Denes Extends Road to Indy eSeries Win Streak
Second-Generation Racer Barrichello Runner-Up at Circuit of The Americas
PALMETTO, Fla. (April 4, 2020) – Philippe Denes, representing the Italian-owned RP Motorsport USA team, once again displayed his mastery of the sim racing world by scoring an emphatic virtual victory today at the Circuit of The Americas, in Austin, Texas. Denes, 21, from Carmel, Calif., is now unbeaten after two rounds of the five-race Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries.
A remarkably clean 45-minute race ended with Brazilian Eduardo Barrichello (Pabst Racing) in second place, almost seven seconds behind the winner, with Turn 3 Motorsport team principal – and former Indy Lights race winner – Peter Dempsey, from Ashbourne, Ireland, bouncing back from disappointment one week ago to round out the podium.
One week after claiming an historic first Road to Indy eSeries victory at Barber Motorsport Park, Denes was virtually in a class by himself this week at the challenging and undulating 3.41-mile home of the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix. Denes was fastest in practice, then secured another championship point by heading the 15-minute qualifying session and securing the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs Pole Award.
Denes capitalized on his pace advantage by making a perfect start from pole position and leading the 32-strong field of identically setup Pro Mazda cars up the hill toward the iconic left-handed Turn One hairpin. Outside front row starter Barrichello slotted into second ahead of third-place qualifier Dempsey, while a good jump from iRacing expert Braden Eves (Exclusive Autosport), from New Albany, Ohio, allowed the 2019 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner to move up two positions to fourth ahead of Exclusive Autosport teammate and series debutant Christian Brooks, from Santa Clarita, Calif., who had started eighth.
Barrichello, the 18-year-old son of former Ferrari F1 race winner Rubens Barrichello, remained seemingly glued to Denes’ rear wing for the first few laps before, on Lap 6, taking advantage of a big aerodynamic draft on the long back straightaway to grasp the lead in Turn 12.
But not for long. Next time around, Denes performed an almost identical maneuver to regain the lead while at the same time posting what was to remain as the TSOLadder.com Fastest Lap of the race (worth an additional championship point) at 1:58.03.
Barrichello remained in close proximity, pushing Denes to his limits, but only until the mandatory pit stops for virtual fuel. Denes dived into the pit lane after 13 laps, while Barrichello tried to take advantage by remaining out on track for one more lap. The ploy didn’t work in his favor. Once the stops had been completed, Denes found himself with an increased advantage of over two and a half seconds. The gap ballooned to over five seconds on Lap 17, when Barrichello made a mistake, but second place was enough for Barrichello to move up one slot in the points table after finishing third in the opening race.
Dempsey ran a relatively lonely third throughout, well clear of Andre Castro (Legacy Autosport), from New York, N.Y., who rebounded impressively from an incident on the opening lap which dropped him outside the top 15.
Castro found a way past Brooks soon after the mid-race pit stops, leaving the Californian to finish comfortably ahead of Eves, who fought back strongly after being instructed to serve a drive-through penalty on Lap 7. Eves emerged narrowly on top of a thrilling battle with 2019 Formula 4 champion Kiko Porto (DEForce Racing), from Recife, Brazil, last year’s Lucas Oil School Race Series Champion Prescott Campbell (Exclusive Autosport), from Newport Beach, Calif., who recovered from a quick spin on Lap 17, and Flinn Lazier (Lazier Racing), from Vail. Colo.
As in real life, the Road to Indy eSeries serves as an introduction to the INDYCAR iRACING CHALLENGE. Road to Indy graduates fared well in last week’s season opener, with former Cooper Tires USF2000 and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Sage Karam taking the victory ahead of former Indy Lights race winner Felix Rosenqvist. Last year’s Indy Lights champion, Oliver Askew, who is set to make his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut this year, finished fifth.
The next round of the Ricmotech Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires iRacing eSeries – on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit – will take place next Saturday, April 11, at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
Provisional championship points after two of five races:
1. Philippe Denes, 65
2. Eduardo Barrichello, 47
3. Braden Eves, 40
4. Peter Dempsey, 37
5. Andre Castro, 34
6. Colin Kaminsky, 28
7. Reece Gold, 26
8. Flinn Lazier, 25
9. Christian Brooks, 17
10. Kiko Porto and Prescott Campbell, 14
Phillippe Denes (#5 Fire Fighters-RP Motorsport USA iRacing Pro Mazda): “I’m really happy to get this win. I was under a lot of pressure at the beginning, so I think I was just over driving way too much in the first 10 minutes and that allowed Barrichello to catch back up. We exchanged the lead a couple of times but I was able to break the draft and then just started laying down the laps. I had a really good pit stop and the rest was history. I’d done a few practice pit stops and it felt pretty simple so I stuck with that plan. It was a great race and I’m really happy to get this. Two-for-two is a perfect start, I’m really excited for the rest of the races.”
Eduardo “Dudu” Barrichello (#22 Ale-Pabst Racing iRacing Pro Mazda): “The first stint was okay. I was able to keep up with Phillippe. I tried passing him to see if that would cause him to make a mistake but he drove very, very well. His pit stop was even better than mine. Later in the race, I made a mistake, went off track and had to slow down and that’s when he opened a big lead. I lost the draft and couldn’t keep up. This track is very much on the limit but you don’t have barriers or grass to contend with: the runoff is just asphalt and that kind of encourages you to go faster, until you go off track or get on the curb. It’s hard to get comfortable. Phillippe had just a bit more than me but second place is pretty good, so I’m happy.”
Peter Dempsey (#3 ACR/Eastern-Turn 3 Motorsport Pro Mazda): “Today was all about damage limitation. I didn’t have the pace for Eduardo or Phillippe and I struggled on cold tires, feeling the edges of the car. I just wanted to bring it home and see where I ended up, and thankfully that was on the podium. This is one of those tracks that makes you want to over-drive it, to hustle it, and that ends up losing you time. You have to be right at the edge the whole time, not over it, or you’ll end up scrubbing your tires. I didn’t have enough testing this week to figure it out, and racing against these kids who don’t have a wife and two kids to worry about during the week meant they had more time than me! But I’m having a lot of fun. This is a great event and it’s keeping the drivers, the crew and, of course, (Indy Pro 2000 Race Director) Johnny Unser, quite busy. I am having a great time with (regular driver) Antoine (Comeau), the Road to Indy and the Indy Pro 2000 series and I’m looking forward to getting back to a real racetrack soon.”
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About the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires: The Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires is one of the most successful driver development programs in the world. Comprised of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the ladder system provides a unique, scholarship-funded path to the NTT IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500. The NTT IndyCar Series grid is comprised of numerous drivers who have come through the Road to Indy. In 2019, 23 of the 33 starters in the Indianapolis 500 were graduates including nine Indy Lights champions. The mission of the Road to Indy is to develop and advance, and that includes not only drivers but teams and personnel as well. More information can be found at www.roadtoindy.info, www.indylights.com, www.indypro2000.com, www.usf2000.com, www.roadtoindy.tv and www.indycar.com.
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