For the 2nd time this year, the best IndyCar drivers on iRacing travel north of the border. This time, instead of the rolling hills of Mosport, they travel to the dead-flat Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve semi-street circuit in Montreal.
The circuit lies on an island in the St Lawrence River that was enlarged from its original form for the 1967 World Expo. The island then served as the venue for the rowing events in the 1976 Olympics before a race track was put on the island after the 1977 season. Similar to Belle-Isle, the circuit is created out of normal roads in a park-like setting, but unlike belle-isle, the track is up to F1 standards for both safety and smoothness. The circuit was named after Gilles Villeneuve in 1982 after the Quebec native’s death earlier in the year. Gilles had won his home race 1979, while finishing 2nd, 5th, and, perhaps most famously, 3rd in 1981, sans his front wing, after he spent most of the race driving with it obscuring his vision. The Lionheart Series will run 47 laps around this unique facility in the First Medical Grand Prix of Montreal.
Last time out at Richmond, points leader Adam Blocker drove a perfect near-perfect race, to take the win. Blocker started on the pole and lead 211 of the 267 laps. Brian Yaczik had his best result in what has been a tough season, as the LPM driver came home 2nd. Mike Rigney earned the hard charger award, racing his way from 30th to 3rd, through patience, strategy and some good passes. James Brant and Tony Showen also came from deep in the field to round out the top 5. The race was a tough one, as even before the drop of the green flag Ken Hacker lit up the tires on the warm-up lap, and spun down into Andrew Kinsella, who entered the race in a tight battle with Dan Geren for 2nd in the championship. Both cars were damaged, ruining Kinsella’s chances at the win before the race even started. He would ultimately finish 23rd after some net code contact with John Hill ended his race. Things didn’t end much better for Geren, as he got collected in an incident between Jason Galvin and Samuel Reiman. Geren finished 14th, 3 laps down. Ultimately only 6 cars would finish on the lead lap, as the smallest track on the circuit produced maximum carnage.
The win leaves Adam Blocker an astounding 255 points up on Geren for the championship. Rarely has Lionheart seen the kind of dominance that Blocker has shown this season. 14 top 5’s from 17 races. Those other 3 races? DNF’s; meaning if Adam Blocker has finished the race, he has done so in the top 5. With 8 races to go, the question has shifted from whether Blocker will win the championship to when. All he has to do is avoid DNF’s in as little as 4 more races, and he will have the title sewn up.
The Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on the Ile Notre-Dame in Montreal is certainly a good place to start. Not only is Blocker the defending race winner, but he has been dominant on road courses this year. 4 wins, and not a finish outside the top 5. If ever there was a spot where Blocker could have something happen, it might be in Montreal. The circuit has fast straights and tight turns that offer up a demanding combination for these turbo-charged Dallara’s. Get on the gas a fraction too early or too hard and you could easily end up in the wall.
Also strong on road courses this year has been rookie Damon Martinez, even leading for a significant period of time at Monza. Montreal is very similar in character to Monza with the long straights leading to chicanes. Look for Martinez to be strong again in Montreal.
Speaking of strong runs at Monza, there was another rookie battling with Martinez as the laps wound down. Bryan Carey has shown some definite speed on the road this season, but it’s been the finishing that has betrayed him. A last-lap spin at Monza while going for the final podium spot saw Carey finish 6th. At Watkins Glen, Carey hounded his teammate Andrew Kinsella for much of the last half of the race, but couldn’t find a way past before settling for 5th. Will this week be the week Carey puts it all together and finishes a road course race on the podium?
Another driver who will be looking for redemption in this race will be Connor Harrington. Last year at this race, Harrington started 3rd, but went “full send” into turn one and spun in front of the field. Harrington would ultimately battle back up to 5th but never got the chance to truly show the speed he had. Harrington has calmed down this year, picking up his first win. Will Harrington redeem his first lap mistake from last season with a win this season?
Speaking of last season, Andrew Kinsella had his best road course race of his Lionheart career on this very track last season. The Canadian, more known for his oval racing prowess, started and finished in 2nd place with a quiet consistent drive. The road courses this season have been anything but quiet and consistent for the Adrenaline driver, who has found himself frequently caught up in other people’s incidents; from getting hit on the first lap of Belle-Isle 2 and Monza, or getting confronted by spinning cars at Belle-Isle 1, Barber, and Mosport, the only thing on the Canadian’s mind this year is getting through all 47 laps. A top 5 would be considered a bonus; although is Kinsella wants to challenge Geren for 2nd, it might be a bonus he needs to find.
Tune in for all the action from the First Medical Grand Prix of Montreal this Wednesday, October 9th, at 10:35 pm eastern time, only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.