Several brands star as Koch wins virtual VIR IMSA thriller

May 29, 2020

Several brands star as Koch wins virtual VIR IMSA thriller

May 29, 2020

All four automotive brands competing in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series had their moments of glory in Thursday night’s fifth round, held at virtual VIRginia International Raceway and presented by Michelin.

Ultimately when the checkered flag flew, Ford driver Kenton Koch emerged victorious. Highlighting the manufacturer diversity, three different brands made the podium with Porsche second and Ferrari third. BMW also contended with multiple drivers before they both fell back.

Photo: iRacing/LAT
VIRTUAL RECAP

Koch, driving the No. 80 Ford GT, led the majority of the 90-minute race from pole. He then fended off a pair of determined BMW drivers to ensure his first win within a dramatic final 10 minutes.

Joel Miller (Ferrari) spun in front of the leaders, causing Koch to check-up and second-placed Bruno Spengler (BMW) to spin exiting Turn 3 on corner exit. Jesse Krohn in another BMW moved into second place.

With two laps to go, Krohn forced his way past Koch courtesy of a “bump-and-run” exiting Turn 2 to take the lead. But at the end of the backstraight, Krohn slowed enough to where Koch nudged his rear bumper and sent him spinning. Koch said there was a “netcode” incident. “Netcode” is a virtual term that describes lag that effects car interaction between different Internet points.

Photo: iRacing/LAT

The fracas promoted Shane van Gisbergen, in a AIM Vasser Sullivan Porsche, to second ahead of Agustin Canapino, in a Juncos Racing Ferrari.

WATCH: Congratulatory message from Tony Ménard, director of motorsport, Michelin North America

KOCH DESCRIBES WIN

Koch described the aftermath of a chaotic race which he otherwise dominated, but needed resolve to win up against heavyweight supported entries.

“It was important to be half a second quicker in the pit stop to beat Bruno,” Koch said. “He also took four tires… but he didn’t have Jesse’s pace. Bruno had an incident, and it was nice to finally win after an unfortunate bit of luck.”

Of the spin in front of him, Koch noted he dropped his right side tires on exit and almost lost his own car. He then had to defend against Krohn, who seemed to have better braking capability.

“It looked like the BMW was really strong on the brakes,” Koch explained. “I was struggling trying not to lock up. You have to be on the limit of adhesion.

“This race has so many big names… and it’s humbling to be part of a race of this caliber.”

FUN PODIUM DICE

The demise of BMW factory drivers Spengler and Krohn, who race for BMW Team RLL in IMSA, opened the podium door for van Gisbergen and Canapino. Those two raced in New Zealand and Argentina, respectively.

“The Giz,” a frequent competitor at the Rolex 24 At Daytona who this year raced with the AVS Lexus team, switched from a BMW to a Porsche this race.

“We had a really good battle with the Ferrari,” he said. “Never having done a long run with this new car towards the end I didn’t fully know what to expect, but seeing the track was cooler, I knew we’d be better.”

Canapino delivered by far the best result for a Ferrari in this IMSA iRacing series. It was the best result for Ricardo Juncos’ team too. The veteran Road to Indy championship winning team owner fielded a Cadillac DPi entry in the 2019 season.

“It was a crazy race from the start after a Porsche spun in front of me, causing an accident where I sustained some damage and lost some positions,” Canapino said. “After that I restarted in ninth and picked up the rhythm, despite having to pit early for new tires.

“We had some great overtaking moves and great pace, putting us in the Top-3. I was able to get very close to Shane, and had some great battles with him until the end. A podium finish for us in a Ferrari is fantastic and a tremendous achievement and I am so happy to have Ricardo Juncos and my team by my side through all of their help.”

CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE

Thursday night’s virtual VIR race, presented by Michelin, was the fifth of six in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series. Only a driver’s five best results count towards the championship.

With top-six finishes in each of the first five races, Spengler is well poised to capture the virtual championship, per IMSA calculations.

Nicky Catsburg, another BMW driver, can overtake Spengler with a win and Spengler finishing sixth or worse. Otherwise, Spengler’s best five results will beat Catsburg’s.

The final IMSA iRacing Pro Series comes Thursday night, June 11, at Watkins Glen International at 6 p.m. ET.

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