DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With the checkered flag on last Thursday night’s 90-minute Hagerty Presents IMSA iRacing at Mid-Ohio, the halfway point was reached in the six-race IMSA iRacing Pro Series season.
With each passing race, the competition gets tougher and more fierce. And we are still waiting for a winner or podium finisher that wasn’t driving a BMW M8 GTE.
Let’s look at three takeaways from last week’s race at Mid-Ohio as we gear up for next Thursday night’s visit to the virtual Road America.
- Eng Provides iRacing Excitement
Let’s get one thing straight right off the top. Loyal participants will fight you right now at the mere suggestion that iRacing is a "video game." It’s not, it’s sim racing and there’s a difference.
But that said, Austrian racer Philipp Eng’s drive through the field last Thursday night was "video game-esque." The 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona GT Le Mans (GTLM) class winner’s night began with the disappointment of a 46th-place starting spot on the tight, 2.258-mile circuit.
As polesitter Bruno Spengler took the green flag, Eng was at best entering the final complex of turns at Mid-Ohio known as "The Carousel." But that’s when his thrill ride began.
The No. 26 Team Austria BMW blasted through the field – even briefly taking the lead as the pit-stop sequence played out at midrace. While he was eventually shuffled back in the order when he made his pit stop, Eng continued his charge in the second half.
In a spectacular performance, he eventually made his way up to fourth place, a nice rebound from the race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where a near-certain victory was taken away in lapped traffic toward the end.
- Pfast Pflucker
If this iRacing thing translates at all to real life once the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship fires back up, GT Daytona (GTD) teams better not sleep on the No. 47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
One of the biggest revelations these past two rounds is the performance of Peruvian driver Rodrigo Pflucker. The 2019 IMSA Prototype Challenge champion is slated for a WeatherTech Sprint Cup ride in the No. 47 PPM Lamborghini, and he’s been lightning-fast in the No. 47 Ford GT in iRacing.
Pflucker started Round 2 at the virtual WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca from the pole position and led the first half of the race. Last Thursday night, he started third and again ran among the front runners for much of the race. Unfortunately, incidents in both events prevented him from scoring a strong result, but we’ll assume those won’t happen in real life and look forward to seeing how it plays out when we’re back at the racetrack.
- Spengler’s Stranglehold Broken, But He’s Still Strong
There might be a curse that comes with qualifying on pole for an IMSA iRacing Pro Series race.
No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW driver Robby Foley started March’s season-opening Sebring SuperSaturday race from the No. 1 spot, but an opening-lap incident effectively ended his day almost as soon as it started. We just covered Pflucker’s experience from WeatherTech Raceway after his pole-winning run.
Canadian driver Bruno Spengler, winner of the season’s first two races, put his No. 7 BMW IMSA Team Red M8 GTE on pole at Mid-Ohio and got a nice start to lead the early stages. He was shuffled out of the lead during the pit-stop sequence, but emerged again as a contender for the win late in the running before he spun while attempting to take the lead from eventual winner Nicky Catsburg in Turn 1.
He was involved in a second incident with 12 minutes remaining in the race – one that also included the Ford GTs of Richard Westbrook, Sebastien Priaulx and Pflucker – yet somehow still managed to finish just outside the top five in sixth place.
Nevertheless, this one could be Spengler’s "mulligan" when all is said and done.