This past weekend, the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series hosted its season opener at the renowned Autodromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos). The 15 turn, 4.3km circuit is known for it’s flowing nature with both high and low speed corners, it demands a lot from the cars and drivers. With 50 entrants in the series, only 35 would be able to make the grid and it was down to qualifying to sort it out.
Taking the top spot was Martin Krönke of Coanda Simsport, followed by Greger Huttu and Aleksi Uusi-Jaakola of Team Redline. Graham Carroll took 4th position little more than a tenth of pole, while Michael Dinkel placed 6th along with Jamie Fluke and Antoine Higelin 8th and 9th respectively rounding out the Apex Racing cars within the Top 10. Further back, Patrik Holzmann qualified 15th and Pashalis Gergis setting pace for 18th being the only Academy car making the grid for this round. Marcus Jensen and Peter Berryman were just shy of the top 20 after difficult sessions.
The lights went out to the 2017 Championship, and it was mostly clean for the front half of the field. Netcode resulted in Riley Preston of Orion Race Team being spun around blocking the racing line and much of the track in the Senna “S” bottleneck. He collected a few cars with many narrowly avoiding his stricken car. Although the shenanigans seemed over, only a few seconds later Joni Tormala of iNex Racing made contact with Yuta Saito of Radicals collecting our own Pashalis Gergis, ending his race without even getting halfway around the first lap, an unfortunate start to the season.
As the race progressed, it took Peter Berryman and Antoine Higelin as casualties not too long after, leaving 4 main team cars to bring it home. Graham was struggling with his overall grip mid first stint and soon he was overtaken by a few cars. Jamie was also feeling a lack of confidence in the car and was fighting tooth and nail with both the track and competitors to hold station for as long as possible and work out an optimal strategy. Patrik was finding himself to be a hard charger for the duration of the opening stint, making several positions and showing promising pace. As the pit window began to open, there was a large shuffle throughout with people trying undercut one another, as is the case with these Pirelli P-Zero Softs tyres.
Graham pit a little earlier than his team-mates, crucially against Michael who was tagging along to him for most of the opening stint. They continued to stay slotted for some time however Michael found his way past the Scotsman. In the end, it was Michael who placed P7 with Graham following in P8, a good drive and points haul for the two. Patrik was not too far off in P10 for a large duration of the remaining laps, however he lost control and many positions relegating the German down to P19. Jamie then became the next Apex car to finish in P12 while Marcus despite taking damage and a spin from the spinner in turn 1 lap 1, still finished in the top 20, a great recovery drive.
Overall a mixed bag for the team. A good result for Michael and Graham who will be happy to have still taken a top 10, with others sure to be motivated at working on their pace and setup for the next track, and boy it’s a demanding one for that. The famous Sebring International Raceway nestled into Florida’s plains and home to the famous 12 Hours of Sebring. The iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series returns on Saturday the 18th of March at 13:30UTC on iRacing Live. Be sure to catch the Interlagos broadcast from Racespot and see first hand the opening round.
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