The ISOWC has a new champion.
After Oscar Mangan crashed coming out of Turn 1 on Lap 21, Valtteri Alander clinched the 2021 season title after scoring his third victory of the 2021 ISOWC season at iRacing’s virtual Road America.
The KOVA driver took the checkered flag by more than 28 seconds to secure the $1,500 championship prize. He will also receive a 1/18 scale diecast of his car made by George Simmons.
Joshua Chin, Ramez Azzam, Pedro Sanchez Albert and Adam Crane completed the top five.
“I’m really excited. Finally everything went well,” said Alander. “The races were so difficult for me. Own mistakes and stupid mistakes, but today was a really good day.”
Alander said he was more excited about the diecast car than the money because it’s something special for him to have on his table. He said it was a journey to learn the car.
“I learned so much, especially on ovals for Auto Club Speedway,” said Alander. “I have to say thanks to the Team Talent guys and KOVA for this season. This season has been great.”
Chin, who drives for PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype w/ Team Talent, said Alander’s title shows he’s a world championship caliber competitor.
“He finds speed where none of us find it,” said Chin. “Even guys like Philip (Kraus) and Oscar who are fairly high iRating guys racing in high-level leagues currently, they can’t get his level. You can tell he’s just that step above everyone else and it shows in the championship too. He’s the class of the field by far … he has just immense raw talent.”
Alander started in the pole with championship rival Mangan, Chin and Walton close behind.
The race however started with major chaos in Turn 1.
In the battle for fifth position, Ramez Azzam took Christian Steele and Pedro Sanchez Albert three-wide into the opening corner of the event. Azzam turned into the right side-pod of Albert, bouncing him right into Steele. Steele’s right front tire was immediately snapped off the car.
As Steele went into the sand trap, his Team I5G w/ ART teammate, Christopher Demeritt, was hit from behind by Bryan Carey while checking up. The incident sent the right endplate of Carey into the sky as he, Demeritt and Adam Crane were sent sliding off the track.
The incident brought out the first and only safety car of the event.
“I got the jump on both of them at the start and the launch. I was watching Valtteri and when he went, I went. I got my nose in-between them straight away. I didn’t really want to lift and I got a tow at the end,” said Azzam. “I got fully alongside the car on the inside and I didn’t think I braked too late, but the car on the outside (Steele) braked a lot later. Then I couldn’t really turn right. I tried to just hold the middle. I think I made contact with the car on the outside. It was unlucky.”
The restart on Lap 4 brought additional carnage.
Hugo Olsson appeared to miss his braking point out of the Moraine Sweep, slamming into the back wing of Alexander van de Sandt. Both cars then spun off the circuit as debris was sent flying across the track.
Moments later, in the fight for sixth position with Azzam, Carl Jansson went sliding off the track coming out of Thunder Valley. The CoRe SimRacing driver went through the grass and hard into a retaining wall in Bill Mitchell Bend. The incident broke the right front tire and the front wing of Jansson’s car.
Demeritt’s bad day continued on Lap 8. After getting his repairs done and staying on the lead lap, he snapped around through Canada Corner. He attempted to lock up his brakes immediately, but the momentum of his car sent him straight into the tire barrier. The incident sheared the front wing and nose cone off his Dallara IR-18.
The attrition continued to rise on Lap 10 when Alpinestars Geodesic Racing driver Graham Sanders clipped the grass out of Turn 1. Sanders, who was in sixth position at the time, crashed into the tire barrier at a speed of more than 100 MPH, demolishing his car on impact. Sanders was able to drive his car, albeit without a front wing, rear wing or a right front tire, to the pit lane under his own power.
Sanders, Carey and Steele all would get their damage repaired, then eventually crash out of the race a second time.
As all the craziness occurred, Alander was flying away from the pack.
The KOVA driver had built up a gap of more than five seconds over the rest of the field in eight laps after the restart. While Chin took the opportunity to switch to the black-walled tires for an undercut on Lap 12, Alander extended his window on the reds to Lap 16.
Chin cycled in front of Azzam, Walton and Mangan to move into next second position.
One of the biggest movers as the race went on was Kraus. After starting on the blacks, the Team Talent driver utilized the reds on his second stint to go from 14th starting position to third by Lap 20.
The championship took a massive turn on Lap 21. In a similar mistake to Sanders, Mangan was sent sliding straight into the tire barrier, immediately crushing his front wing. Mangan lost a lap while getting his repairs done.
His troubles continued a few laps later in the Kink. His white and orange car bobbled after using a lot of curbing in the corner. The car wiggled its way into the outside wall, damaging his front wing for a second time in the race.
The CoRe SimRacing driver lost two laps in the sequence and finished in 23rd place.
Meanwhile, Alander’s lead was to the point where he did not use a single push-to-pass in the first half of the event.
The race calmed down until a case of the commentator’s curse struck on Lap 32. The biggest mover of the race, Manuel Domingo, had moved from 23rd starting spot to the top 10 when he started receiving praises on the broadcast.
As that conversation went on, Domingo went wide out of the final corner, sending his Radicals Online Track Racer car spinning to the right side of the track. Domingo was able to lock up his brakes in time to avoid any damage. The spin dropped him to 12th position.
The weirdness continued in the closing stages on Lap 36. Isaac Morris, who was making his series debut, was running in 13th place when he randomly flew into the sky down the frontstretch.
Morris immediately flipped over, bouncing the top of his car hard off the ground like a ball. Morris slid upside down for several feet before coming to rest in the grass.
On Lap 45, things intensified for the final steps on the podium. After Walton started to pick up his pace, he charged his way towards Kraus for fourth. He attempted to pass the purple car to the right side of the track down the Moraine Sweep when he nearly drifted loose. Walton just avoided contact with Kraus. The next lap, both he and Kraus reeled in Chin. Walton again attempted a move on the outside, but again lost time.
Things came to a head on Lap 47 coming out of Turn 1.
Kraus took a lot of the rumble strips through the corner, causing him to bobble on the exit. As Kraus attempted to save his car, Walton ran into the back end of him. Both cars immediately crashed into the wall on the left side of the circuit, sending Walton flipping down the straightaway.
Both cars retired from the race immediately from the incident.
“I was feeling a lot of heat at the end there,” said Chin. “The undercut worked out early on, but it was not playing out in my favour late and the tires were basically gone. I kinda got saved unfortunately by that wreck between Phil and Alex. … Overall, I can’t be too mad about a second place and a one-two for this setup.”
In the end, 10 of the 32 drivers did not take the checkered flag.
The series will be heading to iRacing’s virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 200 laps of racing action to close the season on July 31.
Chin said he thinks he and his team will have a decent shot at the victory.
“There’s not a ton of developments in the past two months since (the open-setup iRacing Indianapolis 500) happened, but we felt fairly confident at the time and I think we can still race pretty well depending on how we get breaks with cautions and everything, but I think we’ll have a shot,’ said Chin.
The green flag is scheduled for 6 p.m. UTC. Fans can watch the action live on RaceSpot TV.
This report was written by Justin Prince.