IMSA iRacing Pro Series concludes with Spengler champ, Pflucker win

June 11, 2020

IMSA iRacing Pro Series concludes with Spengler champ, Pflucker win

June 11, 2020

IMSA’s six-race, 12-week interlude for real world on-track competition concluded Thursday night at virtual Watkins Glen International.

The nature of the IMSA iRacing Pro Series’ variance from its real life counterpart was striking.

Newly crowned champion Bruno Spengler of BMW Motorsport survived a first lap somersault to rebound to a 14th place finish, enough to secure the title (Photo: iRacing/LAT).

Meanwhile, Rodrigo Pflucker ensured Ford won its second straight iRacing event. Ford isn’t competing in the real world IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2020, having retired its Chip Ganassi Racing-run factory GTLM program at the end of 2019. It does run Mustang GT4s in the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge GS class.

Photo: iRacing/LAT

Spengler’s only rival for the virtual crown, fellow BMW driver Nicky Catsburg, finished fourth in the 90-minute race. Catsburg needed to win to surpass Spengler for the title.

This series scored the best five of six race results. With top-six finishes in the first five races, Spengler more or less had a mulligan at his disposal. Still, he didn’t want it to come down to the final race if he could avoid it.

“Turn 1… that was close to the drama!” Spengler said. “I thought everything was lost. I did the corner all normal, then Richard Heistand got on the curb on exit, and then I rolled over about 10 times. So I thought, ‘OK, that’s it.’

“I was so disappointed. But I knew if Nicky Catsburg didn’t win the race, I’d win the championship. It was crazy.”

Catsburg fought valiantly to pass another BMW driver, John Edwards, but was unable to get around the American for third.

“It was quite an intense fight,” Edwards said. “I’d ran for a podium at Road America but had an incident. third here, Nicky was quick, and that was some of the most fun I’ve had in sim racing. It was an intense battle. It may be a virtual race, but the intensity and battling is definitely there.”

Spengler’s five best results eclipsed Catsburg’s.

Photo: iRacing/LAT

Pflucker, unaffected by the drama around him, cruised to a relatively unchallenged victory in his No. 47 Ford GT. The Peruvian won last year’s LMP3 title in IMSA Prototype Challenge, and is due to race WeatherTech Sprint Cup rounds in a Precision Performance Lamborghini later this year.

Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen continued his run of form in this series with his third runner-up finish, in the No. 97 AIM Vasser Sullivan Porsche. He continued his trademark of virtual Michelin tire saving this race throughout a stint.

“The tire life was excellent; I couldn’t quite make it through early, but jumped them in pits,” he said.

“I just couldn’t quite catch the leader. Really good setup thanks to the AVS team. It was a lot of fun; it’s been a cool few races.”

Also of note, a Michelin livery adorned two Risi Competizione Ferraris. Jules Gounon scored a 10th place finish in the No. 89 car. Michelin test driver and motorsport tire specialist Andrew Simrell made his IMSA iRacing Pro Series debut. Simrell is a race-winning tire specialist who has worked with several Ferrari teams over the years, including Risi for its 2019 Motul Petit Le Mans triumph.

IMSA and Michelin return to real world racing with the WeatherTech 240 at Daytona, July 4 under the lights at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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