ARA GT4 VRS Super Series Season 2 | Round 4 Mid Ohio

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course hosted the latest episode in a thrilling battle for the Apex Racing Academy GT4 crown between Joel Evans and Patryk Sokolowski. Over the opening three rounds, Sokolowski and Evans have traded equal blows back and forth.

At Montreal, Evans struggled while Sokolowski shone. Then, at Charlotte, Evans struck back with a double victory. Round three at Oran Park yielded a win each. Who would be quickest on the draw in the Mid-West?

Mid-Ohio is no stranger to the highest level of North American motorsports. In the early 1970’s, Mid-Ohio’s undulating layout hosted the gloriously decadent Can-Am series. Sir Jackie Stewart found time during a successful F1 campaign in 1971 to win at Mid-Ohio, in Carl Haas’ Lola Chevrolet. In 1973, Mark Donohue exploited ‘the unfair advantage’ to win in the monstrous, 1100 horsepower, Penske Porsche 917/30. Hedonistic days which eventually crippled the series due to exorbitant costs.

Although humbler in origin, today’s GT4 machines boast creature comforts that Stewart, Donohue et al couldn’t have wished for in their brutal racers. Anti-lock braking systems, traction control and semi-automatic gearboxes – anything to help the driver shine.

In qualifying for the opening contest of the event, neither Evans nor Sokolowski could book a place on the front row. Team Vikings duo Thomas Wangen and Roger Kristiansen locked out the front row of the grid in their Porsche Caymans. Evans and Sokolowski had to settle for the second row.

After a short tour behind the pace car, the sixteen-car pack roared towards turn one. Immediately, Joel Evans signalled his intent, barging Roger Kristiansen onto the grass. Sokolowski’s start was equally eventful. An involuntary tour onto the grass on the exit of turn one nearly ended the Polish ace’s chances of victory, if not for some magnificent car control. Polesitter, Thomas Wangen, made a drama free launch and maintained first place into ‘The Keyhole’ at turn two.

On lap three, Sokolowski slipped past Joel Evans to second place with a cunning switchback manoeuvre at turn four and five. Next up, Thomas Wangen. Two laps later, Sokolowski made his move. A slight wobble from Wangen at the Carousel allowed Sokolowski to set up a clean pass into turn one. Adding to Wangen’s worries, Sokolwoski’s pass allowed Joel Evans to pounce as well. Unperturbed, Wangen immediately snatched second spot back from Evans. Allowing Sokolowski to escape to the win was clearly not in the Norwegian polesitter’s plan.

With two minutes remaining, the podium order shuffled once more. Approaching the Keyhole, Evans attempted an ambitious move on Wangen. Evans clipped the back of the Team Vikings Porsche and sent Wangen spinning out of second place. However, karma intervened at turn four. A dithering backmarker distracted Evans and sent the Welshman tumbling into the gravel at China beach. Thus, handing second place back to Wangen.

In the AM class, the aggressive Mihail Velikov pipped Mark Heron to class honours, in eighth overall. Heron did enjoy the small consolation as the top BMW in a race dominated by Porsche.

A perfect Patryck Sokolowski landed the first blow of the day. Could the Polish ace do the double in the feature race?

An inverted top ten from race one shuffled the pack for the feature race grid. Sprint race pacesetters – Sokolowski, Wangen and Evans – started at the tail of the top ten. AM class contenders Pontus Ofverstrom and Mark Heron began the feature race on the front row. Sadly, for Heron, any chance of a result was squashed by Mihail Velikov. Never shy of some contact, Velikov nerfed Heron’s BMW off the track on the exit of turn one. However, karma intervened once more at the following corner.

An opening lap pile up – at The Keyhole – proved pivotal to many driver’s fortunes in the feature race. Velikov fared worst and tumbled into a violent barrel roll. Championship rivals – Evans and Sokolowski – profited immensely from the scrum. Sokolowski tore off towards turn three in second place, from tenth on the grid. Evans followed immediately behind the Polish star, in fourth spot.

Upholding BMW’s honour, Matthias Beer barged through from outside the top ten to third place after a chaotic opening lap unfolding around him.

Unexpectedly, Joel Evans played a strategical joker at the end of lap one. Baulked behind Matthias Beer’s BMW, Evans dived into pit lane to complete his mandatory pit stop. Would this alternative tactic yield a crucial win in a tight championship scrap? By lap three, Sokolowski hit the front and could deploy his ultimate pace before pitting later in the race. Meanwhile, Evans remained mired in the pack in eleventh. Some expert race craft would be required for Evans to convert his strategical wildcard into victory.

In the end, Evans fought his way through to second place but Sokolowski was long gone. A rampant victory of over fifteen seconds for Sokolowski sealed an exceptional Mid-Ohio double.

Pontus Ofverstrom put the memory of a torrid visit to Oran Park firmly in the rear-view mirror of his BMW M4. An outright podium and dominant AM class win hauled the Swede back into title contention.

Following the race, a few of the ARA GT4 superstars gave their thoughts to the Apex Racing TV broadcast team:

Patryk Sokolowski: “I messed up qualifying so I had to be more aggressive in the first race. It was a good day for me with zero mistakes. The start of race two was quite messy so I took the opportunity to avoid that pile up and the rest was easy.”

Pontus Ofverstrom: “It was a great race. I’m a big fan of Mid-Ohio compared to Oran Park! Keeping Mike behind in the last laps was hard but we got through in third place.”

Next up for the Apex Racing Academy GT4 VRS Super Series is Daytona International Speedway. Home to the prestigious Rolex 24 hour and Daytona 500 races, this Floridian venue is soaked in racing heritage. Tune in at 19.10 GMT on Tuesday the 6th of October for live coverage on Apex Racing TV and the iRacing Esports network.

Images by @Groove_Media

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