Start me up: Interlagos race report
With much hype and excitement, the 2016 season of iRacing’s World Championship Grand Prix Series got underway at Interlagos, with 35 drivers from 14 different teams starting at the uphill grid.
Mitchell deJong and Martin Krönke clocked the fastest times in qualifying, thus claiming the full front row for VRS Coanda Simsport. Yet, the pace of the #24 and #5 cars eluded the others, with Coanda’s Martti Pietilä in 22nd, André Böttcher in 26th and the #1 car of Hugo Luis in 29th.
Upon lights out, it was deJong who first went into the Senna Esses, followed by Krönke, followed by Joni Törmälä. There was drama when three of Team Redline’s cars collided, causing instant retirement for Uusi-Jaakkola.
With deJong and Krönke leading the pack, it seemed like a straightforward race for the team, but soon fragilities in Coanda’s pace appeared. At the beginning of lap six, inex’s driver Törmälä passed Krönke with a move down the inside of the Senna Esses. The #13 ineX car then reeled in deJong, who was mere seconds ahead.
Going into turn one at the start of lap 12, Törmälä tried a move around deJong, causing Törmälä to slide the back-end of his car, but skilfully kept it on the tarmac. Yet the evidence of Törmälä’s pace was there, and one lap later, Törmälä — with his DRS wide open — took the lead over from deJong, well before the braking zone of turn one.
Törmälä started to build a lead with blistering pace, to which nobody had an answer. On lap 18, already 3 seconds behind, deJong pitted — in an attempt to undercut Törmälä — re-entering the field in 9th, in clean air.
But it was to no avail: even on new rubber, deJong couldn’t match Törmälä’s pace, who charged away from Krönke. Meanwhile, it was Apex Racing’s Sebastian Job who passed Krönke for 2nd, on lap 24.
Job and Krönke stayed together but didn’t battle, as the race calmed down before those on a one-stop strategy would make their single stop. Törmälä and Job did so at lap 35, with Krönke staying out three more laps, pitting in lap 38.
The order was then Törmälä, deJong, Job, Krönke, with Team Redline’s Olli Pahkala in 5th.
With neither of the Coanda frontrunners able to match Törmälä’s pace, deJong made his second pitstop at lap 40, with Job, Krönke and Pahkala grouping up for the closing stages of the race. Pahkala dived down the inside of Krönke at the start of lap 64, with Krönke nearly losing the car on the marbles. Krönke then quickly traded places with Pahkala again, as the latter struggled for fuel.
And that was that. Törmälä won the opening round of the 2016 season some 16 seconds ahead of Job, Krönke and Pahkala, as polesitter deJong finished in 7th. Further back, reigning champion Greger Huttu finished an impressive 11th place, after being 31st after the opening lap, while the other Coanda cars finished way down the order, with Böttcher in 23rd, Luis in 27th and Pietilä in 28th.
Martin, after the race: “After the start, with Mitchell and me leading, it looked like it was shaping to be a good race, but it turned out differently. Obviously we still lack something. Joni (Törmälä) had a amazingly stable car, tremendous acceleration. Whether it’s setup, or something else, we need to find it ahead of next’s race.”
iRacing’s WCGPS continues Saturday the 5th of March, at 14:00 GMT (9AM ET), and will run at Philip Island. 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.