Exceptional Evans crowned champion in Austin
A season long duel between Joel Evans and Patryk Sokolowski reached a dramatic crescendo at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). During the first six rounds of the season, Evans and Sokolowski grappled for control over the Apex Racing Academy GT4 VRS Super Series (ARA GT4). Neither driver has asserted dominance. Arriving in the Texan desert, Evans held a slender advantage of sixteen points over his Polish rival. A margin that could easily be overturned.
Simultaneously, the pressure on Pontus Ofverstrom and Mihail Velikov approached boiling point. Ofvertstrom clung to a thirteen-point advantage in the race for the ARA GT4 AM class crown.
Thomas Wangen spoilt the party with a dominant performance in qualifying. A rapid romp around COTA’s expansive contours, gave the Norwegian pole position by over three tenths of a second from Joel Evans. Sokolowski lingered ominously in third place, alongside Matthias Beer. First blood in the AM class tussle went to Mihail Velikov, who qualified seventh overall, two spots ahead of Ofverstrom.
Kicking off one of the Apex Racing League’s most thrilling events, controversy and drama reigned immediately on lap one. A slow start from Evans dropped the young Welshman to fifth on the opening lap. Meanwhile, Sokolowski hounded Thomas Wangen for the lead. Eager to make it to the front, Sokolowski shoved Wangen aside. Not only did Sokolowski alarm the Apex Racing League stewards with his aggressive conduct, the Polish ace tangled in the melee and halted his own progress.
Matthias Beer emerged from a chaotic opening lap in the lead with Evans in third and Sokolowski fourth. Evans quickly progressed to second with a pristine move, at turn eleven, on Roger Kristiansen. Pristine certainly wouldn’t be an adjective used to describe Sokolowski’s advance to third place. Another bump to a Team Vikings car sent Kristiansen into a spin and Sokolowski barged through.
After several frustrating laps behind the BMW of Matthias Beer, Evans looked to have sealed a move at turn twenty. However, the German bit back immediately and reclaimed the lead. Meanwhile, Sokolowski stalked immediately behind, plotting his next move. It would be only a matter of seconds before Sokolwoski engaged in combat with Evans. However, Evans called Sokolowski’s bluff and refused to yield. At turn nine, the inevitable clash between these bitter rivals ensued. A slightly overzealous Evans made his move up the inside but met with the driver’s door of Sokolowski’s Cayman, causing the Welsh ace to spin.
Whilst carnage unfolded behind, Matthias Beer bolted to victory. Mihail Velikov followed immediately behind Beer, in second place overall. With Ofverstrom back in sixth, Velikov hauled himself into contention for the AM class crown.
Evans eventually recovered to third. Following a multitude of incidents, Sokolowski racked up penalty points at an alarming pace – incurring a drive through penalty – and dropped to tenth.
A frustrated Patryk Sokolowski could be consoled – after a disastrous race one – with pole position for the forty-minute feature race. In clear air, the Polish star had the opportunity to deploy his impressive pace. Evans also craved space to unleash the speed of his Porsche Cayman. Diving into pit lane at the first opportunity, Evans completed his compulsory pit stop and re-joined to the blissful solitude of an empty track. Two laps later, Velikov cunningly mirrored Evans strategy and took an early stop. This play proved to be a masterstroke for the Hungarian, who spent much of the race hanging on Evans’ coat tails.
Patryk Sokolowski enjoyed a serene lead for the opening half of the race. However, Thomas Wangen soon arrived on the scene to interrupt Sokolwoski’s reign at the front. Two minutes later, the sadly inevitable collision unfolded. A clean move from Wangen at turn nine was thwarted when Sokolowski clipped the rear of Wangen’s Porsche. Thus, causing the Norwegian to spin for the second time.
Once the pit cycles completed, a four-way brawl emerged for the race win between Beer, Evans, Sokolowski and Wangen. Clearly keen to exert his revenge on Sokolowski in response to their collisions, Wangen pulled aside to allow Evans into third place. Immediately ahead, Beer and Sokolowski jousted for the lead.
Once again, misplaced aggression from Sokolowski spoiled the party. At turn twenty, Sokolowski clattered into Beer’s BMW and sent both men into the wall. The incident had multiple consequences. Evans sped by to a surprise win and Sokolowski’s slender hope of the ARA GT4 title was over. Hopes of a double victory for Matthias Beer, were dashed. Most significantly, the clash promoted Mihail Velikov to third and the AM class title in the dying minutes of the season.
After a climactic finale to the season, several of the ARA GT4 protagonists revealed their thoughts to viewers in the iRacing Esports network:
Joel Evans: “Oh it’s a really good feeling! I didn’t expect it, heading to this round. I thought Patryk had it after the first race start.”
Pontus Ofverstrom: “Overall, it was better than I expected. Mid-Ohio and Road Atlanta were my best races this season.”
Matthias Beer: “Race one was very good and very exciting! Joel gave me a hard time!”
Congratulations to Joel Evans and Mihail Velikov from all at Apex Racing on their respective PRO and AM championship titles.