• Justin Prince

Preview: ISOWC drivers ready for first oval race of 2021 campaign

For the first time this season, the ISOWC Sim Racing Series will be going oval racing at iRacing’s virtual Auto Club Speedway.


The 150-lap race, which will take place on June 19, is expected to challenge many of the drivers and teams.


“The preparation has been quite hard as I am not used to training for oval races and it is completely different from what I am used to,” said Obsidian Racing’s Pedro Sanchez Albert. “I am trying to make the most of my time trying to improve the setup as much as possible.”


Albert, who led all drivers in Free Practice 1 with a 32.187, said he is not used to having to think about dirty air when setting up his Dallara IR-18. He said he is used to thinking about building fast setups without considering the potential of aerowash.


“One of the biggest challenges in Auto Club Speedway is that you need to understand the car very well to have a car that is fast on the straightaway, but at the same time fast in the corner to be able to stay under dirty air behind all the cars,” said Albert. “It seems very simple, but it is very difficult to do with this car.”


Christian Steele, who won the last race to take place at Auto Club in ISOWC competition back in 2015, said it has been taking him time to learn how the car works after a long hiatus. The Team I5G w/ ART driver considers himself to be stronger on the ovals and hopes to capitalize on them going forward.


“I don't really consider it an extra level of pressure because of the 2015 race. I think the pressure mostly stems from how consequential each race is, and how strong we are as a team on the ovals,” said Steel. “It's absolutely vital to capitalize on these events to claw back into a relevant championship position as a team.”


Steele said his team has been short-handed due to several summer activities for this week’s race. He still feels his team is in a good position however due to other drivers focusing on the track for official races. The team’s focus has been getting up to speed and working on strategy.


“For oval races, you definitely have to look more closely at the setup than the driver compared to road courses,” said Steele. “Also, oval racing means you have to really prepare to manage traffic and dirty air. That can be the difference maker on race day.”


Carl Jansson is in a similar position when it comes to preparation. The CoRe SimRacing driver has been limited on time due to other series commitments and his current work situation.


“Preparing for an oval you have to think about so much more than the road courses,” said Jansson. “On the road courses, you make the fastest possible setup and that's it. But on oval, you also need to take into account that you will have aero push and that's not a thing in the same way on road side. Yes it's there, but not in the same strength.”


Both Albert and Steele said trying to build a car to be able to run in traffic was important.


“Auto Club is a really bumpy race track, but it also has a lot of different lines that are viable,” said Steele. “The biggest challenge with Auto Club is making a car that can handle predictably over the course of the run in traffic in any lane.”


Drivers expect their fuel tanks to last 40 laps for the 300-mile event.


Steele said he expects drivers to run as long as they can “since the undercut can always put you at risk for getting a lap down.”


“The strategy will be seen as the race progresses since a yellow can break the strategy completely, but in principle without yellows or anything we should make three stops,” said Albert.


Expectations for the race are mixed.


For Jansson, his focus is to do the best he can.


“I'm just trying to make a good result with the time that I have this week, making the most of the time I have and with driving trucks for a living, that time is very limited,” said Jansson.


Albert said his expectations were not high either.


“At the moment the expectations are not so high because I am not very used to preparing for races on ovals, but I hope I can have a good performance and stay up in the standings,” said Albert.


Steele said he thinks the race will go relatively well.


“I think the main thing is to get through all 300 miles of the race and find a way to get to the front for the last 50 laps. From there, anything can happen,” said Steele. “I think the race will be really clean, just as Sebring goes, but I suspect inexperience may lead to some mistakes such as pit lane speeding penalties or solo-car spins off of turn four, for example.”


Live coverage of the ISOWC season opener starts at 2 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV.


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