Lee charges to Zolder victory for Colbek Porsche
Apex Racing League GT R5 presented by Colbek
Although Alexey Nesov and Mattia Fuligni have spent most of their time on track apart, they remain locked in a battle for the Apex Racing League GT Championship presented by Colbek (ARL GT). Undoubtedly, Alexey Nesov has set the benchmark in outright pace. The Russian’s domination of qualifying and sprint races confirms this. However, in the reverse grid feature races, Nesov has occasionally tripped up. Fuligni, on the other hand, has been metronomically consistent. Despite Fuligni’s lack of a race win or even regular podium visits, the Italian ace arrives at round five only 59 points behind Nesov.
A hidden gem provides the venue for the fifth round of ARL GT 2021 – Zolder. Outshone by the doyen of world motorsport that is Spa Francorchamps, Zolder flies under the radar. Penned by John Hugenholtz – designer of Suzuka and Zandvoort – Zolder is a wonderfully old school and technical challenge.
Urano Esports continued their qualifying domination by locking monopolising the front row with their Porsche 911 RSRs. In the dying moments of qualifying, Niclas Laubisch hooked up his Porsche and nabbed pole position by a tenth of a second. Championship leader, Nesov, had to settle for second best.
Only half a second off Laubisch’s benchmark, was Kevin Kittelmann. Qualifying eighth overall, the Indy Autosport driver claimed AM class pole position.
Once the iRacing Ford Mustang pace car unleashed the field, the Urano Esports pair immediately began their pulverisation of their competitors. As the only drivers lapping consistently under the 1m:25s barrier, Laubisch and Nesov cruised ahead in flying formation. Laubisch enjoyed the lead briefly, before Nesov moved past. Once Nesov hit the front, the Urano Esports Porsche duo cruised to a comfortable 1-2 finish. Maik Paluch and Sven Neumann followed in third and fourth in their Core Sim Racing Corvette C8.Rs.
Converting his AM class pole, Kevin Kittelmann finished seventh overall and first in class ahead of Drew Becker.
Race two threw up several challenges for the ARL GT drivers to adapt to. Most dramatic of which, was an 8pm local start time, plunging Zolder circuit into total darkness. Those with the most intricate knowledge of the 2.4-mile woodland layout could arguably benefit from the sudden reduction in vision.
A partly reversed grid placed Chris van de Nesse on pole position for the forty-minute feature race. In the early stages, van de Nesse led confidently in his Porsche 911. Knowing that a cast of top drivers could make their way through the pack, van de Nesse calmly settled into his own pace. Arguably, van de Nesse’s greatest threat was extinguished early on. A mistake at the Klein chicane launched Alexey Nesov’s Porsche into the air. So violent was the impact that Nesov’s flat 6 engine expired. A tow back to pit lane for repairs dropped the Russian star down the order.
Despite a valiant effort, van de Nesse’s time at the front was up. Making his move at the Klein chicane, Daniel Lee slipped into the lead. Shadowing Lee was the incredible Niclas Laubisch. Starting from sixteenth, Laubisch scythed through the field with surgical precision.
Laubisch wasted no time and ended Lee’s reign in the lead within one lap. With only ten minutes left on the clock, Laubisch looked certain for his first win of the season. However, a mistake on the exit of the Jacky Ickx chicane sent the German star into the wall. Thus, handing the win to Lee with only five minutes to go. Incredibly, Laubisch recovered to third place but rued a certain win gone begging.
Drew Becker overhauled his Indy Autosport teammate, Darragh Adriaenssens, for AM class honours. Following his double class victory at Motegi, Becker has established himself as a true AM championship contender.
After an eventful meeting at Zolder, several of the ARL GT paddock joined the Apex Racing TV commentary team to discuss their fortunes:
Danny Lee: “It’s always exciting. A bit like with the fog at Motegi, it adds little sprinkles of seasoning which make races more exciting.”
Niclas Laubisch: “When the session started and I realised it was completely dark, I was a bit surprised! But, it was a really nice race. It was way more fun that I expected.”
Van de Nesse: “I was quite lucky to end up on reverse grid pole, as the car in front of me spun on the last corner!”
Drew Becker: “Darragh was holding it together over the whole race but he hit the chicane a little off and it gave him damage. I was then able to sneak by. It was a really fun race! Not too much craziness, just a good time!”