With only two rounds remaining in the IMSA iRacing Pro Invitational Series, all eyes will be on those drivers who are known to be successful at the final two tracks – Virginia International Raceway and Watkins Glen International.
This Thursday, a maximum field of 50 drivers are entered for the 90-minute virtual race, Michelin Presents IMSA iRacing at VIR. The race will stream live beginning at 6 p.m. ET on the iRacing Facebook and YouTube channels with the voice of IMSA Radio, John Hindhaugh, leading the race commentary. The Torque Show will stream a pre-race showing at 5 p.m. on its Facebook page.
IMSA’s real-life visit to VIR for the Michelin GT Challenge weekend is scheduled for August 21-23, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the handful real-life winners from VIR in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
The earliest winner in Thursday’s field is Joao Barbosa, who won at VIR in a Riley-Porsche Daytona Prototype during the 2011 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season. However, it’s been several years since the Portuguese driver has run in real life at VIR, with prototypes not participating in the Michelin GT Challenge since the start of the WeatherTech Championship in 2014.
“I remember that race well,” said Barbosa. “It was mixed conditions and we had a great race with good strategy. It was actually a short race, but we did it with three drivers. It was a great race where I fought with Scott Pruett until the end, but a great fun race in tough conditions.
“I’m happy to see the Oak Tree is still there on iRacing. iRacing has been a big challenge, but I’m just glad to be involved with IMSA and iRacing. It’s been a great way to keep the fans engaged and I know they are enjoying it!”
It would be one year later than Colin Braun would find his way to victory circle at VIR. In the 2012 American Le Mans Series race, Braun co-drove with Jon Bennett to the LMPC win in an ORECA-FLM09 machine. Braun also scored the pole position in that race, his second at VIR following a first-place start in the 2007 DP class race.
Meanwhile, the most recent WeatherTech Championship winner in Thursday’s field is Connor De Phillippi. In his first year with BMW Team RLL, De Phillippi brought home the overall win in 2018 with co-driver Alexander Sims. It ranks as BMW Team RLL’s only victory so far at VIR.
From the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, all four former winners scored their first victory in the series at VIR. Tom Long’s first of 11 Pilot Challenge victories came at the circuit in the 2009 Street Tuner class in a Mazda MX-5.
Two of the other previous Pilot Challenge race winners – Tom O’Gorman and Kenton Koch – co-drove from the pole position in an Audi RS3 LMS to their first Pilot Challenge win in the 2018 TCR class. And just last year, Canadian James Vance scored his first series win, also in an Audi TCR race car.
One more first-time winner at VIR is Corey Lewis, coming in 2017 in the WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona class. That victory came in a Lamborghini Huracán as have all of Lewis’ wins, including his most recent at the 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. The 2017 victory also was Lamborghini’s first in IMSA competition.