After the first round of the iRacing.com IZOD IndyCar Premier Series (iIIPS) at super-fast two mile Michigan International Speedway, the sim racers had to forget everything they learned when they arrived for Round Two at the unique one mile oval known as Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). Built especially for open-wheel racing in 1964, the track offers an asymmetric layout featuring a dogleg on the backstretch. While the Dogleg and Turns 3 and 4 are taken at full throttle, it gets exciting in Turns 1 and 2 which require a well-balanced car as well as a slight lift – and this lap-after-lap for 120 laps. That challenge, combined with a tricky apron where just a slight touch can upset and spin out the car, makes this classic short track one of the most chellenging ovals on the schedule.
One of the best-prepared drivers with the best balance in his Dallara IndyCar certainly was Michael Peters, who spent a lot of time in the clean and “unturbulent” air of the lead. Sadly, although he had one of the fastest cars, Peters was unable to score a win at PIR due to bad luck with yellow flags during his pit stops. Other drivers took a completely different route in their quest to gain championship points for the oval trophy or even the overall iIIPS championship. Anticipating a lot of cautions (and problems for his opponents), Andrew Aitken started his race from position 20 and worked his way steadily up to the front for a strong finish in fifth position, proving again that a reliable car or respectable setup sometimes earns more points than a fast one. On the other hand, the fastest lap of the weekend went to one of Canada’s well-known sim-racing veteran — Sean Graham — who posted a time of 20.671s, just .004s slower than Tim Doyle’s outright track record.
In the end, however, none of those drivers topped the points rankings. That distinction went to Yang Ou. The Danish sim racer scored two impressive wins to take the overall points lead away from California’s Rhawn Black who had to skip the races this weekend.
“This is one of the toughest ovals on the schedule,” said Ou. “It’s fast and it requires the driver to drive hard. The racing is great as you definitely can pass if you have a faster car, but it’s not easy because of loss of front downforce in draft. If two cars are equal, it’s definitely tough to pass.”
With a total of 260 points Ou now is 13 points ahead of Matt Switzer who is under pressure from a number of veteran sim racers including Shaun Stroud, Dave Carr-Smith, Niles Anders and PJ Stergios – just to name a few of the other drivers in the top ten. The battle for the championship is already very close and promises a great season since the top ten drivers are currently separated by just 30 points.
With the probable exception of Ou, Switzer spoke for just about all the other 340 drivers in the championship when he said “the week (at PIR) could have been far worse.”
Next Saturday the iIIPS will leave the ovals and come back to one of everyone’s favorite road courses: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Who will be the fastest driver flying through the Corkscrew? More importantly, who will take the most points home from California?