January 3rd, 2014 by JaimeB
The iRacing.com Prototype & GT Challenge series enters the winter holidays after leaving Montreal to power their way into Spa-Francorchamps followed by a visit to the Mid Ohio Sports Car Circuit. Class leaders Tommaso Carlà, Kay Kaschube, and Csaba Volyka Jr are in control of their HPD, Corvette, and Ford GT championships entering the two thirds mark of the season. So let’s begin with Round Eight at Spa where drivers faced an endurance format featuring 70 minutes of online racing.
The HPD main race saw Tommaso Carlà, once again, on pole ahead of Raffaele A Di Palo, Jacob Groth, Fabio Milani, Matthieu Leroy and James Obernier. Carlà jumped out to the early lead ahead of a shake-up in his wake as Palo had problems early and was forced to retire from the race. As a result, Groth moved to the second position leaving Leroy, Milani and Obernier to contest the third position. Although Leroy and Milani fought over P3 much of the race, Leroy retired five laps from the end while Milani would suffer car contact only two laps later, dropping down to the sixth position. So while Carlà won yet another race in the Prototype class, Groth and Obernier would finished off the podium for the week.
The Corvettes’ main race had regulars with Florian Denard on pole over Gunner Moore, Henrik Carlsson and many more. Denard knew a win would be a huge plus in his quest for the Corvette championship with Kay Kaschube missing this round. Denard proved his determination by leading every lap of the race, while Moore went off track one too many times and was penalized by the officials, knocking him out of the second position where Carlsson would take advantage of the situation and acquire the position. Patrick Raymond started eighth yet made his way to the third place by the end of the race, due to the aforementioned retirements as well as good pace making his way through the field.
The Ford GT class had Jorge Montanes on pole over Csaba Volyka Jr and Jonathan Fuller with others in tow. The top three out-classed the field, pulling away to a race for themselves. While Montanes had pole, Volyka got the lead by the end of the first lap and held it throughout the race without falling to the pressure from Montanes. Fuller sat in third hoping for a mistake by either of the top two drivers but simply didn’t get what he wanted.
The series bid adieu to the historic Spa circuit to head to the United States and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Carlà and Volyka Jr still held the championship leads in HPD and Ford GT, respectively, but Kaschube yielded the top spot in Corvettes to Denard after missing Spa. Would all three be back on top after Mid Ohio?
The HPD field for Mid-Ohio consisted of Jonathan Salhani on pole over former series champion Paul Ilbrink. Salhani duly held the lead at the start and remained in first until yielding to Ilbrink on Lap Six. Salhani kept it close until Lap 22 when he and Ilbrink made contact, sending Salhani back to the third position. Undaunted, Salhani battled with Chase Murray for second spot and regained the position when Murray had an incident of his own. Bekir Karaca also showed his hand late in the race trying to gain from Salhani and Murray’s mistakes but in the end both would repass him. In the end, Ilbrink took the victory over Salhani and Murray.
The HPD championship saw Carlà on top over Anthony Kernich and Eemil Ritvaniemi who sit second and third. However positions second through thirteenth could change as the difference is less than 200 points. Points races this close this late in the season bode well for the series.
The Corvette field saw Volyka on pole over Bronsilav Robenek, Lubomir Moric, Bruce Decarvalho and Timo Nau. Volyka was as strong as usual in the race itself, shooting out to an early lead over Robenek and, later, Decarvalho who charged to second from fourth on the grid. Decarvalho continue his strong form, remaining in the second position and extending his advantage back to a third place held, in turn, by Robenek, Moric and – finally – Nau, who settled into the third position halfway into the race. The last half of the race produced no changes in the running order up front, with Volyka taking the victory over Decarvalho and Nau.
With Kaschube sitting-out yet another week, Denard once again gained in the points standings. Things are starting to heat up and while Kascube could be comfortable as the season continues, Denard is looking strong these past couple rounds. If Denard can maintain his momentum, he could provide an outstanding upset. Meanwhile, Gunner Moore and Brett Taft are duking it out for third spot, with only a few handfuls of points between them.
The Ford GT grid at Mid Ohio was led by Ferenc Asztalos, Csaba Volyka Jr, Bob van Katwijk and others. Asztalos jumped to the lead early over Volyka and Katwijk, but Lap 22 would change everything as Asztalos lost the lead to Volyka and fall to the second position. Volyka continued on to take the victory over Asztalos and Katwijk, who quietly held the third position throughout the entire race. Volyka’s victory has him setting sail in the Ford GT championship race, with Asztalos now in second and Stefano Giuriali very close in third.
With the first three quarters of the Prototype and GT Challenge season in the books, the series heads to popular Road America. The HPD and Ford GT championships are all but wrapped up while the Corvette championship has drivers Kaschube and Denard battling for the top spot. One thing is for sure: As the sim-racers enter the last quarter of the season, they will strive to do their best when it counts.