When reflecting on the seventh Round of the iRacing,com World Championship Grand Prix Series at Watkins Glenn, people may see it as the turning point of the season for Greger Huttu. The Finn was gifted his fifth victory of the 2013 season when a series of errors saw his main title rival Hugo Luis retire on the opening lap and a Team Redline team-mate hand him the win with a pit-lane mistake.
Starting from the second row of the grid, Huttu could only watch as pole-sitter Luis and the sister Redline entry of Atze Kerkhof come together around Turn One. Whilst Kerkhof was able to continue relatively unscathed, Luis was not so fortunate. As he attempted to recover from the collision, his My3id stable-mate Martin Krönke came into the opening corner too hot, ran wide and speared into the side of Luis’ Williams-Toyota FW31. The resulting damage was enough to retire both cars from proceedings.
Meanwhile, Huttu seized the advantage, and poached the lead from Kerkhof, who was demoted to third position behind the current champion and Martti Pietila. On the next lap, Kerkhof was rebuilding, and made the move back into second place, with a pass on Pietila along the back straight. Not content with P2, the Dutchman set out after Huttu and by Lap Six had moved into the No.1 spot. Over the ensuing laps, Kerkhof established a lead of three-seconds before he dived in the pits for his first scheduled stop on Lap 20.
Three laps later, Huttu was doing the same and exited pit-lane side-by-side with his team-mate. With the momentum behind him, Kerkhof was able to keep the Finnish sim-racer at bay, and maintain his lead around the sweeping Turn Five.
Yet again, Kerkhof broke free of Huttu, and looked set to claim his first victory of the season, until a fateful error handed the championship points leader a simple win. After completing his final stop on Lap 38, Kerkhof’s charge to the top of the podium looked academic. But powered out of pit exit, his Williams-Toyota FW31 went into a slide. Although Kerkhof was able to recover, the time lost meant when Huttu completed his stop two-laps later he rejoined the on-track action with a lead of five-seconds.
Unable to make any inroads on the leader, Kerkhof was left to consolidate his second place at the finish line behind Huttu, who had a clear run to the chequered flag.
A one-stop strategy for Max Dell’Orco paid dividends for the Ajira Foracer team-member, securing the Italian his first podium finish of the season. Starting sixteenth on the grid, Dell’Orco was up to eighth by the end of the first lap, following passes on Simon Cattell, Enzo Bonito and Illka Haapala. In addition, incidents for Luke McLean, Yudai Narumi – not to mention Luis and Krönke — saw Dell’Orco chasing down Stephen Michaels and Andre Boettcher in sixth and seventh respectively. However, with a fuel-laden virtual F1 car, Dell’Orco was soon yielding to the lighter cars of Mogar Filho and team-mate Daniel López , dropping him to tenth.
As the lap count increased, so did Dell’Orco’s position, as those in front of him headed to pit-lane to see out the start of their two-stop strategies. By the time Dell’Orco headed to the pits for fuel and tyres on Lap 37, he’d reached the heights of third place. Moments later he rejoined the proceedings in sixth, with Michaels attacking his position. Then as the likes of Pietila, Filho and López took their second services ahead of him, Dell’Orco found himself back in a podium position, with Michaels now several seconds behind. With a flawless drive to the finish line, Dell’Orco secured third place, five seconds clear of the American.
Whilst Dell’Orco was able to breakaway, Michaels was having a challenging run to the finish line at his home track. The New Yorker had made great progress from thirteenth on the grid, as he played-out a one-stop strategy. At one point, he was leading the 56 lap race, whilst the two-stoppers made their visit to the pits. Once he’d taken service and Dell’Orco had escaped his clutches, Michaels found himself in a fight with Pietila for the eventual fourth spot in the closing laps. With five laps remaining, Pietila had cut the deficit to just one-second and was looking for an opportunity to move up the order. As the penultimate lap began, Pietila appeared set to make a run, but Michaels put up a valiant defence to keep him at bay. It was the same for the final lap, but with the FW31s carrying similar weight in fuel, the pair were caught in a stalemate to the line, with Michaels edging out Pietila by just four-tenths of a second.
Marking an impressive début with a sixth place finish, Jorn Jens dropped a net of three-places over the course of the 56 lap race. With the likes of Dell’Orco, Michaels and Pietila working their way past the German, Jens would have finished in eighth position. However, the demise of Luis and Krönke on the opening lap, meant Jens took a haul of 28 points in his first race of the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series and earmarked himself as a name to watch in the future.
By employing a one-stop pit strategy, Boettcher secured seventh at the chequered flag. The German ran as high as third before heading to the pits on Lap 31. Then, with fresh tyres and enough fuel to take him to the finish, he cruised to the line, inheriting his spot on Lap 42.
The battle for the final top-ten placings was a fight to the finish, with several cars in the mix. By lap 44, Joni Tormala had his sights set on eighth place before Jeremy Bouteloup commandeered the spot. Seven laps later, a top ten for Tormala still looked to be on the cards, despite López passing him to take ninth. With two to go, however, Cattell launched a late attack, taking the inside line at Turn Six. In an attempt to tuck into his slip-stream, Tormala moved to the inside behind the now tenth-placed Cattell but, in the process, caught his front wing on the Englishman’s rear tire and headed off the circuit. By the time he rejoined and crossed the finish line, Tormala had plummeted to sixteenth.
With seven rounds of the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series complete, Huttu on 325 points has a lead of 104 over Luis. Third-placed Kerkhof is only a seven points back of Luis, with Krönke and Jake Stergios a further 42 and 60 adrift.
Round Eight of the series heads to Virginia International Raceway, and with Huttu’s seemingly unassailable charge to the 2013 title, the likes of Luis, Kerkhof and Krönke will be hoping Lady Luck will stop shining her torch on the Finn. You can follow the action live on iRacing.com/live and read about it here on inRacingNews.com.