Round Nine of the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series played host to the digital version of the Williams-Toyota FW31 at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, and it was Greger Huttu claiming the spoils of victory with his sixth win of the season. In a strategy battle with championship rival Hugo Luis, the 2010 champion sailed to the finish line with an eight-second advantage.
Starting from pole after turning a qualifying lap of 1:19.651, Huttu maintained his position at the front when the lights turned green, with Luis sitting in his wake. Planning a two-stop strategy, the Finn eaked-out a seven second lead before heading to pit-road on Lap 20 for the first time. Electing to run with a heavier fuel load, Luis continued his way around the 3.2 mile Grand Prix circuit for an additional five laps Despite a clear track ahead of him, the Brazilian saw his deficit to Huttu grow to nine seconds by the time he had visited the pits.
“I tried my best to get a good start but it was not enough to attempt a pass on Greger,” Luis admitted post-race. “He drove away in the first stint and I was quite slow, looks like my strategy was not one of the best ones.”
Although Luis pegged the gap to Huttu at eight-seconds for the second stint, the defending iWCGPS champion was unable to make any serious inroads on the point leader. By the time they’d both made their final stops, the margin was still eight-seconds with 15 laps remaining.
Slicing his way through the lapped traffic, Huttu saw-out the remaining laps, unfettered and unchallenged, to take the chequered flag seven-seconds ahead of Luis.
“The start was good and allowed me to keep the lead and pull away early on.” the Team Redline principle shared. “For a moment I thought Hugo was on a one-stopper but that strategy would have needed a miracle to work so I was pretty confident that I was in a good position. In the end he was four laps heavier on fuel and that allowed me to build an 11-second gap.
“After my first stop I was stuck behind Matthias (Egger) for a couple of laps but then he went in for his stop and I had some clear track in front of me. Hugo went for a shorter stint so the gap closed down a bit, but I knew I’d have a shorter pit stop than the first time around and also would be OK pace wise on the last stint.”
“I knew I’d have a shorter pit stop than the first time around and also would be OK pace wise on the last stint.” — Greger Huttu
After stealing third position from Team Redline stable-mate Luke McLean at the green flag, Atze Kerkhof cruised to his third podium finish of the season. Although McLean gave chase for the opening 10 laps, an unforced error through Bridge Corner, sent the Australian into the barrier and out of the 60 lap race. This gave Kerkhof the breathing space he needed to stretch his legs, and head to pit-lane with a one-second advantage over the fourth placed Jeremy Bouteloup – a gap that was extended to seven-seconds by his second stop. A flawless run to the flag secured the Dutchman’s third position at the line.
“Jeremy was behind me doing great lap times, so I couldn’t sit back and relax too much.” Kerkhof explained. “Out of the pit I gained some time on him but I didn’t push enough to get in front of Hugo. So the second stint I was behind him. Lucky for me he sailed away on much lower fuel so there wasn’t much dirty air.
“Greger was far ahead, Hugo was gaining 0.4s per lap and Jeremy was far enough behind to settle down. Didn’t want to throw this away by making mistakes so I just drove there to finish the race.”
After making an opening lap pass on Jake Stergios through Stowe Corner, Bouteloup found himself in fifth position behind McLean, who soon handed him fourth spot with his incident at Bridge. The Radicals Racing sim-racer was then trailing in Kerkhof’s wake, but after taking his first service, the Frenchman found himself baulked by traffic and losing time to third place. Resigned to settling for fourth, Bouteloup maintained a consistent pace to keep a fleet of cars at a safe distance behind him, and secure his third top-five finish of the season, with six-seconds in his pocket.
“The race was quite uneventful, but I won’t complain since I’m taking the fourth spot home,” Bouteloup told inRacingNews. “The Radicals car was just perfect and the work done all week long paid off. So big thanks to the team for helping me to get the maximum of the FW31. Too bad the race of my team-mates went bad as they also had the possibility to do something good.”
In one of the fiercest battles of Round Nine, Ilkka Haapala edged-out Stergios to secure fifth position at the finish. Glued to Stergios’ gearbox for the opening laps, the Orion Race Team pilot made a daring pass on the American through the Becketts complex, to take the spot ahead of the first scheduled stops. After taking service, the Finn remained ahead of Stergios, by a slender 1.5 seconds, a gap that remained once they’d both completed their final visits to pit-lane. Although Haapala struggled in the closing laps, he managed to keep Stergios at bay, and the pair took the flag separated by just three-tenths of a second.
“All-in-all a very interesting and tough race for me,” Haapala explained. “Finishing position might not have been the best, but the battle with Jake all race long was hard and good fun. Top-five is good for points as well and our whole team showed great pace in the race.”
“All-in-all a very interesting and tough race for me.” — Ilkka Haapala
Whilst Roland Ehnström lost a position to My3id’s Martin Krönke as the field pulled away from the start line, the Scandinavian was able to mount a comeback, and retake the seventh position through Stowe Corner, a handful of laps later. From there, however, the Team Orion sim-racer was unable to muster a serious attack on the field ahead, so saw out a lonely charge to the finish line for his sixth top-ten finish of the season.
For Krönke, it was a case of ‘what might have been.’ After dropping his spot to Ehnström, the German was further demoted to his eventual ninth place finish when Matthias Egger took eighth spot through Copse Corner as the My3id sim-racer recovered from a ‘moment’ exiting the turn. After fending-off the continuous advances of Pablo López for the majority of the race, Riku Alatalo finally broke clear in the closing stages to secure his first top-ten finish of his début iGPS season by 16 seconds.
With seven rounds of the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series remaining, Huttu’s lead atop the standings is extended to 52 points. Continuing to trail in his wake, Luis on 324 points, will be hoping the Finn slips-up as the pressure mounts. In the tightly packed battle for the third and final cash-paying position in the championship, Stergios (232) has extended his lead over Ehnström to six points, with Kerkhof trailing by a further 33 marks.
Round Ten of the championship heads to Philip Island. Will Huttu maintain his formidable charge to his second iGPS crown, or will the ‘Flying Finn’ reveal a chink in his armour that enables Luis needs to get back on level terms? Tune-in to iRacing.com/Live on July 21 (14:00GMT) to find out.