Round 9 of the iRacing Grand Prix Series was hosted at the controversial Virginia International Raceway. Drivers would argue this is the most demanding circuit of the whole season, not only due to the tight twisty nature but also to score good valuable points as many driver take this as a drop round. The question on everyone’s lips was how many drivers would retire and the now famed Oak Tree Corner.
VIR week! Hopefully this will be the last time we see this track on the FW31 schedule. Had time for 2 races this week again, and it seems like I have a habit of putting myself under pressure. I flunked the 16 GMT race by making almost the worst mistake one can do in my opinion. I braked too late and rear-ended Christine in front of me, flying off the track. Wasn’t pretty, and really embarrassing tbh.. Shit happens as they say, and now there was only one shot left to get some points this week, so the pressure was really on.
Starting 7th on the grid, I was really nervous (getting no points this week would NOT be good for my chances on the Pro license). Luckily, the start went well. I avoided some of the small lap 1 incidents and found myself in 5th behind Jan, with Robin Friskopps right behind. The strategy was clear – stay on the track! I had no intentions of any risky racing with anyone, so I just tried to get settled in an make the laps go by. I knew that keeping Robin behind would be an almost impossible task, so I didn’t put up a fight when he had an opportunity to get by entering T1. I was hoping he could put the pressure on Jan and Mikko in front, and wait for someone to make a mistake.
As it would turn out, I was the one who made the first mistake of the 4 of us… I had a throttleoversteer-moment in T1 on lap 16, and spun the car going over the inside curb. Took quite a while to get the car pointing in the right direction, and I was down about 3 positions.
I picked up the pace again, and the pitstop went well. Managing to jump Matt Hannagan in the pits, I was suddenly in 4th due to many drivers incidents etc.
Mancusi was in front in 3rd but he had damage, and I was able to close in and overtake him on the straight. At the same timing cutting Matt off, and getting some room to pull a gap.
From here it was just about getting the car to the finish line, and I was overly happy to get my first podium finish in the broadcasted SOF race!
The 217 points was also far more than I had dared to hope for at this track.. Took a while before I could calm down after this one 🙂
Had a great car going into VIR this week, but performance during races could have been better. Such is the nature of this track but I still tried my best, and knowing that I’m fairly secure in the standings I decided to push a bit hard rather than play the safe game.
A decent race for me came from the latter Saturday SOF. Spent a lot of time fighting with Joonas Nukarinen for 2nd spot and trading places several times throughout the race. Eventually Joonas made too many mistakes and I came in about 10 seconds behind Muià for what was my only legitimate points this week, which allowed me some freedom to play hard in the main Sunday SOF without worrying too much about outcome.
Come race day I started one off pole, got a very good launch but it wasn’t enough to get by Muià. Neither could I slot in behind him (or at least I should have tried instead of attempting to beat him). This was unfortunate because being stuck on the outside of T1 is an uncomfortable situation that allows you to get trained by other cars while simultaneously setting themselves up well for the next corner- which is exactly what happened. Nukarinen followed Muià’s lead but then got his car sideways in the grass in front of me, then immediately got back in line taking the second left-hander from the inside. This caused him to have very slow pace through that 90-degree corner- even slower than I expected- and I couldn’t slow enough in time not to tap him. Again, that got his car quite sideways, but somewhat impressively he saved it for the second time and maintained his position as everyone in the field behind him backed up in a traffic jam.
I continued, several places back and significantly off-pace due to front wing damage. I managed to barely hang on and stay in the slipstream of Lasse for a few laps with the intent of pitting a lap or two before halfway to pick up a new wing, but alas eventually lost my car at Oak Tree (of course 🙂 from the significant understeer on entry + driver error.
Still a fun week overall, not the worst track in the world in my opinion at least; had a great time preparing and practicing with ARUK during the week and know my pace was very good! Big congrats to Lasse who ended up with a podium finish btw! The hunt for consistency continues next week at Sonoma..