The penultimate round of the Premier GRAND-AM iRacing.com Online Sports Car Series brought the Riley MkXX Daytona Prototypes and Ford Mustang FR500s to New York’s Finger Lakes region and Watkins Glen International, where both classes saw their respective champions crowned. Round Nine of the ten race series, open to members of the iRacing Motorsport Simulation Service, saw a pair of European online racers claim the spoils of victory in the form of $1,000 in prize money, and a dream trip to the final round of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course September 16-17.
Daytona Riley Prototypes
Although it virtually had no effect on his own championship hopes, David Ward was the top points scorer at Watkins Glen. The Englishman bagged his first ever win in the series and secured 146 points after battling his way from fourth to take the checkered flag ahead of Andre Grigulis and Dmitry Sivkov. Unfortunately for Ward, this was only his sixth round of the online-championship, so the maximum haul will only count towards his target of a top twenty season finish.
Continuing his unparalleled run of outright wins in the Premier GRAND-AM iRacing.com Online Sports Car Series, Adras Kiraly made it on the top step of the podium for the fourteenth and fifteenth time this season at Watkins Glen with a pair of unchallenged pole-to-flag victories, solidifying his position as the championship’s premier Daytona Prototype racer. The 1:04.864 qualifying time posted by Kiraly for his outings on the Watkins Glen Cup circuit was the fastest lap of the weekend and the only one under sixty-five seconds – amazingly it was European’s seventh time as the series best qualifier.
Maintaining his role of the bridesmaid to Kiraly, American Morgan Sowerby could only secure a podium second place finish behind the champion-elect to add 129 points to his season total. Nevertheless Sowerby maintains his record of a podium finish in every event of the GRAND-AM series, scoring him a season-average finish position of second spot. A third place finish behind Kiraly and Sowerby was enough to secure Rygh Galloway the fourth highest points score of the week and maintain his position in the championship top five.
Unable to rekindle his early season form that saw him claim six outright race victories, Ales Nocar had to settle for a fourth place finish behind the main championship protagonists at The Glen to collect 103 points – his second lowest score of the season so far. A flawless 81 laps for Jason Elrod earned the American his fourth podium finish of the season and 102 points, making him the sixth top scorer of the weekend ahead of Tyson Cierpial and Christian Olsson who both secured Daytona Prototype victories in Round Nine, to place seventh and eighth for the week. Rounding- out the top ten, Andre Grigulis and Brett Taft claimed top-five finishes to end the weekend just a handful of points away from Cierpial and Olsson.
With just one round remaining in the Premier GRAND-AM iRacing.com Online Sports Car Series, Kiraly has an unassailable lead of 256 points over Sowerby in the standings, with the latter requiring a mathematical miracle to get his hands on the dream prize of a VIP trip to Mid-Ohio. Just 51 points behind second place, Ales Nocar will be looking to snatch the runner-up spot from Sowerby when the series heads to iRacing’s rendition of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for its final round on August 28.
Ford Mustang FR500S
In the Ford Mustang Class, Scott Michaels claimed the highest score of Round Nine after collecting the checkered flag in his only outing of the week. The Englishman, who has chased the coattails of championship leader Dave Gelink throughout the season, scored 179 points to notch his fourth placing at the top of the weekly standings – equalling Gelink’s record. Starting from pole position, Michaels led virtually every lap of the Ford Mustang class to best Norbert Rebelski and Thomas Facklam, further securing his second position in the standings in the process.
Trailing Michaels’ by two-points, Jack Breuker made his Premier GRAND-AM iRacing.com Online Sports Car Series début at Watkins Glen, and immediately made an impression on the championship contenders. Unfettered by concerns about championships or points, the Californian converted his class pole position into a race victory, with a barely-challenged charge to the finish line, earning 177 points and earmarking him as a name to watch in the future. Although Gelink only secured the third highest total of Round Nine, the Belgium-based online racer chalked-up his ninth class win of the season to trail Michaels by 15 points in the weekly standings at Watkins Glen – which was enough to secure the Ford Mustang crown in all but name.
Rebelski’s podium finish placed the East-European fourth for the round ahead of Michael Monaghan who took his first ever Premier GRAND-AM class victory on his fourth attempt. Podium finisher Facklam posted a score of 107 points, six away from Monaghan and 19 clear of Raimo Piiksi who continued his run of scoring a top five finish in every round of the championship. A second place finish for Junior Guimaraes put the Brazilian eighth in the Watkins Glen standings, ahead of Dave Gymer and Niels Feytons who debuted in the Ford Mustangs with an inaugural class victory.
As the GRAND-AM iRacing Premier Series heads to its final round at Mid-Ohio, GeLink holds a 260 point lead over Michaels and barring a catastrophe of biblical proportions, will be heading to America to collect his championship ring and prize check of $1,000. With Michaels secure in second position, Frenchman Evan Maillard who has missed the past two events will need to score points if he’s to prevent Rebelski from snatching his third position in the closing stages of the championship.