Sokolowski and Evans duel at Daytona
Daytona International Speedway hosted a thrilling fifth round the Apex Racing Academy GT4 VRS Super series. Patryk Sokolowski and Joel Evans have been a cut above the rest all season long. Momentum has swung back and forth between the Pole and the Welshman, as each driver has scored win after win. Choosing a champion with three rounds to go is impossible.
Both Sokolowski and Evans opted for the class leading Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 MR at the beginning of the season. As per the series regulations, each car must run with an identical set up, provided by the Apex Racing Academy. A more level playing field, you will not find.
Arriving at Daytona, a case to choose Evans as the favourite could be made convincingly. Evans dominated proceedings with a double victory in round two at the Charlotte Roval. In style, the circuits are remarkably similar. Patryk Sokolowski, however, had a different thesis.
In qualifying, Sokolowski landed the first blow. Mastering the high banks of Daytona, the Polish ace edged out Evans for pole position by a tenth of a second. Team Vikings duo – Thomas Wangen and Roger Kristiansen – also displayed hot pace and booked the second row of the grid for the Norwegian squad.
AM class hard chargers, Mihail Velikov and Pontus Ofverstrom, continued their impressive run of form and reserved the third row of the grid together.
Following a short parade behind the iRacing.com Porsche 911 pace car, Patryk Sokolowski tore off into the lead as the green flag dropped.
In the opening stages, Sokolowski laid down the gauntlet with some blistering times in his Porsche. Evans matched Sokolowski’s pace repeatedly and the pair began to stretch away from Thomas Wangen in third.
Immersed in their championship battle, Evans and Sokolowski began to size one another up. Evans prepared moves into the bus stop chicane, only to be thwarted by Sokolowski’s vigorous defence. All the while, Thomas Wangen sneaked up behind the championship protagonists. Wangen enjoyed a grandstand view of the title bout unfolding ahead.
At the end of lap seven, Evans finally broke Sokolowski’s stronghold on the lead. An immaculate move at Daytona’s new chicane forced Sokolowski to yield. One lap later, Sokolowski mimicked Evans very same manoeuvre and re-claimed the lead. Although a controversial addition to this historic Floridian venue, the new chicane is providing overtaking opportunities.
On the final lap, the battle compounded once again. Running slightly wide at the International Horseshoe, Sokolowski opened a slight gap. Evans leapt on his chance. Exiting the corner, the rivals barged into one another. Evans yielded and allowed Sokolowski to speed to victory. Unquestionably, this thrilling battle had been the highlight of the season so far.
Thomas Wangen – who had watched the entirety of the duel for the lead – finished a commendable third. Mihail Velikov scored a crucial victory for his AM class championship campaign.
For race two, the top ten finishers from race one line up in reverse order on the grid. As a result, Evans and Sokolowski faced a fraught fight through the pack during the forty-minute encounter.
AM class title challenger, Pontus Ofverstrom, started from pole position for the second contest of the evening. Joining Ofverstrom on the front row was series newcomer, Harry Brooks.
Joel Evans signalled his intent on the opening lap. A charge from ninth to third whilst Sokolwoski stalled in ninth, was the key to an eventual victory for the Welshman.
Thomas Wangen threw the dice on strategy by completing his compulsory pit stop at the end of lap one. In theory, the Norwegian ace would enjoy clear air and keep out of trouble in the early stages. Although the gamble didn’t yield victory, Wangen delivered his second podium of the meeting with some excellent pace throughout the race.
With Evans on a tear out front, Sokolowski looked out of sorts and struggled to cut through the pack. Occupying the crowded midfield pack is a dangerous game and Sokolowski paid handsomely for this on lap ten. Following his compulsory pit stop, Sokolowski attempted his trademark pass at the final chicane on Mihail Velikov and Mike Pollard. A slight misjudgement resulted in Sokolowski’s Porsche bounding over the high curbs and ploughing into Pollard. Meanwhile, Evans enjoyed the blissful solitude of an enormous lead on the high banks of Daytona.
In the end, Sokolowski had to settle for ninth place. With Evans in victory lane, could this be a crucial twist in the championship tale?
The German Austin Powers – Matthias Beer – returned to form in his BMW M4. An early tussle with Evans prior to his pit stop proved the German’s credentials. An eventual third place revived what has been a tricky season for the lone BMW driver within the PRO class frontrunners.
Mihail Velikov survived the skirmish with Sokolowski to seal an impressive double victory in the AM class. A perfect response to a disastrous feature race at Mid-Ohio, last time out.
After the race, Matthias Beer and Thomas Wangen joined the Apex Racing TV broadcast crew to share their feelings after a wonderful meeting at Daytona:
Matthias Beer expressed his delight, following a welcome return to form: “It’s great to be back on the podium” beamed the German ace. He continued “I struggled in practice with grip. The oval corners are helpful for the BMW but the 10kg ballast meant that we struggled in the infield.”
Thomas Wangen shared his delight with a double podium finish: “It went very well. The last couple of races haven’t been so good. In race one, I had a great spectating place (of the lead battle)!”
Road Atlanta hosts the penultimate episode in a thrilling championship tale involving Patryk Sokolowski and Joel Evans. Tune in to Apex Racing TV or the iRacing Esports network on the 13th of October at 19.10 GMT to catch all the action.