Rookies and past-champions alike struggled to master the 20-turns at Circuit of the Americas in the series debut at this new track during Week 6 of the iRacing.com Mustang Challenge. In a week of competition producing only five official races, defending Season 1 Champion Patrick Bieri prevailed in a key Strength-of-Field race on Sunday to take home the most points earned at COTA and jumped from third to the top spot in the overall standings. At the midpoint of the 12-week sim racing season, Bieri is the fourth different series leader.
Bieri’s big points win came in a race that exemplified the struggles that even the top sim-racers in the series faced on this new track. Bieri started on pole with 2013 Season 2 Champion Todd Honczarenko on his door. The second row featured Noel Luneburg and Week 4’s series points leader Mike Wille, followed by Loren Bateman and Week 5’s series points leader Jared Jewell.
On Lap 2, Honczarenko went too hot into turn 1, running off track at corner exit and banging into Luneburg on re-entry. The contact put Honczarenko into a spin, eliminating him from contention for the win and inflicting slight damage on Jewell’s car. Wille took advantage of the mayhem to jump from fourth to second. On lap 4, Wille passed Bieri for the lead in turn 12 – but the glory would be short lived. Exiting turn 11 on the very next lap, he got into the throttle too early inducing a 180 degree spin that allowed Bieri to reclaim the lead and four more cars to go by.
Bieri would run mistake free to stay ahead of the charging Luneburg and get the win along with 250 points, giving him 1036 for the season and the top spot in the season standings. Jewell finished a strong third in the race to collect 200 points and keep himself just 16 points behind Bieri in the runner-up position. Wille recovered from his spin to finish fourth and earned enough points to remain in the final podium spot, 35 points behind Jewell. Liam Hackwith and Kevin Ford continue to hold their positions in the top five at the mid-point of the season.
The very next race on Sunday showed how fortunes can change on this challenging track. As the top qualifier of the week (with a 2:28.347). Bieri again started on the pole with Honczarenko (2:28.488) alongside looking for redemption. Honczarenko slipped by Bieri on the opening lap setting up a thrilling a chase that came to a premature end on lap 4 when Bieri spun in Turn 15, relegating him to 6th place for the remainder of the race. It was Honczarenko’s turn to run mistake free and take the win over Wille, with Amjed Yamin filling out the podium.
The week finished with only five official races, each of which featured a different winner. Bieri and Honczarenko were joined by Hackwith, Wille, and Robert Jackman as the only drivers to claim victories at COTA.
For sim-racers frustrated at the difficulty of learning the new COTA track, there is good news to kick off the second half of Season 2 as the Mustangs head to popular Road America for Week 7. Despite hot weather conditions likely keeping drivers from reaching their personal best times at this track, it is a favorite for the pony car sim-racers. Everyone will find the track map, lap guide, videos and other helpful information in the Series Forum.