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iRX: Jonne Ollikainen closes in on championship lead with Sonoma victory

iRX: Jonne Ollikainen closes in on championship lead with Sonoma victory

The battle for the crown in the 2021 iRacing Rallycross World Championship Presented by Yokohama will come down to the finale at Charlotte next week. Jonne Ollikainen did what he needed to do to take the victory on Wednesday night at Sonoma Raceway Rallycross, his second win of the season.

Championship leader Jon Robertson finished fourth after a melee in the ‘Bowling Alley’ starting area of the track. Heading into Charlotte, Robertson still holds the points lead by six over Ollikainen. Tommi Hallman also has an outside shot at the title sitting 18 points out, but his Sonoma outing was far from perfect.

Ollikainen was able to clear through the starting gate without any issue to his own car, but unfortunately made contact with the defending champion Yohann Harth in the ‘Bowling Alley’ to trigger the mess. The Finn was remorseful post-race.

“That’s not how I want to win,” Ollikainen told the iRacing booth post-race. “Sometimes, these things happen. I think this was my first collision that I have caused in two years in this series, so of course I’m not happy to cause a crash to win, but these things happen sometimes when we are racing for a championship. Let’s move on and go to the next race.”

Whether or not the Subaru Motorsports drivers see it the same way, the fact of the matter is that the championship contenders will need to avoid trouble in Charlotte to have a chance at the title.

QUALIFYING AND HEATS

Sonoma Raceway is technically a NASCAR-centric venue, so it’s almost poetic that an eNASCAR driver would do well on the Rallycross variant. Vicente Salas stepped up with a monster lap time of 39.168 seconds, three-quarters of a tenth faster than the next driver behind him. Hallman managed to put it in second, with Robertson, Ollikainen, Harth and Kevin Ellis Jr rounding out the points paying positions.

Salas led the field into the first heat, but Harth was close behind throughout the stint. These two have had run-in’s this season, most notably at Atlanta where neither of them won and Robertson snuck by on a Joker to steal it. No love was lost between the pair on Wednesday either, as the fireworks started early. Harth bullied his way around Salas on the final lap to win the first heat, and both would advance.

The second heat spelled trouble for a championship hopeful. Hallman had the advantage with his lap, but Ellis Jr was right there alongside. The two went into the ‘Bowling Alley’ side-by-side, but only one emerged in the right direction. As Hallman turned it back around to mitigate a total disaster in points, Jakob Rafoss pulled away to an easy victory. Ellis Jr also got into it with Luis Núñez before it was over, which led to Núñez spun and Ellis Jr advancing.

Relegated to the third heat with only the third fastest time, Robertson looked to advance in while having to fend off one of the more decent heat grids in the field. Regardless, Robertson was able to use the Joker to his advantage to gain the time, but Jarno Leskinen wasn’t going to give it up easily. Leskinen and Robertson battled door-to-door up the hill on the dirt, which eventually led to a course-cut penalty for the rookie. As he attempted to slow up and serve it, Otto Taskinen arrived on the scene and bodied Leskinen out of the transfer spot and into the LCQ.

As tame as they come, the fourth and final heat saw little to no drama. Ollikainen knew what was needed and he delivered the maximum points he could, still one point behind in the aggregate total to Robertson through qualifying and the heats. A teammate by distinction, also representing the SET Esports brand, Killian Dall’olmo didn’t force it, and cruised back home for a runner-up finish in the final heat.

C-MAIN AND B-MAIN LCQ’S

The first LCQ, the C-Main, pitted teammates against one another at the top of the board. Josh Fox had the advantage, but Leskinen kept him honest. Beau Albert also found himself in the mix, but Fox kept his cool and managed to advance into the feature with the LCQ win.

The B-Main was a thriller for the ages. After the misfortune in the heat, Hallman had an uphill climb to have a chance to make the feature. He survived the ‘Bowling Alley’, but still had to get through both Toni Lähteenmäki and Marcos Matamoros.

Hallman was able to make passes outside of the Joker lap, so he had to save it until the very end in order to catch Lähteenmäki. As he made his way around Matamoros. Alex Bergeron took the Joker and put himself ahead of Hallman. After Hallman managed to get by, the next lap saw Matamoros Joker lap, putting him back ahead momentarily.

The second try to pass wasn’t successful, so Hallman hit the Joker as soon as he could. Something happened to Lähteenmäki on the same lap, and the result was a pass for the lead at the white flag. Hallman held on and kept his championship hopes alive with the final transfer spot.

MAIN EVENT

The gloves are off in the battle for the championship, whether that was Ollikainen’s intention or not. As the field entered the ‘Bowling Alley’ to start the main event, disaster struck the championship battle.

Ollikainen bumped the Subaru Motorsports USA drivers into one another, essentially destroying Harth. It also cost Robertson a ton of positions that he would need to fight to get back. A pass via Joker by Ollikainen put him ahead of Rafoss, and from there, it was easy sailing.

Robertson fought back to finish in fourth. The resulting finish was worth eight points, adding to the aggregate to make it a 20 point day. Ollikainen wound up with 26 points, which means only six points separate the two with one race to go.

Hallman only scored 15 points on the day, five more than he would have if he missed the feature. He’ll enter the championship finale with an outside chance at the title, 18 points behind.

SONOMA MAIN EVENT RESULTS

  1. 44 Jonne Ollikainen – SET Esports | 10 LAPS
  2. 13 Jakob Rafoss – Vermont SportsCar +0:02.226 sec
  3. 12 Josh Fox – Hansen Williams Esports +0:04.496 sec
  4. 86 Jon Robertson – Subaru Motorsports USA +0:05.629 sec
  5. 55 Vicente Salas – Elliott Sadler Esports +0:06.540 sec
  6. 87 Tommi Hallman – SET Esports +0:07.961 sec
  7. 18 Killian Dall’olmo – SET Esports Team GRX +0:08.344 sec
  8. 199 Otto Taskinen – Nitro Circus +0:09.305 sec
  9. 30 Kevin Ellis Jr – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Esports +0:13.076 sec
  10. 90 Yohann Harth – Subaru Motorsports USA | Retired

POINTS FOLLOWING RACE #8 – SONOMA

  1. Jon Robertson – 180 points | 2 wins
  2. Jonne Ollikainen – 174 points | 2 wins
  3. Tommi Hallman – 162 points | 3 wins
    ————————————
  4. Yohann Harth – 120 points | 1 win
  5. Kevin Ellis Jr – 99 points
  6. Vicente Salas – 88 points
  7. Killian Dall’olmo – 87 points
  8. Jarno Leskinen – 77 points
  9. Jakob Rafoss – 63 points
  10. Luis Núñez – 59 points

iRX ALL STARS

A packed house for the pre-race All-Star showdown, 19 All-Stars showed up to take on Sonoma Raceway. While the points are unofficial, leaving Sonoma, there is a three-way tie for the presumed championship lead. Parker Retzlaff, Pablo López and Jamie Fluke all sit with 71 unofficial points at the top. Luke Knupp, Zac Campbell, Conner Martell and Craig Williams also have an outside shot.

The Traxion team was led by Aero once again, as he nearly won his heat, barely losing to Retzlaff. Campbell won the feature, Aero finished seventh, and this reporter didn’t make the main event once again.

NEXT WEEK

The iRacing Rallycross World Championship Presented by Yokohama heads to the new Charlotte Motor Speedway Rallycross track next week for the final race of the 2021 season.

The broadcast next week will be available with multiple options for different languages. The main feed in English will go off on the iRacing FacebookTwitch, and YouTube pages. The Finnish feed can be viewed on Finnish Sim Racing Association (FISRA) and a French version will be on BenjxMotors while a Norwegian cast can be found on the Norwegian SimRacing Channel.

Tune in at 4:00 pm ET, 9:00 pm GMT to catch the action!

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