The lyrics to Linkin Park’s breakthrough hit In The End may be ringing true for Kazuki Oomishima after Round Eight of the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series. Pole position, and leading over 75% of the race saw him claim the hearts of sim racing fans around the world, but the famous ‘Wall of Champions’ caught-out a driver almost certainly destined to be considered in future championship conversations after the performance of a lifetime.
Track conditions were tough at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, set on the Île Notre-Dame in Montreal, Quebec. It’s one of the world’s most popular race tracks, and in the top three most attended races in the world after the Le Mans 24 hours and Indianapolis 500. As a track that always springs surprises, we saw one in qualifying, as Oomishima shocked the grid by taking pole position. Ronin Racing team mate Yuho Abe almost made it a front row lockout, until Foracer 3id Motorsports driver Hugo Luis snatched P2 in the dying moments of the session. Fanatec Team Redline’s Greger Huttu’s season of up and down qualifying performances continued as the triple World Champion placed sixth, marking this as the first track at which he has been unable to qualify in the top five in successive visits.
It was the cool temperatures that seemed to play into the favour of the Ronin Racing duo, and the amount of belief in the car on the opening lap on cold tires seemed to be the difference maker. A crosswind across the track made the final chicane especially difficult, living up to the ‘Wall of Champions’ moniker assigned it in 1999 after three world champions slid to a halt under a sign reading Bienvenue au Québec. This corner would become the focus for much action during the race, ultimately deciding who was to become victor.
Oomishima led from the line, taking the first corner from Luis. Behind, Enzo Bonito’s difficult maiden season at Fanatec Team Redline continued, as he was involved in an incident with Alien8rs’ Marcus Caton, putting them both out of the race. Abe, after a slow down penalty, placed himself way down the field, which would lead to more incidents later on. A chaotic first few laps was always expected for this race, however the field eventually found some rhythm.
Up front, Oomishima was able to pull away by from Luis, who in turn opened a gap on team mate Andre Boettcher. Boettcher’s slow start to the race, something Foracer 3id Motorsports have been struggling with all season, was hurting Huttu’s charge, and lap after lap, the three time champion was unable to advance. Lap Four saw him attempt a pass into Turn One, only to get loose on the exit of Turn Two, almost enabling Martin Krönke (Foracer 3id Motorsports) to get past. It wouldn’t be until Lap 11 that Huttu was able to find a way to clear Boettcher, but by this point, he was 14 seconds adrift of Luis.
The action was fierce even behind this pack. After an indifferent qualifying performance left him eleventh on the grid, Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola methodically carved his way to fifth in the opening segment.
The action was fierce even behind this pack. Olli Pahkala (Datalittera Glacier Racing) and Jake Stergios (Simroom ineX Racing) almost made contact on Lap 7, and would continue running close throughout the event. The Radical’s SteelSeries trio also found themselves running around the Top 10 in the early going, although Jeremy Bouteloup would encounter issues later in the race, placing him out of contention to continue his good season form. MMM’s Fulvio Barozzini smashed the inside wall on the exit of the second chicane trying to avoid Pahkala who got loose in the centre of the corner, sending the Italian to the garage area early.
The concrete walls and Armco barriers were taking their toll, yet out front Oomishima continued extending his lead on Luis to more than eight seconds. Huttu was able to close the deficit to his Brazilian rival by a couple of seconds, but as pitstops rolled closer, it became clear another blistering middle segment would be required if the Finn was to take another victory.
Oomishima was first to blink, pitting just after the half way point, but far enough into the race to be on a one stop strategy, silencing some of the naysayers about his pace. The season to date had showed that the overcut is where races are won and lost, and therefore all eyes were back on the only two series champions, to see where they would factor on pit stops.
Surprisingly, the Redline driver was the first of the two to pit on Lap 46. The in lap and pitstop were both ‘average’ for Huttu, meaning Oomishima was able to stay ahead. By pitting two laps later, however, it seemed as though Luis had done enough to overhaul Oomishima. However disaster struck, as pit lane would be the downfall of the Brazilian’s race for the fifth time in succession, this time through no fault of his own. An intermittent connection meant that he was not scored crossing one of the timing loops on the way to his pitbox, placing him one lap down, and essentially, out of the running for the win.
Whilst different to the issues which plagued Huttu and Pahkala at Interlagos, the outcome would be the same. Though it meant nothing, Luis came back out onto the racetrack ahead of Oomishima, which would have given him the race lead under normal circumstances. This was the last thing Luis needed, after a tough handful of races, and in a series where momentum is everything, this really hurt any momentum the Foracer 3id Motorsports team had gained. Luis was unavailable for comment after the race.
With Luis out of contention, it became a two horse race out front, with Oomishima leading Huttu by 10 seconds. Smelling blood, the Finn once again put on a clinic, and combined with a course cut penalty for Oomishima, was able to get the gap down to about two seconds with 10 laps to go. From here, the race became all about pressure. It was evident Huttu lacked the straight line advantage to pass Oomishima, but the hope was that the pressure of having a three time series champion in the mirrors would be enough to force the Japanese driver into a mistake.
Coming to three to go, that’s exactly what happened: Oomishima caught the inside kerb of the final chicane, and slammed into the ‘Wall of Champions’, handing Huttu the race lead. Despite the resulting damage, the Japanese driver was able to carry on and finish second, but not before Huttu took his fourth win on the trot, further extending his championship lead.
Krönke came home third as the highest placed Foracer 3id Motorsports driver with Glacier Racing’s Jaakkola and Pahkala in fourth and fifth, respectively. Stergios set fastest lap of the race (1:13.872) en route to seventh spot ahead of Boettcher, Ilkka Haapala and Rocco Barone with Mogar Filho coming home tenth.
Despite losing the lead at the end, the hero of the day was clearly Oomishima, and will go down in history as one of the great Rookie performances of all time.
Drivers barely have time to catch their breath before Round Nine of the championship, which takes place this coming weekend from the virtual Silverstone. RaceSpot TV and iRacing Live will have full coverage of the event, with a full recap of the race here on iRacingNews.