The virtual Virginia International Raceway played host to Round Eight of the iRacing.com World Championship Grand Prix Series, the pinnacle of online road racing competition. Finally breaking Greger Huttu’s 100% record at the epic VIR, Hugo Luis secured his third win of the 2012 season, to make inroads on the Finn’s dominant lead in the championship standings.
Starting from third on the grid, directly behind Huttu who posted a 1:22.121 pole position-winning time, Luis immediately latched onto the championship leader’s rear wing as Team Redline’s Atze Kerkhof sailed onto the grass of Turn One from his second starting spot. Never letting the 2010 champion out of his sight, My3id’s Luis kept with half a second of Huttu for the opening 20 laps, until the Team Redline Williams-Toyota FW31 headed to the pits for its first scheduled stop.
Electing to stay out for extra laps on a light fuel load, the Brazilian proceeded to leap-frog Huttu when he finally stopped for fuel and tyres, re-emerging from the pits with a lead of 1.5 seconds. From here the reigning champion never looked back, and by the time Luis made his final stop on Lap 39, Huttu was four-seconds behind. Untroubled and unchallenged, Luis swept to a faultless victory, six-seconds clear of Huttu.
“I had a decent start,” Luis enthused post-race. “Atze went wide and then I was second. I noticed I could follow Greger and we were within 0.5 seconds of each other for the whole stint. I can still remember the smell of his car!
“Greger’s first pit-stop was the most important moment of the race for me. It meant I had to push and get a pit-stop fast enough to leapfrog him and it played quite well! The gap was increasing a little bit so I tried to just play it safe.”
Although Huttu saw his 100% winning record at VIR finally broken, the 40 points he collected for the runners-up spot were enough to keep him ensconced atop the championship table.
“I was happy to survive this one although of course a little disappointed not to win from pole.” Huttu wrote. “I got a good start, sadly Atze went a bit wide in Turn One and lost some positions. From there I just tried to keep it on the road and see how the strategies will play out. Hugo had really good pace in the race and went a couple of laps longer on the first stint so there wasn’t much to do after that as he had a couple of tenths of advantage per lap. I was happy with my top speed though. ”
Battling his way to the podium, Roland Ehnström clawed his way through the field from sixth on the grid to secure third position at the chequered flag. Delayed on the opening lap by Kerkhof’s efforts to rejoin the circuit, the Team Orion sim-racer dropped to eighth position, as he lost spots to Jake Stergios and Matthias Egger. Five circuits later, the Finn passed Stergios, who had taken a trip across the grass, and then seven laps later he passed Egger to regain his original grid spot. Further mistakes by Kerkhof and Max Dell O’rco promoted Ehnström to fourth, before he was able to make the leap past Martin Krönke during the second round of pit-stops to grab the final podium position.
“I rate this as one of the best drives of my career.” Ehnström told inRacingNews. “Virginia International Raceway is such a challenging circuit, where you can crash out in more ways than you can imagine. I drove most of the 58 long laps at full attack, and finished with zero incident points to my name, gaining positions throughout the race and ending up with a great result despite bad luck in the start. I’m happy and proud today!”
Despite a trip across the Virginia grass in the early stages of the race, Stergios recovered to clinch fourth place at the line. The American had battled throughout the race with Matthias Egger and Illka Haapala, with the three of them covered by just a few seconds for much of the 58 laps. As attrition took its toll on the field, Stergios saw his position rise, eventually securing his second top five finish of the season at the flag.
Matthias Egger’s fifth place finish wasn’t secured until the closing stages of the race, when with eight laps remaining, a collision between Haapala and Krönke propelled the Italian to his initial top-five finish of the season.
Starting twelfth on the grid, Martti Pietilä put-in a season’s best performance to secure sixth position at the chequered flag. Despite a trip of his own across the VIR turf on Lap 41, the CST Ajira sim-racer was able to gather it back up and then capitalise on the incident between Haapala and Krönke, and end the online race just four-seconds behind Egger.
Although Fulvio Barozzini fell-off the track at the fabled Oak Tree Turn, collecting damage in the process, he was able to limp back to the pits for repairs and change to a heavy fuel strategy. Then on his final stint of the race, a pass on Ben Cornett and the demise of Haapala and Krönke, gave the Mortadelia Motor Mission Team online-racer a seventh place finish, a result he termed as “astonishing.”
For the aforementioned Cornett, the 58 laps of VIR produced a charge from the back of the field to an eventual placing of eighth. Suffering from technical problems prior to the green lights, the Australian was forced to start from pit-lane and — with a helmet filled with red mist — the Team Redline pilot carved his way past 20 F1 cars, to put in one of his best performances of the season.
Limping home with a heavily damaged Williams-Toyota FW31, Haapala recovered from his late race collision with Krönke to take ninth spot ahead of Andrew Slocombe, who claimed his third top-ten finish of the year.
As the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series heads into its ‘summer break’ Huttu on 326 points continues to lead the standings by a margin of 42 over Luis. Stergios’ continuing fine form sees him hold third on the leader-board on 204 points, just four marks ahead of Ehnström, who enjoys a large advantage on the fifth-placed Kerkhof.
The iWCGPS returns in four-weeks with a trip to the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. Will Luis be able to force Huttu into a mistake to open up the championship once more, or will the Finn continue his flawless charge to his second crown?