The twelth and final round of the iRacing.com Prototype and GT Challenge series came to the famous Road Atlanta circuit in Braselton, Georgia. Site of the annual Petit Le Mans, the 2.54 mile (4.08 km) circuit is twisty, and extremely unforgiving, especially The Esses.
Drivers Paul Ilbrink, WIlliam Levesque and Roope Turkkila had the HPD, Corvette and Ford GT Championships all but wrapped up, and arrived at Road Atlanta planning to close the deal.
The Prototype main race for the week involved drivers Jörn Jens, Mack Bakkum, Roderic Kreunen and Ilbrink. Jens lead the field to green and retained the lead for the first few laps while Kreunen made his way from fourth to third after the first lap, setting Bakkum back to the fourth position. On Lap Five Jens went off track, allowing both Ilbrink and Kreunen to move by and take over the first and second positions. The very next lap, Jens would retire from the race.
Ilbrink now led over Kreunen and Bakkum, but not by enough to make any mistakes. Speaking of which, Ilbrink went off-track on Lap 18, losing around four seconds in the process and allowing Kreunen to gain the lead. Kreunen’s stay at the front last just one lap before Ilbrink got back past. Meanwhile, Bakkum was closed-in as the leaders battled but was not able to an impression on the two top runners. In fact, Ilbrink set the fastest lap only two laps after losing the lead, and from there consistently pulled away from Kreunen and Bakkum behind him to take the win.
By grabbing the most points in the last round, Ilbrink convincingly clinched the top spot on the podium over competitors Bakkum and Stephane Schodduyn. Ilbrink led the championship nearly the entire season, through an early push from Teemu Iivonen and Bakkum late charge. This isn’t Ilbrink’s first HPD championship, and will probably not be his last.
A strong line-up of Corvettes entered Road Atlanta with Kay Kaschube leading the way to green ahead of Levesque, John Mallia, Timo Verhoest, Richard Schouteren and Anders Dahl. The man on the move at the start was Dahl as he made his way around Schouteren on the opening lap, then passed Verhoest on Lap Three to grab the fourth position. Dahl would now work on Mallia whom he duly got around on Lap Six. For his part,Verhoest fell down to the sixth position, losing-out to Schouteren after his off-track on the third lap.
The top three of Kaschube, Levesque and Dahl were only separated by six seconds and the status quo stabilized as the cars entered traffic. Further back, Lap 12 Verhoest take advantage of an off-track excursion by Schouteren’s to grab fifth spot on Lap 12.
From there drivers matched each other in lap times waiting for someone to make a mistake, however no one seemed to make one. The only notable bobble came from championship leader Levesque who had a quick spin on Lap 20 while trying to stay close to Kaschube. The resulting four second loss extended Kaschube’s lead, although Levesque maintained his second position over Dahl.
That moment aside, the five lead sim-racers would continue to run consistent times and essentially not allow the others to catch them. Kaschube’s victory earned him the most points for the week by a large margin, over Levesque and Dahl who rounded out the podium.
Although the Corvette championship was pretty sealed going into Road Atlanta, Levesque’s 211 point weekend underlined his strong efforts in taking a second straight Corvette championship. Joni Hagner grabbed second in the championship over Verhoest who grabbed third position over Florian Denard by just five points.
The week’s main Ford GT race saw Csaba Volyka Jr on pole, followed by Guillem F Antunez Saurat, Jonathan Fuller, Oliver Brandt and Gennadiy Titov. The race went under way with Volyka maintaining his advantage even Brandt made a big move, going from fourth to second on the first lap. Volyka and Brandt proceeded to pull a gap on the others, their cause aided and abetted by Saurat and Fuller who lost a couple of seconds to the leaders as the result on making some contact.
The battle for third continued into Lap 14 when Fuller moved around Saurat, only to lose the place three laps later after a spin. Undaunted, Fuller pumped- out consistent laps as he ran down Saurat. Before the battle was fully rejoined, however, Saurat would end his race after losing control of his car on Lap 23, promoting Fuller to the last spot on the podium.
Out front, Volyka still led over Brandt but not by much. In fact, Brandt was pressing the leader throughout the last half of the race, but Volyka never cracked under pressure and went on to win with a margin of victory under a second, followed by Fuller, Titov and Saurat.
The Ford GT championship was strong this season but Roope Turkkila was consistently up top week after week and never seem to have an off week. With a conservative final week, Turkkila won the championship with a firm gap to Fuller who snuck on to the podium in the final weekend. Another driver to sneak on to the podium on the last weekend was Phillip Diaz who finished third.
As the Prototype and GT Challenge season comes to an end, drivers Paul Ilbrink, William Levesque and Roope Turkkila have won the championships for HPD, Corvette and Ford GT respectively. Drivers look forward to the next season where things start off in Sebring once again. Can Ilbrink, Levesque or Turkkila repeat next season? Tune in for the next twelve weeks to find out!