The iRacing Fuji 8H powered by Coach Dave Academy had a total of 1,346 teams competing across 29 splits. The number of racers taking part in the event can say it all about the competitiveness of the top split, and with such a level playing field, details can make a big difference. That is how the #13 Sontek Racing managed to grab the win starting from the ninth spot on the grid.
Sontek Racing build early foundations for success
Matti Sipilä qualified the Sontek Racing #13 car in P9, although was just 2 tenths off the pole position lap time set by Sven Haas, showing just how closely matched the field was at Fuji. With so many cars lapping at a similar pace, staying patient and thinking about the 8 hours of racing ahead rather than taking unnecessary risks was always going to be the best approach, and that is exactly what Sipilä did.
In the first 20 minutes of the race, Sipilä used the huge traffic jam in front of him to his advantage, saving as much fuel as he could to make up time in later stints, whilst simultaneously gaining a handful of positions by keeping his nose clean.
At the end of the first stint though, the poleman Sven Haase had built a solid gap that gave him the chance to control the race.
With two cars inside the top ten, Sontek Racing then emerged as team stretching their stints to the maximum compared to almost everyone else around them. Not only a matter of lifting and coasting and short-shifting but managing traffic efficiently too, the team played their opening stints to perfection.
In the third stint, Sipilä’s teammate, Sami-Matti Trogen, had to keep the #155 Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports car driven by Daniel Lafuente at bay while sitting in P2. With perfect race management, Trogen was able to do so while not losing too much ground from the leading car ahead, setting up an attack in the final portion of the race.
Perfect fuel calculations
Trogen was probably helped in his task of catching the race-leading car by the fact that Lafuente was trying to save fuel as well. But as the stints went by, it became clear that the Sontek Racing #13 had a big strategy advantage compared to everyone else on track – in the end, they were able to make a 6-stop strategy work.
Sontek kept the gap from the #001 under the 20 seconds-mark for almost the entirety of the race, and when the Grid-and-go.com crew made their extra stop, the #13 had a clear advantage. Sipilä took the chequered flag first, securing a great result only enhanced by the P3 taken by the sister #113 car driven by Lassi Juurinen and Jesse Hiiliaho, who followed the same 6-stops strategy.
Grid-and-go.com Esports cars come up short
Grid-and-go.com Esports still came home in second place, but the team had higher expectations after a very promising qualifying session in which they managed to place three cars within the first four spots on the grid. They could not keep the positions throughout the race, but it remained a great result for the #001.
After keeping the lead for the vast majority of the 8 hours, Sven Haase and Nicolas Rubilar had to surrender to Sontek Racing. Following their final stop, the crew took to the track again in P3, but gained a position back in the final minutes of the race as the #155 Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports could not make the 6-stops strategy work and had to stop for a splash-and-dash with 8 minutes left on the clock.
Whilst second place was a strong showing for the team as a whole, early heartbreak stopped the sister Grid-and-go.com #003 hopes for a final win. Towards the end of the first stint, Govand Keanie lost control of the car while he was in second place, hitting the barriers and losing a significant amount of time, dropping them far out of the top ten. For the #002, it was P9 at the chequered flag.
Summing up the other time slots’ races
While the race report had a focus on the main race of the weekend, there must be some honourable mentions for the other winners.
Friday’s single time slot saw 228 teams competing over 5 splits. It was Aerokinetix Team claiming the first split 1 victory of the weekend, who started third but climbed their to the front with a drive that also saw them take the fastest lap of the race.
As the weekend rolled around, Saturday morning’s time slot also featured 5 splits but with an even larger 250 teams – split 1 saw Hyperion Esports reign victorious at the end of the 8-hour race from pole position, signifying a perfect race.
As we have covered in depth, the Saturday broadcast time slot was won by Sontek Racing from ninth on the grid, an impressive drive categorized by top-class strategy calls and keeping out of trouble in a closely matched race. The slot featured 12 splits and a massive 556 teams.
Come to the end of Saturday, the final time slot of the race brought 7 splits and 312 teams, with Texaco Racing by TK winning in split 1 after starting from pole position. Impressively, they also took the fastest lap of the entire event, beating efforts from drivers in all other time slots, splits and all teams.
The iRacing Fuji 8 hours powered by Coach Dave Academy featured a total of 1,346 teams who competed across 29 splits.