The iRacing.com Prototype & GT Challenge arrived at historic Sebring International Raceway for the first of twelve rounds in 2013 Season 4. The new season has seen no changes since last S3, featuring the HPD ARX-01c, the Corvette C6R GT1, and the Ford GT. Field sizes reached their limits and the competition displayed great promise with many exciting finishes across all classes.
The HPD had a main race at Sebring consisting of Tommaso Carlà on pole followed by last season’s runner-up Mack Bakkum, along with Andre Martins, Paulo Martins and Matthieu Leroy.
The first lap of the race can sometimes be the most crucial one. While you can’t win the race on the first lap, you can be wise with your decisions and make-up positions if the opportunities are there. Bakkum and Leroy were the two who capatilized the most in this regard, and after the first lap Bakkum was in the lead with Carlà in second and Leroy in third. The three would maintain their positions until Lap Six when Carlà and Paulo Martins retired from the race following an incident. The aftermath would see Bakkum holding a healthy seven second lead over Leroy with Andre Martins not far behind in P3. Bakkum proceeded to extend his lead over the two behind, grabbing nearly three quarters a lap from the duo as he set sights on victory. Leroy and Martins swapped times and were never able to make any ground on each other, which resulted in Leroy finishing second and Martins finishing up in third.
After the first week, Bakkum holds the top spot in the championship ahead of Italian rival Carlà. Leroy sits in third after his solid second place finish in the main race, while Chad Holmes holds down fourth spot after an impressive win in his race. Rounding-out the top five in the HPD points after Week One is defending champion Paul Ilbrink who hopes to have stronger runs in the next few weeks in an effort to get on the top step once again.
The Corvettes followed the prototypes, with pole sitter Kay Kaschube ahead of Maxim Ramsteijn, Jack Sedgwick, Marcel Wiemers and Gunner Moore. The beginning of the race had the five drivers in line, with Kaschube and Ramsteijn setting dominant pace at the front. Lap Three saw Sedgwick carry too much speed into the hairpin, locking-up his right front tire and allowing Wiemers to pass him for the third position. Moore would follow suit, passing Sedgwick around the outside at Turn Ten.
The beginning of Lap Five saw Wiemers go wide in Turn One, allowing Moore to slip by into the third position. Although Ramsteijn was pulling away from the third place car, Kaschube who was well and truly dialed in, putting down incredibly fast lap times and increasing his lead. While the rest of the race saw the top four stay the same, P5 changed hands a couple times between Sedgwick and Andres Quintana before Sedgwick gained the upper hand by passing Quintana on the inside of Turn Ten on Lap 16.
While Kaschube took victory over Ramsteijn, Moore, Wiemers and Sedgwick, he was not the Corvette sim-racer taking home the most points at Sebring. Instead, Brett Taft was able to score a victory in a strong but very small field on a different day of the week to edge Kaschube while Ramsteijn rounds out the top three after Week One.
The Ford GT class boasted a field of new faces for its main race, with pole-sitter Csaba Volyka Jr leading Stefano Giuriali, Jonathan Fuller, Stefan Keuthe, Matthew Venn, Antti Matikainen and Guillem F Antunez Sauret to the green for the first race of the season.
The start was clean, and after the first lap the only car to move up position was Saurat who got around Matikainen for sixth in class, then proceeded to make his way around Venn entering Turn Ten on Lap Two.
Volyka had already built up a substantial lead after only a few laps, while Giuriali and Fuller battled hard for the second position. Matikainen would get around Venn for the sixth position on Lap Five, pushing Venn to the back of the Ford GT field. After possibly suffering damage in a spin, Keuthe commenced a slide down the order when he made a mistake on Lap Six, spinning and handing fourth spot to Saurat.
Up front, Volyka continued to stretch his lead out, but behind him Fuller was able to make his way by Giuriali into Turn One on Lap 10. Fuller would give the spot back three laps later after running wide exiting the hairpin, then set-off in pursuit of Giuriali, and closing the gap lap after lap.
It all came down to the last lap, with Fuller trying to switch back on Giuriali through the final corner. However, Giuriali was able to hang on to the second position by half a car over Fuller. Not so fortunate was Saurat, who run out of fuel on the final circuit, gifting Venn with fourth position.
The Ford GT points after Week One have the top three perfectly aligned with the results of the main race. Volyka holds a stable lead out front while Giuriali and Fuller sit back in second and third figuring out how to close the gap heading into Week Two.
So as the first round of the Prototype and GT Challenge series concludes, each class is figuring-out who the top drivers will be throughout the season. The closest class in terms of pace is most likely the prototype class, with Bakkum, Carlà, Leroy, Holmes and Ilbrink all scoring well in Week One and all showing similar pace. Next week the series heads to Japan for the only time this season with a week of online racing at the famous Suzuka International Circuit. Drivers who performed well in Week One hope their hot streak continues, while those who suffered misfortune at Sebring hope to regain momentum into the following weeks.