Every week, iRacing, the world’s premier online racing simulation service, highlights its latest news for NESN Fuel. This week, iRacing recapped the eighth round of the World Championship Grand Prix Series. Read more about iRacing here.
Martin Kronke went eight races unbeaten after a crucial win by six seconds over VRS Coanda Simsport teammate and hometown hero, Mitchell DeJong. There were surprises during the event, however, as five-time champion Greger Huttu crashed out in the opening lap after two races away.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway always has the aura of being a great race, and the action provided would be of the highest caliber. Kronke, on an eight-race unbeaten streak stretching back to last year, had the pressure off of him, knowing that whatever the result was going to be, most likely it was not going to affect his outlook in the championship. Huttu, finally back after a two-race break, was ready and primed with a lot left to prove for the final five rounds. Bono Huis, second in the championship, would have the momentum on his side, however, securing one of the most difficult slots in sim racing, an automatic place in the McLaren World’s Fastest Gamer finals.
Qualifying would prove to be lightning fast and very dangerous with overcast conditions putting a major chill over the circuit and also making the pole position almost unpredictable at times. Home race for DeJong would prove good for him, as he would snatch pole by just 0.015 seconds away from his teammate Kronke, a time of 1.04.905 just good enough for the American. Huttu would start from the second row, joined by Mack Bakkum, the third VRS Coanda Simsport vehicle inside of the top four. Jamie Fluke for the Apex Racing UK team would place himself fifth with both Huis and Freek Schothorst of Team Redline sixth and seventh, respectively. It would be a personal best qualifying for Balazs Remenyik as he would use all of the IndyCar experience Vortex SimRacing had to get a fourth-row start.
A monumental getaway from Bakkum threw everybody up as he stormed from fourth to first before the first corner. The great start would soon dissipate, however, as after running wide through both Turn 1 and Turn 2, Bakkum would give up those positions to DeJong and Kronke. It would very nearly be a third position lost, as Huttu would go around the outside at Turn 7 but contact between the two drivers would see Huttu get collected by multiple vehicles, and leave the Finnish driver out of the event, averaging just two points in the last three races overall. Remenyik would also fall foul on Lap 1 after getting turned around at Turn 10.
The lead would change position on the start of Lap 11 as Kronke, with DRS and ERS to use, stormed down to the inside to inherit a very familiar position. Kronke would be unable to truly break away from DeJong until lapped traffic would come into play. Behind Kronke, Huis would comfortably make his way through on Bakkum, as Bakkum would slowly fall back over the course of the event. In the mid-pack, positions would chop and change as Thrustmaster Mivano’s Jorge Montanes would start to drop backwards through the mid-pack after gaining nine positions off of the start.
The pit stop window would open on Lap 30 out of 73 as Marcus Jensen of the Apex Racing UK team would be the first do drop onto the lane. Huis would make the early call to come in, looking to undercut the likes of DeJong and Kronke, who were some of the last drivers to make a stop. Schothorst would follow swiftly after Huis, with front wing damage equating to a longer stop before Bakkum would blitz everyone on pit road, a 3.3-second stop. DeJong would pit before Kronke as Martin would make one of the very rare mistakes in his game, overshooting his pit box slightly before coming out nose to tail with his teammate. Kronke lost two seconds in the stop.
Battles would continue through the second half of the race as Martti Pietila would repass Jamie Fluke for sixth after losing out in the pit stop phase. The battle between Bakkum and Shothorst would hot up though as Shothorst, coming back from a 4-second deficit, would make a great move around the outside of Turn 7, getting DRS into eighth. Bakkum, though, would come back and the tire-banging would be evident. Two touches through Turns 1 and 2 later, and Bakkum was in fourth once again.
Plain sailing in the end for Kronke, going eight-for-eight and maintaining his 100 percent record. The one-two would be secured with DeJong in second with a quiet race for Huis, ending up on the last step of the podium. He would be followed home by Bakkum, Schothorst, Pietila, Fluke and Ilkka Haapala, who made a lot of positions late in the day for the Orion Race Team.
Kronke’s result with the drop week applied would mean nothing as he keeps his overall points of 273. Huis (224) lies just 49 points back in second and needs to rely on Kronke crashing out to stand a realistic chance at the title. Bakkum now lies third overall (210) but may be subject to a post-race penalty after his opening-lap incident with Huttu.
Other notable names see Huttu (160) in eighth place, Olli Pahkala (143) in 12th, Patrik Holzmann (119), now of JIM, in 20th and Graham Carroll (116) in 21st. Both Carroll and Holzmann have lost their Pro Licences, however, and need to work on their safety rating to regain them. DeJong (106) with his third second-place finish of the season moves up into 25th overall. This leaves drivers like Peter Berryman (97) of Apex Racing UK and Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola (83) of Team Redline on the bubble in 27th and 29th, respectively.
Round 9 signals the end of the drop weeks as Spa-Francorchamps promises to be a thriller on Aug. 19 in just a little under two-weeks time. Make sure you tune in on iRacing Live on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Kronke is on a very direct road to the title, but for now at least, he can call himself the Indy darling.
All photos courtesy of iRacing