ARL GT Championship | Round 3 at Charlotte
The Apex Racing League GT Championship headed to Charlotte for round three of the season on Sunday. Tom McMahon and Dennis Ipenburg arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway sharing the championship lead after an erratic start to the season for many drivers.
Charlotte Motor Speedway requires little introduction to stock car racing fans. Many NASCAR teams call Charlotte home and is regarded as the hub of the sport. Charlotte’s Coca Cola 600 is also the longest race on the Cup Series schedule. However, Charlotte’s ‘Roval’ road course layout has gained favour in recent times. In October, the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship will visit the Charlotte ‘Roval’ for the first time. Unfamiliar to most European racers, the Charlotte Roval combines part of the superspeedway and a road course section with unforgiving concrete walls.
After two rounds, McMahon and Ipenburg can’t be separated in the championship standings. In qualifying, two thousandths of a second split this emerging rivalry. However, Ipenburg drew first blood and secured the crucial inside line on the grid. Fastest of the AM class protagonists, was Steven Leahy, in seventeenth overall.
Ipenburg sped away cleanly from the pack in his BMW M8, with McMahon’s Ford in his shadow. For the opening third of the race, McMahon continued to stalk Ipenburg, waiting patiently on a mistake. By lap eight, McMahon’s patience wore thin. An unusually timid attempt to overtake at the first speedway chicane, sent McMahon wide. Daniel Lee pounced and slipped through the gap left by McMahon. Three laps later, McMahon reclaimed position from Lee at the same chicane. By which point, Ipenburg looked to have escaped. McMahon had other ideas. Fired up from his mistake, the EvoSR hot shot reeled in Ipenburg’s BMW. By lap sixteen, the pair reunited at the front of the field. Three laps later, drama ensued. McMahon lunged up the inside of Ipenburg at the final chicane, resulting in contact. Ipenburg came off worst. Striking the outside wall and taking damage on his BMW M8. A ruthless move for the race win from the defending champion, Tom McMahon.
On the third lap, Matty Chambers and Bob Humphrey made it a Porsche 1-2-3, behind Coles. Chambers clearly couldn’t be satisfied with second place and immediately leapt past Coles at the chicane. However, in his urgency, Chambers missed his braking point and ran straight through. Bizarrely, a slowdown penalty never transpired. iRacing’s automatic stewarding system normally makes even the strictest of schoolteachers appear liberal. But, not on this occasion. Would the Apex Racing stewards intervene?
Curiously, on the next lap, Chambers appeared to surrender to EvoSR teammate, Bob Humphrey. Perhaps, anticipating an incoming penalty and allowing his teammate to escape. Sadly for Coles, his challenge quickly faded after a spin.
By the ten-minute mark, Ipenburg and McMahon reconvened in seventh and eighth, commencing round two of their battle. As the race progressed, the stakes of the duel continued to rise. After fifteen minutes, Ipenburg and McMahon occupied fourth and fifth places.
Ipenburg fell back into the clutches of Daniel Lee but managed to maintain second place. Adam Coles triumphed in the AM class, finishing fourteenth overall and the only AM runner in the top twenty.
Race two’s traditional reverse grid reshuffle placed race one AM class winner, Adam Coles, on pole position. Championship rivals, Ipenburg and McMahon, started on the seventh row of the grid.
Adam Coles continued his dream day in the Charlotte sun and rocketed away from pole position in his Porsche. Unfortunately, for Daniel Lee, an unforced error sent the race one podium finisher far down the order.
At half distance, Bob Humphrey convincingly led an EvoSR 1-2-3. High Calibre Autosports ace, Dennis Ipenburg, impeded Tom McMahon from completing a 1-2-3-4 for EvoSR. However, on lap twenty, Ipenburg folded. A half spin on the road course allowed McMahon to sneak through and complete the EvoSR leading quartet.
Immediately, James Salt yielded to McMahon. Ten laps later, Matty Chambers opted not to contest his teammate and McMahon continued to a second-place finish. With a championship crown to defend, McMahon was in fine form. However, the co-operation of his EvoSR teammates proved valuable. Bob Humphrey triumphantly led the EvoSR 1-2-3-4 in his Porsche RSR by 7.4 seconds. Commendably, James Salt held off the advances of Dennis Ipenburg, who finished in fifth. Msignsuk.com star, Dean Powell, took the AM class spoils.
Immediately after the race, Apex Racing TV’s commentators quizzed the drivers on the day’s action:
Tom McMahon finished the night’s action in buoyant mood: “That was more like it. I’m really happy but, gosh, that was intense! The most intense sim race I’ve ever had.”
Race two winner, Bob Humphrey, jested with his teammates: “James Salt always says I luck in to race two positions, so I must be rolling the right dice” barbed the EvoSR Porsche driver.
On Sunday the thirteenth of September, the Apex Racing League GT Championship heads north to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Originally known as Mosport, this hidden gem boasts incredibly high-speed curves to test a GTE machine to the limit. Tune in to Apex Racing TV at 8pm BST to catch all the live action.