Round 9 of the iRacing Pro Road Series was held at the famous Virginia International Raceway situated in the state of Virginia. The track plays host to many famous events, real world and in the simulated world and offers drivers a real challenge and tests their driving skills to the max.
In the week running up to Round 9 of the Pro Road Series drivers were commenting on the favourable weather making this demanding track a pleasure to drive and very rewarding when everything slots into place. However, VIR is not one of the most popular tracks on iRacing, especially in the Williams Toyota FW31, and this became obvious as only 24 drivers turned up to qualify for the event.
Going into qualifying, Apex Racing UK was already a couple of drivers down as Alex Simpson had suffered a wrist injury ultimately meaning he was unable to take part in qualifying or the race. Just Antoine Higelin, Lee Thompson and Lasse Bruun Hansen from Apex Racing UK took part in qualifying and they lined up in 9th (Higelin), 12th (Hansen) and in 23rd was Lee Thompson who had planned to start near the rear of the field to avoid the carnage.
The 3 Apex Racing UK drivers were joined by fellow ARUK driver Pierre B Urbizu on the grid who had planned to join the race and start from the back and try to gain the few points he needed in order to secure his Drivers World Championship License for next year enabling him to compete in the World Championship Series.
Lap 1 of the race was seemingly quiet for such a demanding track with just a couple of drivers retiring and the 4 ARUK drivers making sure they avoided any damage which could result in ending their race. The retirements were not limited to the first laps however and at the end of lap 4 Pierre B Urbizu pulled into the pits after gaining some positions realising that he didn’t need to risk wrecking the car as he had done enough. The Frenchman later rejoined the track and completed a couple more laps in order to gain a couple more positions to make sure he had gained enough points to ensure he only has to enter the final race in a weeks time to lock him in for his DWC license.
At the front of the field it was a different story as Antoine Higelin was on full attack knowing he had already secured his license and was now fighting for bragging rights in the championship. By lap 5 he had already made up 2 places from his original 9th place grid slot and was now trying to chase down the drivers ahead of him. After a small mistake in the Rollercoaster on lap 9, Higelin lost a couple of positions but by the end of his one and only stop on lap 38 he had made his way back up to 8th. Going into the final stages of the race, Higelin found himself in 7th just ahead of the 2 stopper Davy Decorps and a late incident between Yuho Abe and Robin Friskopps resulted in Higelin gaining another spot putting him up into 6th where he went on to finish.
For Lasse Bruun Hansen, who is also trying to secure valuable points in order to try and secure his DWC license, the race was also going well and after just 6 laps he had gained 3 positions on his already strong qualifying performance putting him in 9th position. However, a small mistake in the Rollercoaster cost him 5 positions and this was not the end of his bad luck. A small mistake on lap 9 going into turn 4 almost resulted into him having contact with the wall, fortunately he missed however he had lost another 4 positions. By lap 26 he was up behind team mate Lee Thompson who let him past without a fight on the backstraight which put him back up to 16th and by the end of his one and only pit stop at the end of lap 38 he found himself up into 14th. The Dane was then left with a relatively quiet end to his race and once all the pit stops were completed he found himself in 12th where he went on to finish narrowly missing out on gaining an extra position after the late crash between Abe and Friskopps.
After qualifying near the back of the field on purpose to avoid the inevitable carnage, Lee Thompson was set out to make sure he finished the race in order to gain the points needed in order to try and secure his DWC license. By the end of lap 1, the Brit had already jumped 4 spots from his originally qualifying position meaning he was now in 19th. On lap 2 he allowed Rasmus Tali to pass as the goal was to finish the race, by the end of lap 2 he had gained another 2 positions even though he had let the Twister driver past due to numerous incidents further up the field. The Twister driver then made a mistake at the end of lap 3 resulting in the ARUK driver gaining another spot sticking him up to 16th. By the end of lap 8, Lee Thompson was in 15th and by the end of his one and only pit stop he found himself in 14th where he remained until the end of the race securing some valuable points.
In the standings, Antoine Higelin jumped ahead of team mate Alex Simpson as the 2 ARUK drivers remain in the top 10 overall. Pierre B Urbizu is in 17th place, however just 10 points seperate 17th to 25th so although it is unlikely he will drop below 25th it is still mathematically possible. Although Lasse B Hansen scored a decent amount of points he is also vulnerable sitting in the 21st spot, while Lee Thompson lost a position and is now sitting in the 26th position just 1 point behind 25th.
The final round of the Pro Road Series will be next week at the Japanese Suzuka circuit where it will be the final chance for drivers to secure those all important points needed to secure their spot in the 2014 iRacing Drivers World Championship.