Monica Clara Brand’s name may not be quite as familiar to IZOD IndyCar Series fans as those of Ana Beatriz, Simona de Silvestro, Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick, but she has much in common with them.
Like Fisher and Patrick, she has qualified on the pole for a race . . . 30 by actual count. And, like Patrick, she has finished in Victory Lane. Brand has more than 25 wins to her credit from Michigan International to Iowa to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
What distinguishes Brand’s racing career from those others is that all of her success has come in a digitized Dallara on the virtual racetracks of iRacing.com. In fact, the 34-year-old resident of Bucharest, Romania, has never even attended a IZOD IndyCar Series race, although she would dearly love to.
“Of course, attending the Indy 500 in person is one of my dreams,” says Brand, an administrative specialist. “But, factoring out money and time, I would fly over to attend every race. Just picking out a few races outside the Indy 500, I think I would very much enjoy Texas, Long Beach and Las Vegas.”
Currently ranked third in the iRacing.com IZOD IndyCar Premier Series (oval) standings behind Yang Ou and PJ Stergios, Brand could fulfill her wish of attending a race were she to capture the overall iRacing.com IZOD IndyCar Premier Series title and the accompanying prize package, which includes a trip to the IZOD IndyCar season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
However, as the statistics show (and Brand readily admits), her forte is the speedways and the bull rings of sim racing rather than the road courses.
“Although being European my background is road racing, I’ve come to love oval racing through iRacing, at first the short ovals with the SK/Tour Modified and Late Model cars, and then through the IndyCar Dallara on the bigger speedways,” she explains. “What I like more about ovals is that the competition is tighter and the risk and reward feels so much sweeter. On road courses, many times can get pretty lonely and it’s only you versus the track while on ovals, no matter your speed, you always have quite a few cars around you that you can race close with. That’s a bigger thrill, for me at least.”
There’s more to Brand’s success in iRacing than the thrill ride of arcing a virtual Dallara into Turn 1 at Indy at 220-plus mph. Like all her successful competitors, Brand has become quite atuned to the myriad of chassis, tire and aerodynamic tweaks necessary to get the most from her IndyCar – all readily accomplished with a few clicks of her computer’s mouse, with some help from her friends and teammates at Ludicrous Racing.
“To me, the Dallara is the most complicated car to set up on the entire iRacing service, especially for ovals,” she says. “Normally I take my last season setup for a given track and turn laps until I get comfortable again with the track and setup. I then start to change things to improve it in search of that ultimate speed and lap time. Sometimes it’s that simple and sometimes I rely on my team mate Niles Anders’ setups. It’s not hard for me to admit that he’s got this car figured out a lot better than me. We then start testing together along with my other team mates to see which change is better and what works for who. All in all, I put at least four to six hours and sometimes even double that amount into testing before I turn a single race lap.”