The tenth round of the Prototype and GT Challenge series took the HPD ARX 01Cs, Corvette C6.Rs and Ford GTs to twisty Virginia International Raceway (VIR).  The circuit was the host for the American Le Mans Series this past weekend, and was therefore a fitting venue for our second endurance round of 75 minutes.  The 3.27 mile (5.263 km) circuit is one that sim-racers either highly dislike or thoroughly enjoy.  The track is far from wide and has numerous quick corners that can catch you out, including the renowned Oak Tree (Turn 12) which can reward you with a great run down the back straight . . . or punish you with a thick tire wall.  Paul Ilbrink, William Levesque and Roope Turkkila were still the championship leaders in HPD, Corvette and Ford GT classes heading into Virginia, and none of them seemed too worried about that changing.

Drivers in all three classes pushed hard at VIR throughout the second endurance race of the season.

The Prototype main race for the week had nearly all new faces.  Drivers were spread out this week when it came to race time slots, therefore no distinct main race was found.  One good online race had Matthias Witte, Julien Flouret, Fabio Milani and Allan Paterson as the top four on the grid.  While the top three stayed intact on the first lap, Paterson dropped to eighth after going off-track.  He would slowly work his way back up in the coming laps, even Milani made his way past Flouret and set his sights on leader Witte.  Lap Nine would see a lead change when Witte fell off the road, allowing Milani to grab the top spot.  Witte continued to lose positions, and was the first of the leaders to pit on Lap 22.  Milani subsequently relinquished the lead to Flouret when he pitted five laps later, to be followed on Lap 29 by Paterson.  Flouret stayed out as long as he could in order to try and jump Milani on the pit stop exchange.  Instead, a mix of slow lap times from traffic and an off-track by Flouret allowed Milani to easily gather the lead back up after the former leader’s pit stop, with Paterson following Milani into second position.  However, Paterson would lose control of his car just three laps from the end, allowing Flouret to regain the second position.  Milani suffered no such issues and cruised to the win over Flouret with Paterson’s HPD the final car on the podium.

With drivers such as Ilbrink, Stephane Schodduyn and Dominik Batz not making an impact VIR, the prototype championship situation went largely unchanged with Ilbrink still holding over 175 points to the new second place driver in Stephane Schodduyn.  The big mover is Mack Bakkum, who stepped his way into the fifth position overall with two weeks remaining.  If Bakkum finishes out the last two weeks strong, he can fight for second or even possibly the championship title.

Top class racing in HPD, and Bakkum gains large margin in championship.

The Corvette field was led to the green flag by pole-sitter Egil Sandfeld, followed by Maxim Ramstejn and Florian Denard, the latter of whom got a great start and grabbed the top spot by the end of the first lap, dropping  Sandfeld and Ramstejn down to second and third respectively.  Sandfeld wasted little time in getting back around Denard, but it would take several laps for Ramstejn to regain the second position from Denard.  The two battled hard until Lap 10 when they made contact, lost control and plunged off-track.  As a result, Patrick Bieri and Joeri Withouck moved into second and third position until they too exchanged some virtual paint, with Bieri retiring and Withouck losing many laps.  The demise of Bieri and Withouck promoted Richard Schouteren to second place, a position he would maintain behind Sandfeld through the pit stops to the finish. Nathan Saxon ran third until he pitted, yielding the spot to Ramstejn, who had fought hard to make his way back through the field after early contact.

With Sandfeld, Schouteren and Ramstejn on the podium, the championship standings remained unchanged.  Levesque still leads the standings, followed by Timo Verhoest and Felipe Persona.  Three drivers in this week’s main race who were affected in the points were Withouck, Sandfeld and Denard, with Sandfeld being the obvious big gainer, moving his way to the fifth position in the Corvette championship.

Close racing in the Corvettes around the famous Oak Tree turn.

Ford GT had championship leader Turkkila taking the most points of the week at VIR.  The field featured Turkkila, Frank Sumfleth and Patrick Raymond.  Turkkila led the entire race, with Raymond running second until contact with another car ended his race on Lap 14 and allowed Sumfleth to inherit the runner-up spot.

Likewise for the other top scorer this week in the Ford GT, Jason Mizzi, who took   a comfortable victory while Duane Burns and Paulo M Chagas battled for second.  Burns held the runner-up spot until Chagas was able to slide by on Lap 10.  Chagas maintained second place for a dozen laps before an off-track adventure lost him roughly six seconds and one position.  Burns returned the favor with an “off” on Lap 25.  He pitted the following lap, giving the second position to Chagas who stopped on Lap 29, enabling Burns to move back into P2.  The deal was sealed a few laps later when Chagas badly damaged his car allowing Burns to finish second behind Mizzi.

Turkkila’s lead in the Ford GT championship continued to grow in Virginia.  While Mizzi gained a lot in points this week, he fell to third, 10 points behind the second placed Jonathan Fuller.  With only two weeks remaining, Turkkila’s title chances look very promising, but the rest of the podium will come down to the final week.

Turkkila takes another win in Ford GT, all but clinching the class title.

[3, Turkkila takes another win in Ford GT doing all but clinching the Ford GT title] Ten weeks of the Prototype and GT Challenge season have positioned Ilbrink, Levesque and Turkkila in the championship leads for HPD, Corvette and Ford GT respectively.  The series now leaves the final endurance round of the season at VIR and flies across the Atlantic Ocean onto English soil to race on the Silverstone Circuit, for the eleventh and penultimate round of the season.

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