Former Cup champion putting his skills to the test in online exhibition
Some of the world’s top race drivers will square off in the third annual iRacing.com Pro Race of Champions Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on www.iracing.com. NASCAR and Formula One drivers along with some of the world’s leading sports, stock and touring car drivers will race online at Iowa Speedway and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for bragging rights -- and a $2,500 donation to the overall winner’s favorite charity.
Among those expected to compete in tonight’s doubleheader are NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte, F1/NASCAR/IndyCar driver Scott Speed, GRAND-AM Champion Alex Gurney, Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain veteran Chris Dymond, World Endurance Championship veteran Benny Simonsen and Trans-Am champion/ television analyst Tommy Kendall as well as defending iPRoC champion, V8 Supercar favorite Shane Van Gisbergen.
Labonte, currently without plans for a full-time Cup Series ride in 2014, was recently invited by James Finch to drive a car prepared out of the Phoenix Racing shop at the Daytona 500, according to a FOXSports.com report.
It’s a diverse group of racers, to say the least, and while they look forward to going wheel-to-wheel with their fellow pros, the competitors know they don’t have to wait for a once-a-year all-star race to find serious competition on iRacing.
"The best bit about iRacing for me is the fact that any time of day you can pretty much race any car on any track," says Dymond, who hopes to donate $2500 to the www.racing4mnd.org, a website founded by his friend and fellow racer Neil Cunningham to aid in the fight against Motor Neurone Disease "There is always a hosted session. To add to that, the people in there are good, fair but hard racers. So it’s a good crack!"
Simonsen, who plans to donate his winnings to the Philippine Red Cross, concurs.
"It’s just the best sim out there by miles, very realistic and the racing on there is just amazing," he says. "Some very hardcore sim-racers that will give you a good fight."
And some of the hardcore sim-racers have very familiar names, notes Kendall.
"The number of pros who use the service are what got my attention," he says. "When Oriol Servia was my neighbor I once heard him shouting, 'Will Power is that you?' when he was on iRacing prepping for Indy."
The iRacing,com Pro Race of Champions also offers the pros a chance to settle some scores with themselves and with other competitors.
"Last year I didn't get to qualify 'cause I hit the wall and it cancelled my lap," recalls Speed, who will be sim-racing for Brenners Children's Hospital. "That’s embarrassing considering I was the fastest one in practice."
Racing for the Austin Hatcher Foundation, Kendall has a slightly different perspective.
"My most embarrassing moment on iRacing?" he said. "Not wrecking Scott Speed back after he put me on my head in practice at the Glen in practice for the Race of Champions a couple years ago."
All the fun, games and action of the iRacing.com Pro Race of Champions gets underway tonight at 8 p.m. ET at www.iracing.com.