The iRacing.com Grand Prix Series circus saw teams preparing their cars to move onto the second round of the season – the high downforce Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course located midway between Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Mid-Ohio is renowned for its tight and twisty nature, host to real life events such as the IZOD IndyCar Series and ALMS to name a few. Because of its technical nature, passing would prove to be a great challenge with only one half chance for overtaking down the backstraight – opening the opportunity for differing pit stop strategies.
The qualifying this week proved to be very competitive, as six out of the 10 fastest times were occupied by sim racers from the iRacing.com Drivers World Championships, with Jake Stergios leading the way from pole position after posting the fastest time of the week at 59.520s. Stergios continued his good form by adding another two wins to his CV in the Strength of Field races on Friday and Sunday respectively, taking a tolerably easy win on Friday after fellow DWC racer, Luke McLean, was forced to retire from second. However the attention in this race was focused on the drivers behind the lead as Bryan Heitkotter and Ryan Terpstra (both on no stop strategies) had a battle with one-stopping Max Dell’Orco. Heitkotter’s choice of strategy enabled him to jump Dell’Orco in the pit stops, whereas Terpstra could not, ensuring a superb second place finish for Heitkotter ahead of Dell’Orco with Terpstra in fourth.
Sunday’s 6:15 race proved to be the real thriller though as World Championship entrant Simon Crochart waged a race-long tactical battle with Riku Alatalo who went for the non-stop strategy. As Crochart dived for the pits on Lap 30, the spectators held their breath to see if he had built enough of a gap or if Alatalo’s venture would play in his hands. The two wound-up up nose-to-tail as Crochart exited the pits, and with the fresher tires he managed to keep the lead to the Finn to the chequered flag. Wolfgang Reip held-off Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola for third after the Finn switched to fuel saving mode in the latter phase of the race – only to run-out of fuel in the last corner. Simon Cattell couldn’t capitalize on this but still cruised home to a fifth place.
“I took too easy on first 10 laps and couldn’t get past Crochart when he pitted.” — Riku Alatalo
Stergios repeated a triple (Pole Position-Win-Fastest lap) in Sunday’s 8:15 race with another dominant performance as the action would once again occur in his wheel tracks. Incidents occurred even at the launch with Laurent Beteille and Reip both going for the same move at the start resulting in a three car collision that collected Dave Gelink – damaging his car in the process. Dell’Orco went for a daring inside pass on Alatalo in Turn 4 for second place at the early stages of the race but the two made contact and Alatalo retired his Williams-Toyota FW31 on the spot. Dell’Orco later followed Alatalo to the list of retirements in this race after an eventful 35 minutes in the car.
With the drama unfolding up front, Ken Leach drove a stellar race to finish second, whilst fellow countryman Ryan Terpstra had another race-long battle, this time with foTeemu Iivonenr the final podium spot. The latter did not manage to pull off a pass of Terpstra, however, resulting in an all U.S. podium at the finish. Australian Madison Down set his alarm early to compete before duly driving a solid race to round-out the top five.
In the overall standings we see Stergios (New England) with a mammoth 587 points, increasing his lead to 57 points ahead of Alatalo (Finland) in second place with 530 points, followed by Terpstra (Michigan) with 508, Crochart (France) 486 and Heitkotter (California) 451. The F1 series moves on to even warmer climates next week as Phillip Island will be the host for the third round of the iGPS.