Stanaway was in control from start to finish en-route to his third iRPS victory of the season.

The Road Pro Series returned from its Christmas break to find Richie Stanaway laying down the gauntlet in the first race of 2013. The New Zealand based sim-racer dominated proceedings from qualifying to the chequered flag of the 56 lap online race at the virtual Watkins Glen Classic Boot configuration. Having chalked-up his third win of the series, Stanaway has extended his lead in the standings, and earmarked himself as a name to watch in the forthcoming 2013 Grand Prix Series World Championship.

Starting from pole position following a blistering qualifying lap of 1:16.459, Stanaway was clear of the field by the time he’d dispatched Turn One. With front-row-sitter Emil Spindel and third placed Mogar DG Filho dicing for the second spot in his mirrors, the Team Redline pilot was able to break away and immediately relieve the pressure from behind. There was an added benefit to Stanaway’s get away: it placed him ahead of the opening lap carnage that was about to confront the field.

In an early fight for fourth position, Enzo Bonito and Yudai Narumi approached the Carousel side-by-side. As the pair exited the corner, Bonito — on the outside — caught a wheel on the grass, which sent him spearing across the track and straight into the side of Narumi. Miraculously, despite plumes of smoke, the field were able to negotiate their way past the brace of disabled Williams-Toyota FW31s.

Bonito (left) and Narumi come to grief on the opening lap.

With the excitement of the first lap out of the way, Stanaway was able to lay down an unrelenting pace that saw him create a lead of 1.5 seconds by the fifth lap. Unabated, the championship leader continued his charge to extend the margin to five seconds just ahead of the first scheduled pit-stops on Lap 21. With two-stop tactics being the choice for the majority of the field, Stanaway was able to rejoin the race after taking fuel and tyres, unhampered by other cars. He then continued to set the tone, and by the time he’d made his final visit to pit lane, the lead was six-seconds, with second and third positions mere specks in his mirrors.

Continuing his unwavering pace, Stanaway cruised to the chequered flag with an eight-second advantage to his name, for his third victory of the Road Pro Series Championship.

Radicals Racing’s Filho headed the chase to catch the leader following the Brazilian’s opening lap and corner pass on Spindel. Making another great start that has become his trademark, Filho made a perfect get at the green flag to snatch second spot on the inside of Turn One. Despite continuous pressure from Spindel for the opening stint, Filho kept the CST Ajira entry at arm’s length to maintain the runners-up spot after taking his first service.  By the time Lap 35 was in the books, Filho had extended his advantage over Spindel to six seconds and pretty much sealed his second place fate.

Filho and Spindel started — and finished — together.

“On first stint I could do good laps, but Stanaway was opening the gap, and I was struggling to open the gap to Spindel,” Filho who is now ensconced in second in the Championship shared post-race. “I got a bit more comfortable when I saw Spindel going to pits on Lap 20, so I had two laps to push a bit, open the gap, and secure the second position after pits.”

Although Filho then had to keep an eye on the likes of Max Dell Orco who was playing-out a single stop strategy, he was back in the hunt for Stanaway by the time he’d completed his final scheduled stop. “The second round of pits I had no surprises. And I decided to push to try to close the gap to Stanaway, hoping for a mistake. But then I started to do some mistakes and bad laps, and decided to reduce the pace to avoid wrecking my car,” Filho added.

“I decided to push to try to close the gap to Stanaway . . . but then I started to do some mistakes and bad laps, and decided to reduce the pace to avoid wrecking my car.” — Mogar DG Filho

Whilst Spindel was able to hound Filho for the opening stint in a bid to regain his second place starting position, the Swede saw any hopes of taking the runners-up spot fade after his first pit-stop. By the time the field around him had also taken service, Filho had disappeared into the distance, whilst PJ Stergios had got within two-seconds of the CST Ajira regular. Stergios had inherited fourth position on the opening lap at the expense of Bonito and Narumi, and put in a season’s best drive to harangue Spindel through the opening two-thirds of the race. Then with the final visit to the pits complete, both Spindel and Stergios found themselves behind one-stopper Dell Orco and again within a second of each other.

Lap 45 proved to be decisive, with Spindel passing Dell Orco whose tyres were well past their ‘worn-out date’ through the Carousel, whilst Stergios found himself balked by the Orion Racing driver, who was valiantly defending his position. This allowed Spindel to break away in third position, leaving Stergios to fight it out with Dell Orco for fourth in the closing stages. After several attempts, the American finally got his rewards, with just over five-laps remaining on the board.  A prod by Stergios in the final corner, pushed Dell Orco wide enough to allow the iNEX team-member to slip past on the inside and take fourth position, which he held until the finish line.

A timely “prod” by Stergios (left) enabled him to pass Dell Orco in the closing laps.

“I figured Max was on a one-stop since I never ever pass him on track,” Stergios apologetically offered post race. “I knew he would be tough to get by later in the race, and sure enough that was the case. It was one heck of a battle with the severe aero push, and Max racing me really hard but clean. In the last turn I wanted to set him up for a pass into Turn One, but misjudged it and got into and almost took both of us out. Sorry about that Max, but I’m glad we both got through that.”

For most of Dave Gelink’s 56 lap race around Watkins Glen, the iNEX racer had to fend-off the attention of Road America winner Davy Decorps, who he’d passed on the opening lap. It was an exceptional performance for Gelink, after leaping from twelfth on the grid to sixth within ten laps, passing Decorps and Jason Lovett in the process. With the race drawing to a close, Gelink and Decorps looked set for a showdown for sixth position; however, with three laps to go, and barely a second behind, Decorps fired his Orion entry off the circuit at Turn Seven, forcing a late retirement from the race.

“When I reached 100.01%, I just hit the barriers.” — Davy Decorps

“I just wanted to pass Dave Gelink no matter what. So when I reached 100.01%, I just hit the barriers,” Decorps confessed.

One man’s loss, was another three’s gain, with Apex UK Racing’s Jasper Pedersen, iNEX’s Simon Cattell, AB Racing’s Tiago Orfao and Radicals Racing’s Paul Ilbrink earning promotion into seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth. Amazingly, their respective start positions had been fifteenth, nineteenth, fourteenth and twentieth, yet they still managed to secure top-ten finishes.

Decorps (left) failed to overhaul Gelink . . . but not for want of effort.

With seven rounds of the Road Pro Series now complete, Stanaway has a clear advantage at the top of the standings on 254 points. Filho, on 236, still holds championship hopes, as does Decorps in third on 212 points – if they can just halt Stanaway’s rich vein of form.

The next round heads to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps this Saturday. Will Stanaway make it four wins and get a hand on the Championship trophy, or can the likes of Filho, Spindel or Bonito kerb the Redline racer’s momentum? Tune-in to to find out, and catch the word here on inRacingNews shortly afterwards.

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