The ninth round of the iRacing.com Prototype and GT Challenge series was full of great online racing as the cars attacked Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the full 45 minute duration. The 4.35 mile (7.00 km) circuit hosts a number of series and events including Formula One, World Endurance Championship and the always popular 24 Hours of Spa. With this being one of the widest tracks on the calendar, it allowed for traffic to play less of a role, and drivers were able to battle more with the cars within their class. Paul Ilbrink, WIlliam Levesque and Roope Turkkila were still the championship leaders in HPD, Corvette and Ford GT classes heading into Spa, could they hold on to it once the week was over?[1, Lots of racing happened this week at Spa] The Prototype main race for the week would see the top four the class of the field. Mack Bakkum led the field to the green, followed by Andre Martins, Matthias Witte and Oliver Brandt. The first lap was crucial for Bakkum and Brandt. Bakkum was able to build a two second lead gapping himself to second place driver Martins while Brandt also had a successful first lap as he made his way around Witte for the third position and set his sights on Martins for second. While Bakkum continued to grow his lead, Brandt was able to get around Martins for the second position on Lap Eight. Lap 11 would then see Martins fall down to the fourth position after being overtaken by Witte, only for Witte to lose that position to Martins on the very next lap. The top four would remain in that order until the end of the race, with the top three doing their best laps all on Lap 16 of 22. Even though there was no change in position after Lap 10, Brandt and Martins battled hard all the way to the end, with Brandt’s HPD ARX 01c only grabbing second position by three tenths of a second over the similar car of Martins.
Bakkum took a commanding win and earned the most points for the week. The championship situation has not changed, however, as Ilbrink still holds over 175 points to the new second place driver in Stephane Schodduyn. After Spa, Dominik Batz has dropped down to the third position in the championship, and may be hard-pressed to maintain that spot over hard charging Vincenzo Amico in the fourth position.[2, Top class racing in HPD as Bakkum takes Spa victory]
The Corvette field proved to be strong as the starting lineup consisted of pole sitter and championship leader William Levesque, followed by Anders Dahl, Florian Denard, Joni Hagner and Timo Verhoest. On the first lap Hagner was able to make a move around Denard, putting himself in the third position and knocking Denard down to fourth. From there, the race unfolded with Levesque and Dahl pulling away from the field, and Levesque getting the best of Dahl. Hagner and Denard kept it close all race with both having very similar pace. In the end, the two finished less than two seconds apart, with Hagner getting the best of Denard for the third position. Verhoest followed behind in the fifth, having substantially gapped the following cars.
The Corvette championship is heating up after Round Nine. Levesque maintains a large lead, but Verhoest holds on to the second position over Joeri Withouck. Felipe Persona is sitting in the fourth position with one less race than the three ahead. If Persona can run another solid week, he will most likely land in the third position and take the last step on the podium in the championship.
Ford GT had a main race that was thoroughly dominated by championship leader Roope Turkkila, after starting on pole over Csaba Volyka Jr, Jarren Wong, Boy Van de Laar, Diego Comuni and Patrick Raymond. While the first lap saw Turkkila in the lead, he was followed by Van de Laar, who made his way past Volyka and Wong. Wong would be third after the first lap, followed by Comuni and then finally Volyka, who fell from second to fifth on the opening toour. Volyka would climb his way back up to fourth before retiring on lap six.
Van de Laar stayed within three to four seconds of Turkkila for the first few laps until traffic started to come into play. While Turkkila showed his experience with traffic, Van de Laar went off-track after losing control of his car. Although this cost Van de Laar any chance of the win, he would remained in the second position over Wong, Comuni and Raymond. The status quo held through to the finish, with Turkkila winning and taking home the most points for the week.
Turkkila’s lead in the Ford GT championship continued to grow in Belgium. Jason Mizzi now sits in the second position 293 points back, with Burkhard Maring in P3 another 100 points behind. However drivers like Jonathan Fuller, Phillip Diaz and Daniel Vernes all have less weeks counted, and could play a factor in the championship by the end of the season.
The three quarters mark of the Prototype and GT Challenge season comes to an end with Paul Ilbrink, William Levesque and Roope Turkkila still leading the championships for HPD, Corvette and Ford GT respectively. The series now leaves Spa-Francorchamps for the second endurance round of the season at Virginia International Raceway for the tenth round of the season.