This Saturday marks the seventh All-Star event, and the third and final round in the first The Race All-Star Cup – Fully Charged by ROKiT Phone championship series.
While the simracers top the championship in a bid to win a full day’s test in a Formula 1 team’s simulator, the real-world pros are fighting for $30,000 for a charity of their choice.
Sometime IndyCar racer Gabby Chaves, Ginetta driver Mike Epps and BMW Formula E man Maximilian Guenther all have 37 points heading into the championship deciding round.
Trailing them are Esteban Gutierrez with 33 points and Dennis Lind with 28.
Indy Lights 2014 champion Chaves has had the toughest route to the 37 points, on both occasions having to qualify for the grand final through the Jones Soda Last Chance Qualifiers.
In the first championship round he finished his heat race in sixth, having been overtaken by Gutierrez for the all-important fifth spot.
Chaves then qualified for the Last Chance Qualifier in second just behind Jack Aitken, a slow start for whom then gave Chaves the lead and subsequent race win.
In the final he qualified in 11th but a combination of a good start and avoiding the first-lap chaos – most notably the crash up front between Lind and Rudy van Buren – promoted Chaves up to fifth.
He lost positions to both simracer Yuri Kasdorp and real-world racer Stoffel Vandoorne, but reclaimed fifth place when Vandoorne’s diving pass on Philipp Eng resulted in both of them going wide and onto the grass.
During the grand final of the next round at Lime Rock, Chaves spent the majority of the race fending off the relentless Bono Huis behind him. Huis got past eventually – but only because Chaves cut across the front of Huis’ car in a bid to defend his spot in eighth place.
That resulted in Chaves’ car getting tagged, losing rear end grip and running wide at the next corner, which sent him down to 12th.
The Colombian therefore finished that race even further behind championship rivals Guenther and Epps than he otherwise would’ve done.
The latter two have been near inseparable in the previous two All-Star rounds. While Epps qualified much further up the order than Chaves and Guenther at Sebring, he fell behind both of them after being hit and forced out wide on the first corner of the opening lap, ultimately dropping down to 16th.
He fought his way up to ninth, where he then got stuck behind Guenther – piling on the pressure and going closest to an overtake on the penultimate lap at the final corner, only to get caught out by the bumpy surface on the inside of the bend, which forced him to countersteer and yield. Guenther ultimately took the chequered flag ahead by a slim margin.
It was the opposite situation in the Lime Rock final, with Epps qualifying in front of Guenther again but this time able to keep the advantage on the first lap.
Lind, Epps and Guenther formed their own isolated battle for fifth, sixth and seventh as they slowly fell behind the front four simracers.
One fact about Lime Rock that became evident in all of the heat races was that overtaking was incredibly difficult, so Epps could do little about Lind up ahead but had little issue keeping Gunther behind.
Even once simracer Huis passed Chaves and caught up to that trio, he wasn’t able to get in front of any of them.
Lind, who was the top pro driver at Lime Rock, remains in the title picture too but had lost a potential 30-point haul in his costly crash with simracer Rudy van Buren at Sebring.
Instead, Gutierrez is the closest in terms of points to the trio of Chaves, Epps and Guenther, trailing them only by four points.
Given the points-scoring system in place in the All-Star Cup, where from sixth downwards in the grand final there’s only a one-point difference between each position, Gutierrez would likely need to finish at least four places in front of his championship rivals, unless any of them should fail to proceed from the heats.
In the past two rounds the former Sauber and Haas Formula 1 driver finished both grand finals in 10th, so will need to improve considerably in order to put up a fight for the charity prize money.