The Prototype & GT Challenge series came to Round Five of 2013 S3 at the historic Interlagos circuit, officially known as Autódromo José Carlos Pace.  With the circuit hosting the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) this past weekend, it is only fitting that the first of our two 70 minute ‘endurance’ be ran here.

The first endurance round of the season came at Interlagos.

Two of the top competitors so far this season, Teemu Iivonen and Paul Ilbrink, would come together for this endurance race around Interlagos.  The main race consisted of pole-sitter Iivonen, followed by Mack Bakkum, Ilbrink, Paulo Martins and Vincenzo Amico.  At the green flag the top three took off in formation, however Martins was hit in Turn One by another HPD which shuffled him outside the top five by the time they got to Turn Three.

While Iivonen pulled a good size gap in the opening laps, Bakkum and Ilbrink drew steadily closer. On Lap 17, Ilbrink made slight contact with the back of Bakkum’s car going into Turn Four. Although Bakkum saved the car after a small slide, Ilbrink ran wide and pitted at the end of that lap, leaving Iivonen, Bakkum and Amico as the top three, with Ilbrink down in sixth after his pit stop.  Amico subsequently pitted on Lap 26, with Ilbrink inheriting the third position.

On Lap 45 of the scheduled 50, Amico passed Ilbrink down the front straight, possibly owing to the Dutchman’s car suffering from aerodynamic damage resulting from the early contact with Bakkum.  Thus the finish saw Iivonen up top, with Bakkum, Amico and Ilbrink behind. The championship standings after the fifth round of the season had Ilbrink still on top over Dominik Batz and Stephane Schodduyn, with Iivonen still in fourth position, albeit with one less week of scores to his credit.

Iivonen, Bakkum and Ilbrink racing for the HPD podium.

The Corvette field for the main race had many new names, with the grid consisting of Andrea Masiero, Stefano Giuraili, Joeri Withouck, Bjoern Ortner, Enzo Bonito, Peter Ridley and Adrian Holm.  An aggressive start saw Holm moving up four positions before Turn One only to out-brake himself and run wide, taking Withouck along for the ride.

The top four after the first lap consisted of Masiero, Giuriali, Bonito and Ridley . . . but not for long.  Bonito wasted no time in out-braking Giuriali into Turn One to commandeer second position.  Later that same lap, Giuriali lost control which allowed Ridley, Holm and others to slip past.

Bonito passing Giuriali entering Turn One for the second position.

Bonito set-off in pursuit of Masiero, latching onto his rear bumper after a dozen laps.  A little too literally, it turned out, as Bonito got into the back of the leader, pitching Masiero into a light spin.  Sportsmanship was much in evidence as Bonito waited on the side of the track for Masiero to recover.  Masiero would later relinquish the lead to Bonito when he decided to pit early for fuel.  On the very next lap, Ridley ran wide when Holm snuck by to take the second position in Corvette, with Ilbrink and Bakkum taking advantage of the situation to move up the order as well.
The top three of Bonito, Holm and Ridley pitted on Laps 40, 41 and 42 respectively, with no change in position – in fact the status quo held all the way to the finish.

And speaking the status quo, the Corvette championship still shows William Levesque, Lieven Drijkoningen and Timo Verhoest on top after they finished second, third and ninth for the week at Interlagos.

Levesque wins his race, extending championship lead over Drijkoningen and Verhoest.

Ford GT had a main race featuring some new faces but the same great racing.  Qualifying saw Enzo Bonito on pole ahead of Daniel Vernes, Roope Turkkila, Csaba Volyka Jr and Phil Diaz. Bonito was able to hold the lead going into the first corner but, behind him, Turkkila and Diaz got around Vernes and Volyka, respectively.  Between Turns Five and Six, a couple damaged HPDs got in the way of the Corvette field, causing a ‘Vette to spin in front of Bonito’s leading Ford GT.  Fortnately, Bonito & Co were able to slide through unharmed with good awareness and the Ford GT field would battle on.

The Ford GT field stayed this close throughout the race.

Diaz would make a mistake in Turn 10 on Lap Five, allowing Volyka past for the fourth position.  Later on, third placed-Vernes’ mistake in Turn Nine allowed Volyka to gain yet another position.

Up front, Bonito still led Turkkila by just a couple seconds until Bonito entered the pits on Lap 36.  Turkkila stayed-out and for an extra lap hoping to jump Bonito in the pits.  The tactic might have worked, but Turkkila had a little bobble exiting the pits and Bonito maintained the lead by less than two seconds.  The twosome carved their respective ways through heavy traffic for the last five laps, but Bonito was able to clinch the win over Turkkila by less than a second, followed by Volyka, Vernes and Diaz.

Bonito beats Turkkila out of the pits by inches to retain the race lead.

The Ford GT championship exits the fifth round of the season with the top three of Diaz, Vernes, and Turkkila separated by only 13 points.  Kimmo Suominen and Jason Mizzi round-out the top five in the points standings after Interlagos.

The fifth round of the season comes to a close at Interlagos with drivers Paul Ilbrink, WIlliam Levesque and Phil Diaz atop of the championship standings in HPD, Corvette and Ford GT.  Patience and awareness will need to be strong for next week as the series will have another first, as sim-racers go to Japan to race at Twin Ring Motegi . . . at night.

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