Cornett, Stergios and Beteille Win at Zandvoort
Running simultaneously with the iRacing.com Grand Prix Series World Championship (iGPSWC), the iRacing.com Grand Prix Series also moved to Zandvoort over Week 7 of 2012 Season 1. Circuit Park Zandvoort is located in the dunes north of the town of Zandvoort, in the Netherlands, near the North Sea coast line. The circuit is notoriously popular because of its fast, sweeping corners such as Scheivlak as well as the “Tarzanbocht” (Tarzan corner) hairpin at the end of the start/finish straight. Tarzanbocht is the most famous corner in the circuit, helped by the banking on the outside of the corner, allowing for excellent overtaking opportunities with a good run down the pit straight.
Courtesy of some extra iGPWSC practice, Jake Stergios set a blistering lap time to take the fastest qualifying time of the week and break the 1:10 barrier. However, the New Englander would not take part in the Friday night Strength of Field (SoF) race – instead offering the pole position to Australian Ben Cornett with io-form Max Dell’Orco alongside in a highly competitive field of drivers. Dell’Orco got the bit between his teeth at the start and powered past Cornett on the drag to Tarzanbocht with Danny Davison following suite in third ahead of a developing train of Mogar DG Filho, Simon Cattell and Darren Marsh dropping behind. Cornett seized his opportunity as soon as possible and by Lap 3 he successfully overtook Italian Dell’Orco for the lead on what appeared to be a light fuel load, allowing Cornett to pull a big lead in the first stint. Although numerous strategies appeared to be in play for the race, it was clear the battle for fourth place featured a pack of one stoppers. DG Filho held his ground for 17 laps until a mistake allowed Cattell to close the gap and make a pass around the outside at Tarzanbocht. The two made contact however – Cattell appeared unscathed but DG Filho’s race was over after another impressive showing. Marsh claimed fifth with the non-stopping pair of Ryan Terpstra and Phillip Diaz still in pursuit.
After the round of pit stops, the top three of Cornett, Dell’Orco and Davison held their positions until the chequered flag to take huge points from a surprisingly high SoF. Meanwhile Terpstra’s non-stop strategy and consistency enabled him to leap up to fourth with Cattell right behind. The latter however couldn’t make a move in the “aero push” and followed his rival to the finish, both not far behind low-on-fuel Davison. Non-stopping Phillip Diaz took sixth with iGPSWC drivers Darren Marsh and Jason Lovett taking seventh and eighth respectively in preparation for their world championship race on the following day.
17:15GMT SoF race saw Stergios take to the grid ahead of Wolfgang Reip and Daniel López. Unlike his iGPSWC race, Stergios hooked-up at the start and began to pull to an unprecedented lead on his rivals in the opening laps. Meanwhile, López launched ahead of Reip and they were followed by the dueling duo of Cattell and Davy Decorps rounding out the top five. However, the difficult passing nature of this track showed, with Reip visibly faster but unable to make a move on the mistake-free López. Instead the drivers looked ahead to the pit stops, which could be the possible turning point for the race. Despite pitting one lap early, Reip couldn’t jump the Spaniard in the pits – but crucially stayed ahead of Cattell and Decorps to hold onto his podium position. Non-stopping Terpstra could only sit back and watch the leaders pull away as he defended his sixth position from David Martinez. Stergios cruised to a comfortable victory with López finishing just .2s ahead of the flying Reip with Cattell and Decorps completing the top five.
In the final SoF race of the week (19:15) Stergios again took to the pole position with Reip alongside with the second row of Aleksi-Uusi Jaakkola and Laurent Beteille in hot pursuit. Crashes involving Marcus Caton and real-life racer Richie Stanaway saw them retire on the spot in a race full of attrition. Stergios again got the better launch to pull out a lead over a huge train consisting of Beteille, Uusi Jaakkola, Stephen Michaels and Jarl Teien. Reip’s part in this battle was cut short on the third lap when a mistake ended his race. Up front, Stergios enjoyed a ten second lead and looked unbeatable . . . at least initially. But his concentration was finally tested on Lap 9, when a bump in the last chicane sent his Williams-Toyota FW31 into the wall, destroying his right front suspension and front wing, and necessitating a pit stop.
The now battle for the lead hotted up, with action left, right and centre and positions changing all the time. Eventually, Teien took the lead from the surprisingly off-pace Beteille – but the Norwegian’s race ended against the barrier just a few laps after inheriting the lead. With just 12 cars remaining after only 10 laps, it soon became clear that third, fourth and fifth placed drivers Beteille, Xavier Busoms and Pierre Urbizu were on non-stop fuel strategies, whilst new leader Uusi Jaakkola and second place Michaels had pit stops to make.
With the action continuing to develop right until the pit stops, Uusi-Jaakkola pumped in some fast lap times towards the end of his stint. Still, his efforts weren’t enough to keep Beteille at bay, despite an off-track excursion and minor brush with the wall by the Frenchman on Lap 17. Meanwhile, Michaels exited pit road just behind his other non-stopping rivals of Busoms and Urbizu. With a gap just short of six seconds, Uusi-Jaakkola now had the chance to reel-in the race leader, but there was not enough time as Beteille crossed the line to win the race, with the order unchanged behind him.
Stergios remains iGPS point leader with Beteille now taking over the runner-up position. Dell’Orco advances one position this week and sits in third with previous second-place occupier Alatalo dropping to fourth. Fellow-countryman Uusi-Jaakkola follows in fifth overall.