The battle for the 2021 Force Dynamics Dallara iRacing Grand Prix Championship boiled over on Thursday night. With only laps to go at the Red Bull Ring, championship leader Maarten van Loozenoord was catching both of his championship rivals, the Apex Racing Team members Yohann Harth and Peter Berryman.
On fresher, faster tires, van Loozenoord was coming quickly. Harth had led the majority of the battle, but his teammate Berryman reacted to the pace of van Loozenoord and took the lead. Harth, not wanting to give up his chance at the title, likely knew that his season depended on not letting van Loozenoord around.
A clash for the second spot turned costly for both drivers. As Harth and van Loozenoord plummeted down the running order, Berryman cruised to his second victory of the season to reclaim the points lead, now at nine points over van Loozenoord.
TIRE COMPOUND STRATEGIES PLAY OUT
A bold strategy from the Apex Racing Team and their alliance member Michele Costantini put all three at the front of the field with the red ‘soft’ compound tires to start the race. The soft tires would allow for quicker speed, but a much faster falloff in return.
Costantini didn’t have the pace like the other two, but had the tire earlier on to hold up van Loozenoord and the rest of the pack. Eventually, that boiled over as Costantini and Valentin Mandernach collided, taking both out of the equation, Mandernach worse off having to retire for the remainder of the race.
When the Apex drivers pitted at lap 12, they put on yellow ‘medium’ compound tires, hoping to keep some pace knowing they would gain more time over the fuel window than the white ‘hard’ compound tires would. On the other side of the coin, van Loozenoord opted for a medium – medium – soft combination over his race, a complete opposite approach. The result was three cars under a blanket on differing strategies in the closing laps.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THINGS BOIL OVER
It’s been a point of discussion for weeks now. Team orders are here, and they can get ugly. However, when both teammate have a pretty equal shot at the title, it’s unknown how team bosses will handle the situation when it arises.
The R8G Esports and Apex Racing Team alliances have gone blow for blow over the majority of the season. The moves have been costly at times, with championship contenders at times getting the short end of the stick. It’s been a battle of wits all season, and at times, things can get absolutely mental between the drivers.
The Apex Racing Team drivers ran 1-2 for the majority of the Red Bull Ring event. Harth led 23 laps when his team’s pit cycle would put him on top. van Loozenoord matched 17 laps led in the long game pit strategy, and it nearly worked out perfectly for a fifth win in-a-row.
When Berryman took control of the lead from his teammate, it was a clutch decision that proved to be a possible championship winning moment. Moments later, disaster struck for the two others fighting for their championship lives.
A DEFINING MOMENT IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE
When van Loozenoord fell out of the points in the third week at Interlagos, the momentum shifted to Berryman as the championship favorite. Four race wins in-a-row after that for van Loozenoord, the momentum shifted back in his favor. With only three races to go entering Austria, van Loozenoord had to keep the momentum going because one misstep could bring either Apex driver back into the fold.
The strategy to take the soft compound tires late might have been a race winning move for van Loozenoord, but neither he or Harth would give an inch with only a few laps to go. Both had enough damage to ruin both of their races, and both had to pit and give up a possible podium finish.
As Harth crossed the line in tenth and van Loozenoord 11th, big momentum rushed straight back to Berryman, who hadn’t had any momentum in the last five weeks. He’s got a nine point gap entering Suzuka, but even a pair of runner-up finishes in the final two races won’t guarantee a title at this point. For van Loozenoord, not even a pair of wins can bring him back into it.
It will all depend on the teams and the strategies called in the final two races to determine this year’s champion.
TOP 10 RESULTS AT RED BULL RING
- 50 Peter Berryman – Apex Racing Team – 53 LAPS
- 8 David Toth – wannaBEE SRT +0:14.207 sec
- 02 Florian Lebigre – R8G Esports +0:14.604 sec
- 66 Michele Costantini – SDK Gaming +0:17.116 sec
- 98 Matteo Ugolotti – TQ Engineering +0:18.135 sec
- 11 Przemysław Lemanek – Predator Simracing +0:18.543 sec
- 6 Jarl Teien – MB Racing Esport +0:25.769 sec
- 9 Tamas Simon – Privateer +0:26.726 sec
- 86 James Pinsker – Privateer +0:26.992 sec
- 90 Yohann Harth* – Apex Racing Team +0:51.596 sec
* – Fastest Lap
Mathematically, three drivers are still in contention to win the 2021 title. Realistically, Harth is hanging on by a thread and will need trouble from both his teammate Berryman and rival van Loozenoord in the final two races to have a shot.
Nine points is all that separates Berryman and van Loozenoord. Hypothetically speaking, if van Loozenoord were to win the final two races with the bonus point for the fastest lap, that would be a guaranteed championship. Conversely, if Berryman finished second to van Loozenoord in both race and scored both fastest laps, he would still manage to hang on to a title.
It’s going to get spicy, folks. The final two races are shaping up to be even more insane than anything else we’ve seen so far.
TOP 10 STANDINGS AFTER RED BULL RING
- Peter Berryman – 154 points
- Maarten van Loozenoord – 145 points
- Yohann Harth – 130 points
- Ben Fuller – 100 points
- Michele Costantini – 90 points
- David Toth – 71 points
- Tamas Simon – 69 points
- Matteo Ugolotti – 57 points
- Florian Lebigre – 49 points
- Valentin Mandernach – 48 points
Next up for the series is the Suzuka International Racing Course. The coverage next week starts at the same time, 3:00 pm ET. Races will be broadcasted on the iRacing social channels. The full schedule can be found below.
|Watkins Glen International | Winner: Maarten van Loozenoord
|Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps | Winner: Michele Costantini
|Autódromo José Carlos Pace | Winner: Peter Berryman
|Autodromo Nazionale Monza | Winner: Maarten van Loozenoord
|Silverstone Circuit | Winner: Maarten van Loozenoord
|Hockenheimring Baden-Württemburg | Winner: Maarten van Loozenoord
|Road America | Winner: Maarten van Loozenoord
|Red Bull Ring | Winner: Peter Berryman
|Suzuka International Racing Course