While the regular Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season is delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis, Phillippe Denes will attempt to clinch the inaugural Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries title this Saturday, April 25. The fifth and final round of the hotly contested and impressively realistic Sim racing series will take place on a virtual rendition of the challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Denes, 21, from Carmel, Calif., who represents his Indy Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires team RP Motorsport USA, currently holds a healthy 19-point advantage over Pabst Racing’s Eduardo Barrichello, 119-100. A maximum of 33 points are up for grabs, comprising 30 for the race win plus single bonus points for the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs Pole Award, the TSOLadder.com Fastest Race Lap Award and leading most laps during the 45-minute contest, which will begin at 1:04 p.m. EDT following qualifying and pre-race activities at 12:45 pm.
After winning the first three races in succession – at Barber Motorsports Park, Circuit of The Americas and the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course – Denes saw his unbeaten sequence come to an end last weekend at Road America when a rare error allowed Barrichello, an 18-year-old second-generation racer from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to capitalize.
“It was a little disappointing to not keep the 100 percent streak but I made a mistake that caused me to pit early and didn’t allow me to finish the race on that tank of gas,” related Denes, “so I was still really happy to claw back to third after making two pit stops.
“I have been very impressed with the professionalism of the eSeries. Everything about it is first-class and the level of competition is very good. Heading into the final round I have the same plan as always. I’ll be giving it my all and looking to come out on top in the end, but I know that I will have the championship in the back of my head so I will have to be smart and keep it clean.”
Denes, a clear favorite to secure the championship, enhanced his status by posting the fastest time during an official online practice session on Tuesday. Barrichello did not participate in the test but said he will be “practicing hard” to ensure he is able to take the challenge to Denes on Saturday.
Last year’s USF2000 champion, Braden Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, lies third in the championship on 85 points. Eves, who will step up to Indy Pro 2000 with Exclusive Autosport when the regular season gets underway, has twice finished second during the iRacing eSeries, and last Saturday rebounded to finish fourth after being involved in an early incident which dropped him outside the top 20.
Turn 3 Motorsport team principal Peter Dempsey, who hails originally from Ashbourne, Ireland, has been one of the fastest drivers in the online series but so far has only one podium finish to his credit. Almost a decade ago, Dempsey twice finished among the top three in the Indy Pro 2000 championship. He also scored a breathtaking victory in the 2013 Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, edging out eventual series champion Gabby Chaves and two other rivals in what was then the closest-ever finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dempsey took pole for the opening eSeries race at Barber Motorsports Park and was last Saturday at Road America before an overzealous move from a rival dropped him to the back of the pack.
Other contenders will include Exclusive Autosport USF2000 teammates Christian Brooks and Prescott Campbell, both from California; Andre Castro (Legacy Autosport), from New York, N.Y.; Indy Lights racer Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport), from Singapore, who secured his first podium last weekend; and New Zealander Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing), who made a strong eSeries debut at Road America and was among the fastest drivers during Tuesday’s Mid-Ohio eTest.
As usual, an over-subscribed entry of three dozen drivers will take to the 2.258-mile road course on Saturday, although only the fastest 28 from the now traditional 15-minute qualifying session will be eligible to start the race.
All competitors will be racing for a cause as all registration fees to enter will be donated into a fund to support COVID-19 relief efforts. Utilizing the current Road to Indy points system, a champion will be crowned who will direct the distribution of the money raised to a good cause.
Fans can follow the action on a series of outlets including the Cooper Tire Facebook page, the Road to Indy TV website and App, ApexRacingTV’s YouTube and Facebook, the iRacing eSports Network and the series’ respective Facebook platforms. In addition, live coverage will be carried by MAVTV Canada, which will be airing all Indy Lights races live in 2020 when the series returns to action as well as Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship highlight shows.