The iRacing.com Prototype & GT Challenge series made its maiden visit to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Week 3. Re-named in honor of Canadian Formula One driver Gilles Villeneuve following his death in 1982, the tight and twisty circuit has fast straights intermixed with chicanes have high curbs that drastically upset the cars. The most notable of these chicanes is the final one, where cars swing out toward the “Wall of Champions” on the exit, and some unfortunate drivers meet the wall.
Some HPD drivers opted to sit-out this week, as most knew traffic was going to be brutal on the virtual Canadian circuit. However, the online racing was far from lack luster, as demonstrated by the main race of the week. Starting on pole for the main race would be Dominik Batz, with HPD championship leader Paul Ilbrink just behind in second. When the green flag dropped, Batz jumped to the early lead over Ilbrink. The two would pull away from the field, but not from each other. Lap after lap they ran within a second of each other, but on Lap 20 Ilbrink made a bid for the lead after Batz got held up by a Ford GT in Turn Eight. Ilbrink squeezed between Batz and the lapped Ford GT, passing Batz going into Turn Nine. Ilbrink proceded to build a gap back to Batz as the pair headed to a one-two finish.
While those two finished as the top for the week, the rest of the top five consisted of Vincenzo Amico, Valerio Chietti and Mert Uzel. Ilbrink continues to lead the HPD championship, but with drivers Teemu Iivonen and Mack Bakkum sitting out the week, Dominik Batz and Stephane Schodduyn round-out the podium.
Corvettes came into Montreal with driver William Levesque leading the standings after winning both Sebring and Road America. The main race of the week had the same outcome. Levesque would start from pole followed by Mack Bakkum, Jack Sedgwick, Ief Vangenechten and Timo Verhoest. While Levesque and Bakkum secured the top two at the start, Vangenechten got around Sedgwick for third. Verhoest soon followed suit, passing Sedgwick in Turn One on Lap Three to make his way to fourth. On Lap 16, Bakkum blew-up entering Turn Seven after buzzing the Chevy V8 during down-shifting. Vangenechten was then able to take over second with Verhoest hunting him down.
Lap 26 saw Vangenechten get a slow down penalty in Turn One, which allowed Verhoest to latch-on to his bumper. The two were nose-to-tail going into the final chicane when Vangenechten got out of shape and tapped the Wall of Champions, enabling Verhoest to slip by into second. There were no further additions to the Wall of Champions, and so the race finished with Levesque, Verhoest and Vangenechten in the top three spots.
Levesque seems to have a tight hold on the Corvette championship for the time being after taking home victories at the first three venues. However Fredrik Follestad, Timo Verhoest and Lieven Drijkoningen have been consistent all season and hope to string together a streak of their own later on in the campaign.
The Ford GT class didn’t have a strong week as many competitors did not enjoying the tight traffic conditions on the Isle de Notre Dame. As a result, the top drivers were scattered across in different races and not racing directly. The top three consisted of Daniel Vernes, Roope Turkkila and Jon Hall. Vernes and Turkkila raced against each other during the week before Turkkila had contact with another car that sent him off track and was forced to make a pitstop. This allowed Vernes to take the victory and also top points for the week. Turkkila followed up with a win in another race over driver Mike Theunissen.
With drivers like Kimmo Suominen and Oliver Brandt sitting-out the week, the Ford GT championship experienced a shake-up as the top five consisted of Turkkila, Hall, Vernes, Phil Diaz and Burkhard Maring. Next week should bring the return of Suominen and Brandt, tightening up the Ford GT championship again.
With Week 3 of the iRacing.com Prototype and GT Challenge in the books, sim-racers Paul Ilbrink, William Levesque and Roope Turkkila are on top of their respective classes in the championship. The next round of the series comes at the highly technical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Like Montreal, the 2.25 mile circuit is on the short side, but Mid Ohio ranks among drivers’ favorite with its elevation changes and odd flow of corners.