Rodrigo Pflucker wins IMSA iRacing finale; Bruno Spengler wins title

LAT / iRacing

Rodrigo Pflucker won the season finale Thursday of the IMSA iRacing Pro Series at virtual Watkins Glen International while Bruno Spengler rallied for the season championship.

Pflucker qualified His No. 47 Precision Performance Motorsports Ford GTE on pole position and led virtually the entire race, winning by 1.784 seconds over the No. 97 AIM Vasser Sullivan Porsche 911 RSR of Shane van Gisbergen.

John Edwards finished third in his BMW M8 ahead of Nicky Catsburg, who came up six points short in the championship standings of Spengler, another BMW teammate.

‘IT FELT LIKE REAL LIFE’: IMSA drivers go sim racing

Spengler, who won the first two races of the six-round series, finished a season-worst 14th after crashing on the opening lap at Watkins Glen. But with only the best five finishes counting toward the standings, he was able to outpoint Catsburg 153-147.

Click here for the results of the IMSA iRacing Pro Series finale at Watkins Glen.

Click here for the final points standings in the six-race IMSA iRacing Pro Series.

IMSA’s next race will take place in real life at Daytona International Speedway.

The IMSA WeatherTech 240 At Daytona will be held at 6 p.m. July 4 on NBCSN as IMSA resumes its 2020 season that has been on pause since the Rolex 24 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The July 3-4 event at Daytona and a July 17-18 event at Sebring International Raceway will be held without fans in attendance.

Here’s the recap of the IMSA iRacing Pro Series finale from the IMSA Wire Service:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Rodrigo Pflucker finally proved the speed he’s shown throughout the IMSA iRacing Pro Series season was no fluke in Thursday’s 90-minute race at the virtual Watkins Glen International presented by Konica Minolta.

After putting his No. 47 Precision Performance Motorsports Ford GT on the pole position for the third time this season in qualifying, the Peruvian racer didn’t put a wheel wrong throughout the race – effectively leading every lap en route to his first series victory in the season finale. The only laps he didn’t lead were during the midrace pit sequence, but once he regained P1, he kept it all the way to the checkered flag.

“I was focusing on driving,” said Pflucker, who also won the 2019 IMSA Prototype Challenge championship with Forty7 Motorsports. “I think that helps a lot for the driver to be focused on what he needs to be focused.

“We did four tires; I think it was the smartest option because we were in the front. It worked very well at the end. Shane (van Gisbergen) was super fast, so it was a thing about maintaining the pace. When he was getting close to me, I did a really good lap, even really close to my fastest lap so I’m happy with that also.”

Whereas Pflucker’s route to the victory was somewhat straightforward and without incident, the same could not be said for Bruno Spengler’s pursuit of the IMSA iRacing Pro Series championship. After opening the season with back-to-back victories and finishing on the podium in four of the season’s first five races, the Canadian encountered a nightmare scenario coming out of Turn 1 on the opening lap of the race.

After starting eighth, Spengler collected a spinning Richard Heistand in the No. 11 Ford GT, sending his championship-leading No. 7 BMW IMSA Team Red M8 high into the virtual sky and into a series of barrel rolls. Spengler quickly hit the reset button and got back to the pits, but lost a lap in the process while his lone contender for the title – Nicky Catsburg in the No. 10 BMW IMSA Team Black M8 – quickly slotted into second place and within striking distance of the lead.

As the race went on, however, Spengler continued to battle his way back, returning to the lead lap following the competition caution at halfway. He would end up finishing a season-worst 14th. But with IMSA iRacing Pro Series rules calling for each driver’s lowest finish to be dropped in the point standings, it meant Catsburg needed a victory in tonight’s race to take away the title.

The Dutchman wound up fourth, handing the title to Spengler by a count of 153-147.

“First of all, I’m super happy to win the championship,” said Spengler, who also won the 2012 DTM championship. “It’s a special adventure with what happened in this period of time. It was just amazing from IMSA to organize such a championship. It was special. To win at the end, it’s a lot of emotions. There’s a team and BMW Motorsport behind us; the teamwork is very serious out there in iRacing. Everyone is good. You have to work on your setup to get a feel for the track, the car.”

Australian Supercars superstar van Gisbergen closed out his IMSA iRacing Pro Series season with his third podium result of the year in the No. 97 AIM Vasser Sullivan Porsche 911 RSR. “The Giz” also finished second at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and VIRginia International Raceway en route to fourth in the season championship standings.

“It’s been cool; great something to do during this period,” said van Gisbergen. “I’ve also raced the Supercars e series as well, it’s been a lot of fun. Good to keep the brain ticking. Still thinking about race cars; good for going back racing. It’s been a lot of fun. Seeing how much everyone has improved from the first race. Not a fan of the early morning start, but good fun. My first race back is with Supercars; the next race back is the real thing in Sydney.”

And for the second consecutive IMSA iRacing Pro Series race, three different manufacturers were represented inside the top three finishing positions. This time, the third manufacturer was BMW, which returned to the podium after a one-race absence courtesy of 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona GT Le Mans (GTLM) class winner John Edwards, who finished third in the No. 23 BMW IMSA Team Black M8.

“I have to say it’s been really impressive,” said Edwards of BMW’s iRacing efforts. “You saw how BMW was so dominant the first few races with dramatic experience. That showed in the beginning, but everyone started to catch up and get more competitive.

“When I first joined, not having a lot of sim racing experience, it functioned almost like real life with the teamspeak server. We talked and asked questions. It felt as close to being organized like the real thing as it could. It’s been really good to do during the stay-at-home period.”

Finishing one spot behind Catsburg and rounding out the top five was yet another BMW M8, the No. 96 Turner Motorsport entry driven by Robby Foley.

The IMSA iRacing Challenge Series also reached its conclusion on Thursday, with the third and final race also being held at Watkins Glen earlier in the afternoon.

Dorian Mansilla in the No. 44 Redline Racing Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport took the victory by 2.781 seconds over Nils Koch’s No. 98 BMW M4 GT4. However, it took a bump-and-run maneuver by Mansilla approaching Lap 20 of 31 to grab the lead. Koch was spun in the Toe of the Boot on track, but finished runner-up as the two cars held a healthy 10-second lead before the incident. Robby Foley in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW finished third.

With the IMSA iRacing Pro Series now complete, all eyes now are focused on the return of the real-life IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona International Speedway. The IMSA WeatherTech 240 At Daytona will feature the Daytona Prototype international (DPi), GTLM and GT Daytona (GTD) classes and will be televised live on NBCSN beginning at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 4.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.