A brilliant tactical drive by Phillippe Denes enabled him to extend his unbeaten streak in the Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries, but only just. The iRacing veteran, who when the “real” on-track season begins will contest the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires for the defending champion team RP Motorsport USA, enjoyed an intense wheel-to-wheel battle with reigning Cooper Tires USF2000 Champion Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport) throughout the 45-minute contest. The pair was finally separated at the virtual yard of bricks by just 0.098-second.
Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing) and Christian Brooks (Exclusive Autosport) also were embroiled in a tense battle for the final podium position. Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., crossed the line in third but Barrichello, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, later took the position after Brooks was issued a post-race penalty for blocking as the pair sprinted toward the finish line.
Championship leader Denes, 21, from Carmel, Calif., maintained his dominance of virtual racing by posting the fastest lap in qualifying and securing his second SimMetric Driver Performance Labs Pole Award in succession.
But he was unable to shake off the attentions of Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, as the pair quickly distanced themselves from the pack.
Denes and Eves exchanged positions almost constantly on the 2.534-mile Indianapolis F1 Grand Prix road course – slightly different to the track which will be used when the Road to Indy series arrives in Indianapolis later this year. Denes appeared to gain what might have been a decisive advantage when his mandatory virtual pit stop, after 19 laps, was slightly quicker, but Eves lost no time in drafting back onto the Californian’s tail.
Their battle continued unabated until, on the 33rd and final lap, Denes allowed Eves to make a pass under braking for Turn Eight at the end of the Hulman Drive Straightaway. He then tucked into Eves’ slipstream as they entered the final corner – running in the reverse direction to the famed oval – drafted past as they headed onto the long drag to the finish line and just managed to keep Eves at bay.
Eves did gain some consolation – and an additional championship point – for posting the TSOLadder.com Fastest Lap of the Race.
A similarly thrilling battle in their wake ended with Brooks and Barrichello fighting it out for the final podium position following a quick spin by Indy Pro 2000 Turn 3 Motorsport team owner – and former Freedom 100 Indy Lights race winner – Peter Dempsey, from Ashbourne, Ireland, at Turn Two with just three laps remaining.
Barrichello looked set to draft past Brooks in the final sprint to the finish, only for his Californian USF2000 rival to make a reactionary move in defense, which, in accordance with the regular Road to Indy regulations, resulted in a post-race 30-second penalty which demoted him to seventh in the final results.
The penalty elevated DEForce Racing team principal – and former NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver David Martinez, from Monterrey, Mexico, to fourth after narrowly fending off a recovering Dempsey at the finish line.
Colin Kaminsky (Pabst Racing), from Homer Glen, Ill., maintained his streak of top-10 finishes with a solid run to sixth ahead of the penalized Brooks, who remained clear of earlier spinner Prescott Campbell (Exclusive Autosport), from Newport Beach, Calif., and Flinn Lazier (Lazier Racing), from Vail, Colo. Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport), from Singapore, completed the unlapped finishers in 10th, fighting back strongly after being nudged into a spin by Campbell in the early stages.
The five-event Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries will continue at the classic Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis., next Saturday, April 18, at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
Provisional championship points after three of five races:
1. Philippe Denes, 96
2. Eduardo Barrichello, 69
3. Braden Eves, 66
4. Peter Dempsey, 54
5. Andre Castro, 42
6. Colin Kaminsky, 42
7. Flinn Lazier, 36
8. Reece Gold, 35
9. Christian Brooks, 31
10. Prescott Campbell, 25