All hail Humphrey in Okayama!
Following visits to Oulton Park and Imola, the Apex Racing Academy Porsche Cup Championship heads east to the land of the rising sun and the Okayama Circuit.
Thirty years ago, a golf course tycoon took the decision to ‘diversify’. Hajime Tanaka believed there to be a market for a country club style race circuit where wealthy owners could enjoy their exotic machines. TI Circuit Aida was the product of Tanaka’s dream.
Built at a cost of over 100 million dollars, the circuit hosted two F1 grand prix in the early nineties. Both of which, won by the great Michael Schumacher.
By 2004, the circuit fell into financial turmoil and was acquired by Unimat Corp. From this moment on, the circuit has borne its current name – Okayama. Although the countryside venue now focuses on Japanese domestic motorsport, the circuit is enjoyed by 170,000 racers worldwide, on the iRacing.com simulator.
Qualifying was a fiercely fought affair. Less than a tenth of a second covered the three fastest drivers. On pole position, was Nick Madsen. Salvatore Larne and Roberto Ferrari qualified second and third on the grid. Swiftest of the AM class was Aaron Smith, in twelfth overall.
From pole position, Madsen launched off the line and immediately moved to cover the inside line from Larne. Deft defence from the Dane kept Larne at bay through the opening lap.
Approaching the halfway mark, Roberto Ferrari had company in third place. A charging Lewis Ward swarmed around the Italian, trying to make a move. As Ward and Ferrari wound up their near five-hundred horsepower machines out of the Attwood curve, a spinning Salvatore Larne exited stage left ahead.
Ward took his opportunity and completed a clean move up the inside at the hairpin. Sadly, a tap from Ferrari sent Ward into a pirouette and out of the podium battle.
Whilst his rivals bickered behind, Nick Madsen amassed an unassailable lead and cruised to victory. A late error from Stellan Lindeberg allowed Larne to recover to third. Roberto Ferrari crossed the line in second but would likely attract post-race scrutiny from the Apex Racing League stewards.
Race one AM class honours went to Kev Copeland, in eleventh place overall.
For the second encounter of the evening, Bob Humphrey started on pole position alongside race one AM class winner, Kev Copeland. Madsen, Ferrari and Larne faced an expedition through the pack from the wrong end of the top ten.
As Copeland led the field in the opening lap, Madsen and Larne’s campaign stumbled immediately. Mistakes from both drivers dropped the pair to the fringes of the top twenty. Simultaneously, Lewis Ward charged through to fourth, keen to make amends for his misfortune in race one.
Settling into a rhythm, Lewis Ward progressed to second and set to work on catching Bob Humphrey in the lead. Ward only required eight minutes to haul in Humphrey and promptly pounced for the lead. Another clean move at the hairpin promoted Ward to the lead. Thankfully, on this occasion, the move stuck.
Despite his earlier blunder, Nick Madsen miraculously recovered to fifth by the halfway point. Meanwhile, a mistake from Ward on the exit of Williams corner dropped the Briton back to second behind Bob Humphrey.
Although short on pace compared to Ward and Madsen, Humphrey had delivered a flawless drive. However, with five minutes to go and Ward and Madsen in hot pursuit, the pressure was on.
As Humphrey charged down the pit straight in his Team Falken tire inspired Porsche, Lewis Ward followed only six tenths of a second behind on the final lap. Despite the vice of pressure being tightened by Ward, Humphrey didn’t flinch and claimed a well-earned win. Madsen followed shortly after in third place. Kev Copeland converted a front row grid spot to an AM class win and sixth overall.
After a busy evening on track, several of the championship protagonists revealed gave their assessments to the Apex Racing TV broadcast team:
Bob Humphrey: “I think I had a little Christmas present come early there from Lewis! When I saw him spin in front, I thought it would be the same as race one where someone spun in front and I couldn’t avoid them. But no, happy days!”
Nick Madsen: “In race one, I managed to get a little gap. To keep concentrating, I told myself to get a gap of five seconds. Race one was pretty calm.”
Kev Copeland: “I’m really happy. It was tough, really hard going. I didn’t have a chance to relax. I was battling so hard with Max in the first race.”
Next up, the Apex Racing Academy Porsche Cup Championship heads to the streets of Montreal for the fourth round of the season. Tune in at 8pm GMT on the iRacing Esports network to catch all the live action.