The seventh round of the 2015 iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series was held at Virginia International Raceway, a fast flowing track with long straightaways. VIR is a very difficult track where the slightest mistake usually ends your race: there are very few flat curbs and run-off areas where you can compensate a slighly wide line or a missed apex. Running only few centimeters wide is immediately sanctioned by a massive loss of grip in the grass and a crash into the nearby wall! The most difficult section is undoubtedly the oak tree corner where you rush down the hill in 7th gear, brake into a tight right hand corner with millimetric precision to avoid touching the grass.
As most drivers in iWCGPS, I don’t like VIR although I usually bring home some good championship points. In 2014 I qualified in 20th position and finished 13th of the race.
During race preparation I started with a fairly soft combo: my pace was not bad but as soon as I only slightly touched one of the tall curbs, I experienced heavy POGO. I then completely rebuilt my setup: a much harder suspension combo completely removed POGO while still providing a good tradeoff between low speed grip and high speed handling. I could then optimize my lines and build up confidence in the qualifying and race setups. We opted for a two stop strategy as it became clear that the lap times with a heavy car would be offset by almost 1 second while the time lost in the short VIR pitlane would be on the low side. Additionally I knew I had to serve a drivethrough penalty because of my Watkins Glen crash. Therefore I had to choose the fastest possible setup to be able to overtake.
I decided to drive a very cautious first qualification lap, especially in the oak tree corner and the last fast, twisty and dangerous section. To my surprise it was enough for a 10th position on my server. My second flying lap was very fast until the last corner where I took the risk to slightly touch the inner curb to set the best possible lap time. This didn’t work out as I was directly sent out of the track compromising a top 5 qualifying time. I took that risk because with a pending drivethrough penalty, grid position was not that important. In the end I found myself in 13th position on the grid, first of the 3 drivers having to serve a drivetrough penalty.
The race start went well, without any crash in the front pack. I didn’t defend my position too much as I knew I had to serve my penalty. At the end of the drivethrough I found myself in 33th position, only followed by Aleksi and Joni who served their penalty behind me.
I quickly discovered that I had a very good pace as I soon overtook Patrick, Justin and Benjamin. Unfortunately after overtaking Benjamin, I had a wide exit out of first corner, touched the grass and spun. I lost 4 positions but was determined to catch up. I then overtook Benjamin, Justin and passed Paolo as he went into the pits. I catched Joni and managed to pass him at the third attempt, just after we both passed Miguel. I then catched and overtook Marin and Tomo.
I followed Dion in the pits for our first pitstop. I then overtook Dion, while Aleksi crashed in front of us. I was then in 23rd position. I overtook Mitchell, then it took some laps to catch a group with Joao, Paul and Mogar. I quickly passed Joao, Paul and then Jake coming out of the pits heavy, but could not get passed Mogar as he has a totally opposite (slow in, fast out) driving style compared to mine.
After the second batch of pitstops, I found myself behind Paul. I could quickly overtake him but got stuck again behind Mogar until he made a slight mistake out of the oak tree corner and I could pass him in the long back straight. I then catched Joonas and overtook him at my third attempt. When Yuho spun in front of me I found myself in 17th position. Finally, in the last lap, Martti and Fulvio crashed giving me the 16th spot.
Even if the end result may seem average, I am very proud to have finished 16th after an average qualification, a drivethrough, 2 missed pitboxes, many hard battles and scary moments. I never overtook so many drivers in an iWCGPS race: it was a blast!
Afterthoughts: I had an awesome setup and a top 5 pace: with my grid position, my pace and without the drivethrough penalty I would have battled for an easy top 10. Anyway it was great fun having so much battles and overtakes!
Gratz to Greger and the podium.