Winning 17-year-old Moorespeed IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup driver Riley Dickinson is on the fast track to race with the best in the world in the future and had a glimpse of what’s to come in a successful IMSA iRacing Pro Series debut at virtual WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last Thursday.
In his second season with Moorespeed in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, Dickinson and Moorespeed have joined the rest of the global motorsport’s community in worldwide shut down through at least the end of May in response to novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.
The ever-present need for speed, however, has been filled by IMSA’s instantly popular iRacing Pro Series – and similar online offerings from sanctioning bodies around the world – and Dickinson jumped at the chance to join IMSA’s virtual competition at WeatherTech Raceway.
"First of all, I’m extremely thankful to have been given the opportunity to compete in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series," Dickinson said. "The level of competition was very high, which I feel led to a great race to watch for the fans. It was really cool to be on the same track for the first time with many of the top IMSA drivers, even though it was virtually. WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was one of the tracks that I took a quick liking to in the IMSA Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car last year, so having my first IMSA iRacing Pro Series race there I was able to fall back a little bit on my previous experiences."
Dickinson overcame more that one setback in the 90-minute race to finish 15th out of 47 entries. The 2020 IMSA Hurley Haywood Scholarship Winner was also the second highest Porsche finisher out of the 11 digital Porsche 911 RSR competitors in the race.
"What was very interesting about the event was the level of professionalism that was present throughout," Dickinson said. "Even though the race itself wasn’t in the real world, all of the competitors treated this race as if it was. On our end, we essentially followed the same race weekend procedures that we do on a normal race weekend and adapted our program for iRacing. To finish the race in 15th after starting in 35th and having a good bit of drama at the start was a great result."
Just as he is at the track, and during their hundreds of hours of iRacing training back home in their native Texas, Moorespeed President David Moore was right by Dickinson’s side, albeit virtually, throughout the online racing debut.
"It may be ‘simulated racing,’ but the race craft, focus and competition are very real," Moore said. "Riley had some good battles with the likes of Laurens Vanthoor and other top pros. It was pretty intense really. We did a race debrief just like we do in the real world and there were some good lessons learned that I think will help him when we get back on track. Riley’s home in New Braunfels, Texas is an hour away from my home in West Lake Hills in the Austin area, so that is pretty good social distancing!"
Dickinson had better pace in his digital No. 53 Porsche 911 RSR, run under the Moorespeed banner, than he and Moore were able to conjure up for qualifying.
"We were a little behind preparing for the event due to some technical issues with my system that crashed when we were running a different simulator program used in another series," Moore said. "Riley was pretty much on his own setting up the 911RSR until I was operational again late the night before the race. Finally, we were able to collaborate over the phone the morning of the race, but he had a statistics test later that morning and school is always first. So, we never really had time to work out a true qualifying setup he liked. He had better pace than the time charts showed."
Starting deep in the field, Dickinson was caught up in a major first lap melee and suffered damage in a pair of early punts off course.
"Instead of pitting, Riley ran with the compromised car until the mandatory caution period," Moore said. "Afterwards, he had great pace, put his head down and moved up to P12 only to be punted off one more time with under 10 minutes to go. He still brought it home in a really respectable P15."
Dickinson (pictured above iRacing at Mid-Ohio) and Moore are already preparing for the next IMSA iRacing Pro Series race at the virtual Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on April 30.
"I’m looking forward to the Mid-Ohio event because of what David and I were able to learn from Laguna Seca," Dickinson said. "Much of what we learned will translate over to Mid-Ohio."