bid to claim automatic qualification into next year’s world championship, Marcus Caton occupies twenty-fifth with 135 points to his name. Looking to challenge Caton’s position will be Daniel Lopez and Paul Ilbrink, who have 126 and 123 points respectively.
The grand finale takes place in two-weeks’ time, with live coverage on iRacing.com/live and post-race analysis on inRacingNews soon afterwards.