In just a few days time, the 2011 iRacing.com World Championship Series Road Racing will get underway, when 50 of the globe’s greatest sim-racers take to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the first of eighteen rounds in the virtual Williams-Toyota FW31 F1 car. Although the ultimate online road racing championship sees a whole host of new faces looking to etch their name on the iRacing roll of honour, there are plenty of returning ‘legends’ with their own eyes on success in 2011.
One such returnee to the championship is Canada’s Shawn Purdy. A resident of Montreal, Purdy finished the 2010 series in an overall fourth position following a season-long battle with his Orion Racing team-mate, Ilka Haapala, who pipped him to third spot by a handful of points. Like the other iWCSRR entrants, the 27 year old is now preparing for the challenge ahead. “I’m not doing anything too crazy. The same approach I have used in the past. Running practice laps, and doing Time Trials,” explains Purdy. “I find the Time Trials really make you push the car for a good average lap time. It’s much easier to do say, one quick lap, than it is to do four or eight or whatever. So I think this kind of of training is very useful at this level of competition for race preparation. It also allows you to understand your current limits, and how hard you can really push. If you go into a race with a qualifying mind set, then you’re probably asking for trouble. So I personally find Time Trails very helpful.”
For 2011, the Drivers World Championship makes a move from the Dallara IndyCar to the Williams-Toyota FW31 Formula One machine, iRacing’s most recent addition to its road racing catalogue. It’s a change Purdy predicts will bring an extra dynamic to the racing. “I don’t think it will change the racing too much,” he says. “Certainly some drivers will find the car suits them, and others not, but as the season goes on I think this won’t matter much. I think it will be very hard to pass however, maybe even harder than it was in the Dallara, because the aerodynamics are even more important in this car. So I imagine we will see some interesting fuel strategies.”
Purdy’s opening foray into the iRacing.com World Championship Series Road Racing rewarded the Canadian with a fourth place in the overall standings, one position outside of the cash prize winning spots. “My target is, of course, to improve over my performance from last year. Which could be difficult as you can never count on your performance even in race by race basis,” offers the veteran sim-racer. “The series is so competitive that you can go from second in one race to seventh or eighth in the next. But hopefully at the end of the season I will be happy with my performance, and at the very least feel like I made progress in my driving.”
This year sees an influx of talent entering the championship, with the likes of iRacing Pro Series Road Racing champion Luca Masier, and sporadic iWCSRR entrant Jesse Nieminen looking to make their mark on the series; a fact not lost on Purdy. “This should be a very exciting season,” predicts the Team Orion Racing member. “I think top five finishes will be very hard this year because we’ve got at least five or more ‘new’ drivers that are capable of top finishes and we already had about ten to begin with. When you put 15 plus guys that are all capable of top five finishes, only two things can happen: Great racing or a lot of damaged race-cars. So either way it will be interesting. I think in the end Greger (Huttu) will still be Greger. I honestly don’t see anyone really giving him any trouble even though it’s nice to wish someone would for a change.”
“We’ve got at least five or more ‘new’ drivers that are capable of top finishes and we already had about ten to begin with. When you put 15 plus guys that are all capable of top five finishes, only two things can happen: Great racing or a lot of damaged race-cars. So either way it will be interesting.” – Shawn Purdy
Fortunately for Purdy he has a wealth of talent surrounding him, as the ranks of the Orion Race Team have recently swelled, with two iWCSRR entrants joining the squad alongside a future star of sim-racing. “Joao Vaz and Matthias Egger have joined the Orion Race Team recently, both very quick drivers,” notes the Canadian web developer. “Along with myself, Ilkka and Dion Vergers, we feel like we have a great line up for 2011. Roland Ehnström has also recently joined Orion as well and should make the Pro Series this year. So this is someone to look out for in 2012.”
The iRacing.com Drivers World Championship begins at 5:00 pm ET (22:00 GMT) on Saturday, February 26 with the opening race from Spa and will be broadcast live on the public iRacing.com website.