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  • Writer's pictureJustin Prince

NGK & NTK Esports Cup Round 3 Race Preview: Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari

This Friday, the third round of the 2024 NGK & NTK Esports Cup season will take drivers to virtual Italy.

This week, dozens of racers will be taking part in the two-race round as it heads to iRacing’s virtual Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, also known as the Imola Circuit.

This is the series’ second ever visit to the 4.9-kilometre facility. Back in 2022, Alex Mosin and Peter Daniel won a race each at the Italian circuit.

“Imola is a great historic track,” said 2024 series points leader Vince Peeters. “It has some interesting corners that are unique to the track. It flows nicely.”

As drivers get ready for the third round of the season, here is what competitors to expect this week:

Who: The Points Standings Entering Round 3

Last round at MotorLand Aragon, Peeters won his first race of the season in thrilling fashion. The Visceral Esports driver scored the Race 1 win with a three-wide pass for the lead with under two minutes to go.

That, along with a top five run in Race 2, has Peeters leading the series standings by 55 points.

Alexander Thiebe, who won the invert race, holds onto second spot by just one point ahead of Gaël Valero. John Ehlen (-81) and Darwin Romero (-87) round out the top five.

Where: Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari

Location: Imola, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Track Length: 4.909 km (3.050 miles)

Turns: 19

While the series is making just its second appearance at Imola, many of iRacing’s top drivers have experience at the facility, including Ehlen of Dörr Esports.

Ehlen, who is teammates with fellow series competitor Alessio Bender, said the key to winning a race this week would be lots and lots of practice. Ehlen has raced at the facility in the past in series like IVRA. He had also had very limited time to prepare for the last round - up to two hours - due to the iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona.

“Because the Track is very popular, the times will be really quick, which needs a lot of practice to be competitive,” said Ehlen.

Peeters, who ran official races at Imola all last week to learn the circuit’s track limits, thought people would need less practice instead of more. In turn, he expects Round 3 to have a less chaotic inverted race.

“A lot of people are familiar with Imola. They won't need as much practice to get on pace. Perhaps the field will be closer in both the race and qualifying,” said Peeters. “The track also has fewer slow corners, this will make the reverse grid race less chaotic hopefully.”

Imola itself is known more as a technical circuit compared to other iRacing Italian staples like Monza. As mentioned during the Race Calendar/Car Review, the circuit features multiple hard-braking sections such as Tosa and Acque Minerali. In turn, attrition and drama are common in those sections of the circuit. Most drivers in turn usually attempt to make passes in Rivazza or down the main straight heading up to Tamburello.

Ehlen, who considers Imola as one of his favourite tracks, expects there to be a lot of overtaking opportunities overall.

Peeters in turn plans to focus once again on one strategy: drive away from the field.

“If I can drive away from the pack with whomever cooperates, I will take that opportunity any day,” said Peeters. “However, the race has to go a certain way for this to happen and draft will be huge on this track.”

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