Following a late change to the iRacing Drivers World Championship Road Racing schedule, Week Three of the series moved to iRacing’s most recent addition to its track catalogue, Circuit Park Zandvoort. The slight curve ball didn’t seem to affect iWDCRR leader Greger Huttu, however, as he drove to his third win in as many outings, coming home nearly 16s clear of runner-up Shawn Purdy with iRacing Pro Series Road Racing champion Richard Towler in third.
The Netherlands circuit that is steeped in motor-racing history, proved to be a dramatic backdrop in the chase for the pinnacle of virtual road racing titles, even before the green flag had dropped. Whilst running through his warming-up procedures on the last turn of the parade lap, Luke McLean looped the Fanatec livered Team Redline Dallara a few seconds before the race was due to start. In the ensuing confusion, the Australian collected right rear suspension damage, resulting in his retirement before crossing the start finish line.
“I made a huge error on the warm-up lap,” McLean sheepishly explained in the paddock. “I accidentally dropped to neutral while warming the tyres than clunked it into first while I was still accelerating and instantly spun. Then someone tapped me whilst I was sitting on the track. As a result, my car was bent so I just pulled off and retired.”
Having now collected all the pole positions and race victories of the opening three rounds of the championship, Huttu has stepped into a commanding lead of 38 points, to earmark himself as the clear favourite in the series’ inaugural season. From the time the Finn entered turn one on the opening lap, he set about carving out a lead from a closely bunched field behind and keeping clear of traffic. “It was a bit tough to decide the strategy for this race but I got off to a good start on the first stint which always helps,” a delighted Huttu responded post race. “I pitted on Lap 18, but the stop was a bit slow and I just got stuck behind Darren Marsh for a couple of laps; then there was some traffic during the first part of the second stint but I got through it OK. My second stop was good but again I came out in some traffic with a couple of lappers ahead and Ben behind me. That situation sorted itself out quickly enough and the rest of the race was just about keeping the car on the island.”
Although Huttu has dominated the early exchanges in the iDWCRR series, the Team Redline driver is certainly not counting his chickens. “That’s three great races for me but I think the next tracks will be a bit different,” replied the series leader wryly on his status as champion elect.
Whilst it’s often said a race can’t be won in the first corner, Purdy would probably argue differently following his second place finish at the twisty Zandvoort circuit. Anticipating the wave of the green flag, the Canadian took off to a blistering start from sixth on the grid, passing Dom Duhan before putting the squeeze on his Orion Racing team mate, Illka Haapala at the end of the opening straight. He thus completed the first lap in fourthsome 2.5s behind Huttu with Bastien Bartsch and Towler in-between.
“I wasn’t expecting to get such a killer start so I had my hands full to not hit anyone. I clipped Ilkka a bit as I slotted in; Sorry about that Teammie,” said Purdy,who would remain in fourth until the checkered flag was nearly in sight.
“I just tried to keep some pressure on until the end, keeping Bastien and Rich in sight, I settled into fourth position as I had a big gap to fifth. But in the last turn of the last lap, something like five cars all wrecked.
I couldn’t really see anything so I just backed off the throttle and ran a really tight line, and came out second spot! Well sometimes it pays to be lucky I guess.”
The promotion to the second step of the podium for Purdy came at the expense of Towler and Bartsch, who clashed in the final corner, a few hundred yards from the finish. As the pair started the final lap of the race, Bartsch look set to be awarded second position having maintained a comfortable gap from Towler over the previous laps. However, the Frenchman was confronted by lapped traffic caught in their own battles, which allowed the Englishman to catch-up to the Frenchman’s gearbox by the time the duo approached the penultimate corner. Looking to keep his momentum through the turn, Bartsch tapped the right rear wheel of the lapped Ales Simunek, sending the International Club driver spinning into the outfield gravel. As a result, Bartsch lost valuable speed and left a small door open for Towler to make an eleventh hour bid for second position.
“When we came to the final corner, Bastien I think ran over the lapped car, so I got a run on the exit of the corner,” offered Towler once the Dutch sand had settled. “I timed it really well and I thought I was going to get a nice second place, when Bastien just cranked it right, putting me in the wall. I’m really not happy about it, I can understand being pissed at the lapping situation, but to take it on me in that way was out of order.”
Despite the Englishman’s disappointment at the last lap shenanigans, the 275 points he earned for his podium has maintained Towler’s second spot in the championship standings table, 22 marks ahead of Bartsch.
Bringing home his slightly crumpled Dallara in fifth position, Ben Cornett was left contemplating what might have been at the end of the weekend. The Australian had shown a good turn of speed through practice and qualifying, but became entangled in an opening lap incident that saw his compatriot Derek Wood J-turn his car into oncoming traffic.
“After the incident I lost about six tenths a lap off my car which was a shame,” explained a frustrated Cornett. “I had been doing solid 24.6s with a full tank during race simulations, but was only able to cobble together 25.1s. I spent the first stint behind Shawn Purdy, thinking he was holding me up, but after he pitted, I realised that he was really towing me along!”
Finishing sixth after steering clear of the race trouble spots, Marsh continues to occupy a spot in the championship top five. Although the Australian over-shot his pit box during one of his scheduled stops, he was able to capitalise on a rare mistake by Redline’s Dom Duhan.
“After Dom stopped he was 4.4 seconds ahead but he seemed to be struggling because that came down to 3.3 halfway around the lap when he subsequently spun,” said Marsh. “From there it was plain sailing to the finish, making sure I didn’t go too slow because Ilkka Haapala was on a charge.”
The aforementioned Haapala, who ended the race in seventh position, might be wondering what offense he’d carried out in a previous life, after bringing home a pre-owned looking Dallara IndyCar. Apart from having his front wing clipped by his Orion team mate (Purdy) on the opening straight, the Scandinavian also found himself heading for the gravel in Turn One after colliding with Wood on his first circuit of the track. The resultant chaos saw the likes of Andrea Baldi and George Sandman dragged into the pile of broken cars on the approach to Turn Two. Miraculously, Haapala came away from the first lap mauling with a drivable car and was able to complete all 50 race laps.
Securing eighth position at Zandvoort as a reward for consistency, Matt Sentall earned his 72 points after watching Bryan Heitkotter and Davis Siriois fall off the undulating Dutch circuit. Californian Sentell had been following in Heitkotter’s wake, but a mistake by his club mate and a subsequent off-track excursion for Sirois handed him the positions unchallenged. Whilst Heitkotter was able to recover and seal ninth position, Italian Mattaeo Calestani took the last top ten spot from Sirios in the closing laps.
Round Four of the iRacing Drivers World Championship Road Racing Series heads to the ‘boot’ configuration of Watkins Glen. Although Finland’s Greger Huttu plays down his early grip on the championship, the world is still waiting for someone to step up to the plate and challenge him.