ARL GT Championship | Round 2 at Monza
A packed field of GTE machines assembled to contest the second round of the Apex Racing League GT (ARL GT) championship on Sunday. Italy’s historic Monza circuit presented a new challenge for the ARL GT drivers following an eventful first round at Road America.
Monza’s sacred ground has welcomed obsessive Italian race fans since 1922. Following a defeat to French automakers in the inaugural Italian Grand Prix at Brescia in 1921, the Milan Automobile club retaliated. Built to rival Indianapolis and Brooklands, Italy now had a venue to develop all conquering machines. At the first time of asking, Fiat triumphed in the 1922 Italian Grand Prix at Monza at an average speed of 140 kilometres per hour. Monza has been synonymous with unadulterated speed for generations.
For qualifying, track limits would be the driver’s main concern. iRacing.com’s pesky stewards have plentiful opportunities to penalise even the slightest abuse of Monza’s boundaries.
Tom McMahon set the qualifying pace in his Ford GT. A perfect start for the defending champion. Swede, Jonas Bodin, trailed a third of second behind, in second place. Fellow Swede, Emil Winbo, took the AM close pole position, in eleventh overall.
With carnage ensuing behind, front row qualifiers McMahon and Bodin negotiated the opening laps cleanly. No easy feat at the tricky Monza, which celebrates its centenary in 2022. By lap five, McMahon and Bodin enjoyed a handy lead on the chasing pack. Bodin pounced for the first time at turn one, diving down the inside in his BMW M8. However, McMahon resisted.
This incident would be a mere interlude before major controversy intervened. On the following lap, Bodin dropped back from McMahon. Once again, turn one provided the scene for the next clip in the highlight reel. Missing his braking mark, Bodin’s BMW careered into the braking zone at excessive speed and ploughed into the back of McMahon’s Ford. Both drivers flew off track onto the tarmac run off, ending the pair’s quest for victory.
James Crouch and Dennis Ipenburg profited most from the clash, inheriting first and second places, respectively. Crouch seized the opportunity and cleared off to a surprise win. Ipenburg managed to edge out the charging Daniel Lee for second place, confirming a BMW lockout of the podium.
Further back, the Porsche RSR’s of Luke McKeown and Mads Gravsen squabbled over fourth place. McKeown eventually edged out the Dane by a fraction of a second. Indy Autosport’s, Adam Coles, took AM class laurels and was the only driver from his class in the overall top twenty.
Meanwhile, at the front, Artur Gozdzik took the lead from Bob Humphrey with a clinical move into turn one from the Road America race two winner. Humphrey retaliated immediately at the second chicane, reclaiming the race lead. On lap eleven, Gozdzik executed another block pass into turn one but couldn’t repel Humphrey into the second chicane. Mild contact between the two Porsche drivers sent the Pole shooting across the tarmac run off. A resultant ‘slow down’ penalty dropped Gozdzik to third behind standout AM class driver, Nick Brown.
Tom McMahon profited handsomely from the bickering up ahead. With Brown and Gozdzik battling hard, the Ford GT man edged his way into the podium battle. Shortly after, Jonas Bodin would also join the party, completing a quartet of podium contenders.
A reverse grid shuffle placed Robert Lundgren and John Gordon on the front row for race two. Championship contenders – Bodin, McMahon and Gravsen would start deep in the pack in eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth. Race one winner, James Crouch, would start twenty-fourth.
Exiting the Parabolica, the iRacing.com pace car pulled off and released a snarling pack of GTE machines, signalling the start of race two. BoosTED motorsport’s Robert Lundgren, fell foul to the opening lap melee. Heading through Ascari, the Swede was unceremoniously punted and plummeted down the field. A disastrous start from the front of the grid.
After only six laps, Evo SR’s Tom McMahon sped to fifth place from nineteenth place on the grid. Making up for lost time after the race one calamity with Jonas Bodin.
Running an untouchable pace, both McMahon and Bodin escaped from Brown and Gozdzik and set off in hot pursuit of Humphrey in the lead. With nine minutes left, McMahon made his move, pinching the lead from Humphrey. The defending champion couldn’t be bettered and cruised to a stunning victory in his twin turbocharged Ford GT. A share of the championship lead with Dennis Ipenburg presented a fine reward for McMahon’s charge through the pack.
Bodin and Humphrey repeatedly biffed one another in a tussle for second place but it would be Bodin who got the raw end of the deal. A brutal move from Humphrey at the first Lesmo, sent Bodin’s Hellracers BMW M8 into the gravel and a third-place finish. One for the Apex Racing League stewards to ponder, post-race.
Nick Brown’s stunning drive to fifth overall rewarded the BMW man with a dominant AM class victory.
Following the race, several leading drivers gave their thoughts to Apex Racing TV viewers.
Championship contender Daniel Lee: “Every bit of juice was squeezed out of that! I drove my heart out” beamed the BMW driver. “In a reverse grid, sometimes you’re lucky with traffic and you can easily slice past those who are off the pace. This time, it was so packed, it was two-wide everywhere. I couldn’t take the advantage that we had with our straight-line speed” lamented the MsignsUK.com driver.
Nick Brown: “Last week, was a bit tough. I don’t think I performed that well. Monza’s one of my strong points. I did the F3 race here and did quite well. I just had to go for it really, there’s no point holding back” stated the AM class contender.
Dennis Ipenburg: “A very intense first race, Daniel Lee is becoming my worst nightmare. He always seems to be two tenths away and very big in my rear-view mirror. I don’t know how I managed to keep him behind me on this because I was sure that when he closed a two second gap that there was no chance of me keeping ahead of him” admitted the Dutchman.
When quizzed about his controversial late move on Jonas Bodin, Nick Humphrey gave his view: “It was there. Let’s find out when the stewards have a look at it. I felt like I was pushed onto the grass, when I was on the grass, I was stuck there” contested the Englishman.
On September 6th, the Apex Racing League GT championship heads stateside once more, to the unique Charlotte Roval. Tune in to Apex Racing TV for live coverage at 7PM GMT.