Two-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin has claimed victory in round two of the NTT IndyCar iRacing Challenge.
Held on the technical Barber Motorsport Park, the kiwi showed no signs that this was only his second race in the series, utilising effective fuel and tyre strategy to outplay many of the sport’s elite.
A 10-minute qualifying session prior to the race was used to set the grid order ahead of the 45-lapper main event.
Fresh off his victory in round 1 from Watkins Glen, Sage Karam maintained his advantage at the head of the field, narrowly edging out Team Penske’s Will Power by 0.073s for pole position.
McLaughlin would have his work cut out for him early, the 26-year-old could only muster eighth position. Fellow New Zealander and five-time series champion Scott Dixon wrestled the Chip Ganassi Honda to 16th. A surprisingly positive result for the kiwi who admitted prior to the event that his sim-racing talent is lacklustre at best.
A wild start for McLaughlin which witnessed the kiwi get sideways through turn one hindered teammate Simon Pagenaud’s superb getaway run, causing the Frenchman to fall from fifth back to seventh.
Karam maintained his lead over Power and Chip Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist as the early race kafuffles settled.
Dixon had worked his way up the field to be ninth by the tenth lap, capitalising on his rivals’ errors which included Graham Rahal having a wild off-track excursion and Scott Speed tangling with Josef Newgarden.
McLaughlin was the first driver to pit from the leading pack, pitting on lap 13 before a competition caution was called two laps later. The early pitstop forcing the kiwi to run the alternative two-stop strategy while the rest of the field would be making only one.
Karam led the field for the restart five laps later, pulling Power and Rosenqvist along with him.
Power made his compulsory pitstop on lap 23. The Australia deciding that the undercut was his best opportunity to jump ahead of Karam.
Karam and Rosenqvist both made their stops five laps later, the Swede exploiting a slow stop by Karam to emerge as the race leader.
But drama unfolded when both Rosenqvist and Karam tangled at turn 7. Rosenqvist would spin to the rear of the field with a wounded Karam losing valuable time and positions. Karam’s race then fell a part when he was issued a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
Mclaughlin’s early pitstop had given him the lead but would the kiwi would have to stop one further time for fuel while his main rival Power was filled to the finish.
McLaughlin did make his final stop on lap 31, emerging in third behind Robert Wickens and Scott Speed who were both in dire fuel trouble.
But importantly, McLaughlin had cleared Power after his second stop pitstop. The duo, who were both clear of any fuel saving issues, began to chase after the leading two.
Wickens eventually relinquished to his lead, opting to pit for a dash of fuel, while an ironically slow Scott Speed could not withstand the pressure of McLaughlin and Power.
What ensued was a scintillating battle between the Penske teammates for the lead. Power tried on several occasions to capitalise on lap traffic to edge ahead of McLaughlin. But ultimately it would end with McLaughlin leading Power home by a mere 0.418s.
Scott Dixon would finish the race in 16th on his iRacing debut.
|1||Scott McLaughlin||45 Laps|
|15||Oliver Askew||1 Lap|
|16||Scott Dixon||1 Lap|
|17||James Hinchcliffe||1 Lap|
|18||Ed Carepenter||1 Lap|
|19||Zach Veach||1 Lap|
|20||Kyle Kirkwood||1 Lap|
|21||Kyle Kaiser||1 Lap|
|22||Alexander Rossi||2 Laps|
|23||Conor Daly||2 Laps`|
|24||Pato O’ward||7 Laps|
|25||Marcus Ericsson||14 Laps|
|26||Tony Kanaan||16 Laps|
|27||Sage Karam||16 Laps|
|28||Jack Harvey||18 Laps|
|29||Felipe Nasr||27 Laps|