In a dramatic 44 lap online race at the virtual Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Hugo Luis muscled his way to the front of the pack to collect his third victory of the iRacing.com NVIDIA Grand Prix Series (iNGPS) and move into the standings lead with just four championship races remaining.
Starting from pole position for the championship’s second visit to Spa-Francorchamps this season with a time of 1:44.596, Greger Huttu made the perfect get away when the lights went green, to lead Luis, Klaus Kivekäs and Luke McLean into Turn Onne, aka the La Source hairpin. Keeping clear of some mid-pack chaos in the opening turn that sidelined Atze Kerkhof, Ray Alfalla and Brad Davies, Huttu led a train of Williams-Toyota FW31s for the opening laps, until the Finn was able to break away from the fleet, with Luis following closely behind.
Whilst Huttu and Luis sailed into the sunset, incumbent iNGPS standings leader Kivekäs found himself embroiled in an incident that effectively ended any hopes of securing valuable points and demoted him from the top of the championship. With nine laps on the board, My3id’s Kivekäs was occupying third position, with Team Redline’s McLean filling his mirrors. But as the pair entered the bus-stop chicane they connected, with the championship leader bearing the brunt of the damage.
“Mistakes happen.” – Klaus Kivekäs
“Luke out-braked himself into the final chicane and slammed hard into my car. It’s okay though, mistakes happen and I accept the apology,” Kivekäs explained following his eighteenth place finish. “The impact completely ruined my right front suspension and I was amazed that I was even allowed to continue with the damage. The drive-ability was poor but I could keep it on the track and the pace was still somewhat acceptable so I decided to keep driving and see what position I could get in the end.”
In the wake of Kivekäs’ demise, the battle at the front between Huttu and Luis intensified as the pair realized they could make a serious dent on the championship standings, with their fight coming to an ultimate conclusion on Lap 29. After following Huttu into pit lane and short-filling on fuel, Luis found himself on the gearbox of the current World Champion, albeit with a lighter car as the pair headed-out for their second stints. For the ensuing ten laps, My3id’s Luis poked and probed for a way past the heavily-laden Team Redline entry before finding a route to the lead, albeit with damaging consequences. Diving to the inside of the leader at La Source, the rear of Luis’ Williams stepped out, sending the My3id car sliding across the apex and into Huttu, who had maintained a wide line around the corner. Whilst Luis escaped unscathed, Huttu collected suspension damage and could only bring his car home a distant second as the My3id car disappeared into the distance to take the chequered flag by a margin of 13 seconds.
“Nothing worked like it was supposed to work.” — Hugo Luis
“It was not the best attempt to pass and nothing worked like it was supposed to work. This is surely not the way I would like to have a win,” Luis shared at the end of the race. “After the first round of pit-stops, I noticed Greger was higher on fuel so that would be my only chance to fight him. We had a nice battle over the stint, he was always getting a better exit so it was hard to get enough draft. In the end of that stint I was close enough to attempt for a pass, and tried to brake a bit later into La Source. My calculations were completely wrong, though.”
A proverbial hare and tortoise performance from David Williams saw the Englishman claim his first ever iRacing.com NVIDIA Grand Prix Series podium after the My3id racer methodically worked his way through the dramas of Round 14. Starting from seventh on the grid, Williams set out with a heavy fuel load and saw out a one-stop strategy.
“I was the longest runner on fuel in the first stint, and inherited the lead for a lap before pitting on Lap 18,” Williams explained at the end of the race. “Exiting the pits, I leapfrogged Vince Staal, and the next stint was just about settling into a rhythm and avoiding mistakes in third place. I pitted again from third on Lap 32 after leading another lap, and fuelled enough for my shortest final stint of the race.”
For the aforementioned Staal, who was making his fifth iNGPS appearance at Spa-Francorchamps, it was his first top five finish since gaining promotion from the Pro series earlier in the year. Taking the chequered flag 15 seconds behind Staal, My3id’s Marcus Saari recovered from a bad start to finish in fifth, one better than England’s Richard Towler.
“Into Turn One, I kinda got squeezed out and had to take the Kimi-route.” Saari told inRacingNews this week. “Coming to Eau Rouge people were really slow there. I still had a good run in for the Kemmel straight but for my bad luck there were three cars side-by-side blocking the entire road. I saw a yellow Aussie car there as well and when I saw them getting really close to each other I just backed off a lot because at that point I was certain someone was going to be sideways soon. Somehow they survived and I lost yet another position. After that my race was pretty uneventful. I was struggling to maintain any kind of pace but still managed to leapfrog Mathias Egger by going one lap longer on my first stint. Then I just tried avoiding mistakes because obviously I had no speed to challenge any further.”
Benefiting from the woeful luck of Team Radical’s Blake Townend, Finland’s Aleksi Elooma, Petteri Kotovaara and Daniel Almedia found themselves promoted into eighth, ninth and tenth respectively on the final lap of the race. Hanging-on to the tow of Towler as they approached the Bus Stop for the final time, Townend spun onto the grass mid-corner, beaching his low slung machine on a small mound in the grass with the finish line in sight just a few hundred yards up the road.
Luis’ third win of the iRacing.com NVIDIA Grand Prix Series moves the Brazilian into the championship lead, with a 19 point advantage over his My3id team-mate and long-time standings leader Kivekäs, who now has Huttu a mere 26 markers further behind. Will Kivekäs be able to bounce back from his most devastating result of the season, or can Luis maintain the momentum to stay at the top for the final four rounds? And what about Huttu? Can the current World Champion grab some vital wins in the final four races of the season? All (or at least some) will be revealed in a fortnight when the iRacing.com NVIDIA Grand Prix Series visits historic Road America.