Leitner lights up Long Beach!
Apex Racing League iRacing Touring Car Championship R14 Race Report
A gruelling 2021 Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship season is building towards a dramatic crescendo with three rounds to go. After twelve rounds and thirty-six races, drivers no longer enjoy the luxury of a drop score. A poor day on track at Long Beach, Le Mans or Montreal could flip the championship narrative around instantly.
Defending champion, Kieran Harrison, heads to Long Beach with a comfortable advantage over George Simmons. However, with nine races remaining on some perilous circuits, a repeat title is far from secure for the HM Engineering star.
Embarking upon the run to the end of the season, Mark Woodhouse enjoys a modest advantage over Ben Gregory in the AM class.
Corentin Guinez emerged from a bustling qualifying session around the tight streets of Long Beach in pole position. ARLTC rising star, Terje Flaten, trailed Guinez by eleven thousandths of a second and started from the front row.
In thirteenth overall, Mark Woodhouse signalled his intent to defend his AM championship advantage with a class pole position.
Transferring 350 horsepower to baking Californian tarmac through just the front wheels is no easy feat. Launching an Audi RS3 LMS TCR off the line demands lightening reactions and a deft touch. From second on the grid, Terje Flaten’s immaculate inputs produced a perfect getaway. Meanwhile, an eager Corentin Guinez couldn’t hook up his HM Engineering machine and bogged down at the green flag.
As Flaten disappeared through turn one in the lead. Guinez’s sluggish getaway left the Frenchman vulnerable to an ambush, which duly arrived. However, said ambush came in the unexpected form of teammate, Kieran Harrison. In a slightly uncharacteristic lunge, Harrison dived for the inside at turn one. Carrying excessive speed, Harrison clattered into the door of Guinez, sending his teammate into the barrier. Harrison continued to finish second, but one wonders about the mood in the normally orderly HM Engineering camp.
Terje Flaten was rewarded handsomely for his rapid getaway. A flawless drive yielded a first race one win for the Norwegian.
Drama ensued almost immediately in the AM class. Caught up in the mid pack melee, Mark Woodhouse’s race ended early on. Therefore, the AM championship leader would start race two from the back. Meanwhile, Tim Perry and Ben Gregory cruised in flying formation to the flag for a 1-2 in class.
Following a reverse grid shuffle, Sergey Glazkov started race two on pole position. Unlike Guinez before him, Glazkov catapulted away from pole position and led into turn one. However, the Russian driver’s reign at the front would be short lived. Rising from the constraints of a pit lane start in race one, Fraser Smith was on form on the streets of Long Beach. By lap three, Smith chased down Glazkov and eased past at turn one for the lead. Once into the lead, Smith pressed on to a dominant victory. Five seconds down the road, Romain Boeckler and George Simmons completed the podium.
An unfortunate incident for Kieran Harrison forced the championship leader out of action. Thus, creating an opportunity for Simmons to close the gap in the championship race.
A ruthless Ben Gregory dispatched with Lars Wiele to claim honours in the AM class. For race three, Mark Woodhouse would be under immense pressure to strike back and maintain his AM championship lead.
Heading into the Californian twilight, the drivers lined up for the third and final race of the meeting. From pole position, Norbert ‘Lightning’ Leitner was in imperious form. Deploying a perfect launch in his HM Engineering Audi, the Hungarian ace charged to a dominant win.
Mark Woodhouse took full advantage of Ben Gregory’s demise to turn the tables once more in the AM championship battle. Sixth overall and top of the class puts Woodhouse back in control for the final two rounds.
Immediately after the final encounter, Fraser Smith and Tim Perry joined the Apex Racing TV broadcast crew to provide an assessment of the action:
Fraser Smith: “I said to my teammates before the race, if there is one race where I wanted a pit lane start, it would be here! It worked out pretty well, I got my first win after starting from the pits. Maybe I should do it more often!”
Tim Perry: “My good start really helped, I ended up just ahead of the crash. It was quite a high-pressure race one. I had Ben behind me the whole race.”
On the 27th of May, the Apex Racing League Touring Car heads to Le Mans for the penultimate round of the championship. On the long straights of Le Circuit de la Sarthe, a high-speed game of chess is likely to play out. How will the cards fall for our championship contenders? Find out on Apex Racing TV at 7pm GMT.