Paradise City: Sebring Race Report
(Ahead of this race, there was the news of Coanda Simsport driver Hugo Luis dropping out of the championship, with a statement provided to RaceSpotTV, here.)
Come qualifying at the Sebring International Raceway, it was the season’s second front row lockout for Coanda, with Martin Krönke clocking in the fastest, followed by Mitchell deJong, followed by Redline’s Greger Huttu and Radical’s Mogar Filho in 4th.
With 35 cars lined up at the grid, the lights when out and the third race of the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series was underway. Krönke, from pole, didn’t had the best of getaways, thus it was deJong leading into the first corner, with Huttu pressuring Krönke but unable to find a way past. From 6th on the grid, ineX’s Joni Törmälä slotted in behind Huttu in 4th.
The opening phase of the race could be named messy, at best. On the opening lap, Radical’s Yuta Saito span before turn 2, causing a huge traffic jam. On lap 2, more carbon fibre flew with Radical’s Joonas Nukarinen barging into the back of Tomo Meglic from TNT. Lap 3 there was a three-car collision, with Riley Preston from Orion retiring on the spot. Apex’s Graham Carroll and Radical’s Paul Ilbrink got together on lap 5 — and on that same lap, Orion’s Davy Decorps and Radical’s Jeremy Bouteloup tangled. There was action everywhere on the narrow track of Sebring.
But ahead of a field of wrinkled front-wings, it was calm at the front, with deJong leading the race, trailed but unchallenged by Krönke. Mere seconds behind were the Finns Huttu and Törmälä, likewise not challeging each other, as tyre wear and strategies would appear soon enough. On lap 17, deJong was the first of the frontronners to pit, unleashing Krönke into clean air. Krönke then went all-out to gain an advantage, but in that attempt he made a rare mistake and overshot the first kink in the Le Mans corner, condemning him to a slow-down penalty. Huttu was thus right on at the gearbox of Krönke’s MP4-30, when Krönke entered the pitlane on lap 18.
The Coanda frontrunners rejoined with fresh rubber in 9th and 10th, setting the timing boards alight, but as Krönke had faced a setback before his pitstop — deJong encountered one on lap 22. It was ineX’s Robin Friskopps who, on worn tyres, ploughed into the back of deJong at the the hairpin. DeJong lost valuable seconds, but could at least continue his race, after a fierce detour.
Meanwhile, Huttu and Törmälä drove in front. Törmälä mounted pressure on Huttu and lured, but never put his car alongside Huttu’s. Huttu eventually pitted on lap 24, Törmälä a few laps later. The order then was Krönke leading deJong, Huttu and Törmälä, in what would shape up to be a nailbiting finish. Meanwhile, Decorps tried a risky move on Cam Stark, sending the Apex driver into the barriers and out of the race.
Törmälä in 4th place was clearly the fastest of the leaders, as he crawled Huttu’s gearbox, without a way to pass. The two Finns were closing in on deJong, who was running on much older tyres. The three formed a pack on lap 37, and eventually both Huttu and Törmälä passed deJong on the start/finish straight, starting lap 45.
Meanwhile, it was clear that Krönke was pushing all out to maintain his advantage — a gap of mere seconds that was shrinking fast — as he caught a huge slide coming out of Collier. It looked likely that he could be caught and passed by Törmälä and Huttu, as either of those two looked in contention for the race win. But it didn’t came to that. Törmälä was going full-assault on Huttu, and on lap 47 the ineX driver eventually hustled ahead of Huttu coming onto the start/finish straight. While braking before the first corner, Törmälä was hit from behind by Huttu. It was harsh and unfair, as Törmälä slammed into the barriers, causing instant retirement. Meanwhile, Huttu continued in 3rd place, but the delay meant he was passed by deJong.
And that was that. On lap 52, Krönke collected the checkers to score Coanda’s first win of the season, deJong duly making it a 1-2 victory. Further back, Coanda’s André Böttcher — who had ran as high as 11th — had retired after collecting an unshakable cone with his front-wing. Coanda’s Martti Pietilä meanwhile had stayed out of all the trouble this race had to offer, to finish in 11th place.
Krönke is now leading with 104 points, ahead of Redline drivers Huttu and Pahkala with 98 points each, followed by deJong in 4th, with 97 points.
iRacing’s WCGPS continues Saturday the 2nd of April, at 14:00 GMT (9AM ET), and will run at Road America. Via this link you can view the live broadcast on iRacing Live, with coverage by RaceSpot TV.
For a full season’s calendar, click here.