In racing it’s rare to find something a majority of drivers agree on. It seems to be even more rare when it’s something that everyone seems to enjoy. That was the case though this past week when the iRacing.com Skip Barber Race Series made its way to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for its second ever visit. It was hard to find anything bad to say about the virtual representation of the Lexington, Ohio raceway. From the superb job iRacing developers and artists did in recreating a classic American racing venue to the real life course layout that has been a mainstay in open-wheel and sports car racing since the 1960s. Those with anything bad to say were few and far between and the participation showed that with 620 sim racers pounding the virtual pavement over seven days. Once again there was a familiar name atop the score sheets as Club Scandinavia’s Roland Ehnström lead the way when it came to scoring big points in the big races for the week.
In qualifying the story was a little bit different, where Club California’s Christian Szymczak was the top performer leading the way with the week’s fastest lap of 1:35.815. This time would just barely edge Ehnström’s 1:35.839 and the 1:35.982 that Christian Aranha had run earlier in the week. Rounding out the top five were were Club Italy’s Dario Frattini with a 1:36.007 and Club Western Canada’s Curtis Fung at 1:36.022. The JWH Racing League being scheduled for its normal Sunday 19:45 GMT / 2:45PM EST meant that the big question was not if the fastest drivers in the series would show up but just how many.
The top split this week consisted of three of the week’s top five qualifiers and six of the top ten overall for an impressive grid with a Strength of Field of 3573. When the green lights came on it was pole sitter Szymczak with a great launch along with third place Curtis Fung who immediately went on the attack of second placed Ehnström in Turn One. After Fung briefly got by entering The Keyhole,Ehnström returned the favor down the long back stretch. With all this commotion during the opening lap, Szymczak was looking in his mirrors trying to build a lead over the remainder of the top five behind him. There would be no such gifts for Szymczak however, as Ehnström began a relentless assault that would eventually crack the Californian on Lap Thirteen. With the lead trio of Szymczak, Ehnström and Fung running nose to tail the entire race up til that point, it only took the leader’s minor mistake under braking into The Keyhole to give Ehnström an advantage he would never relinquish.
The lead trio shuffling around gave Club DE-AT-CH’s Marco Linke all he needed to close the gap and enter the picture, making it a three man fight for second place between himself, Fung and Szymczak. The next big moment came on Lap Sixteen when Fung and Szymczak made contact entering the Carousel, moving Linke up to third ahead of Fung and now behind Szymczak. Linke, not content with the bottom step of the podium, launched his own assault on Szymczak eventually taking second place with two laps to go. That would hardly be the end of the action. Despite Ehnström and Linke having more than enough breathing room to take home first and second Szymczak was now left dealing with an attacking Fung. Szymczak would finally find the breathing room he’d been searching for the whole race with barely half a lap remaining after Fung spun entering The Esses with the white flag out. When they finally made their way back to the line it was Ehnström in first, Linke second, Szymczak third, Martti Pietilä in fourth and Fung recovering from his spin to round-out the top five.
The second fastest group of drivers saw the first of two flag-to flag-victories in the JWH Racing League at Mid-Ohio on Sunday. Club Northwest’s L Leroy Coppedge ran from pole position to the checkered flag with a single off track incident the only blemish on his record. Coming home second was Club Iberia’s Javier Lahoz who also had a very clean run from his seventh starting position to take the middle spot on the podium. Finally it was Club England’s MJ Stevens taking home third place after managing to be the only driver in his split to finish all twenty laps completely incident free.
Split three saw the second of our two flag-to-flag winners when Club Iberia’s Jesus Fernandez Bayon led all twenty laps from pole position without incurring a single incident point. He was followed to the line by Lila Belmokhtar of Club England despite a spin midway through the race. Finally Club Scandinavia’s Julio Cesar Hauer earned the hard charger award making his way from fourteenth all the way up to third and the bottom step of the podium.Well done!
The fourth and final split saw Mark Hewitt threaten to drive from his pole position into the sunset for the first sixteen laps of the race. Unfortunately for Hewitt he still had four more laps in order to take home what should have been an easy win. Having several seconds in hand over Club Midwest’s Gerald Szykulski, Hewitt spun off entering The Esses, handing the lead and a several second advantage right over in the bargain. In what had to be an even bigger heart breaker for the Club Midwest driver, Szykulski spun off in the final corner with the white flag waving, handing the lead right back to Hewitt and the two would finish that way. The charge of race however came from Club Celtic’s Richard R Hunt who parlayed a last place start from pit lane into a podium taking home a very respectable third place.
Most Starts: Jan Kapoun (30), Joao Leme (21), Keith Harrelson (20)
Most Wins: Joao Leme (6), Gary Teall (6), Dario Frattini (5)
Most Top 5’s: Joao Leme (16), Gary Teall (13), Keith Harrelson (12)
Most Poles: Jan Kapoun (10), Gary Teall (8), Douglas Lundberg (6)
Most Laps Lead: Gary Teall (150), Christian Szymczak (101), Douglas Lundberg (100)
Most Points Earned without Incident: Marco Linke (207), Timothy Hopper (160), Tim Dembowski (143)
Check back in with us next time as the iRacing.com Skip Barber Race Series returns to the Classic Boot configuration of the always popular Watkins Glen International.