Simmons strikes a killer blow at Le Mans
Apex Racing League iRacing Touring Car Championship R15 Race Report
Le Circuit de la Sarthe provided the arena for the penultimate episode in a thrilling Apex Racing League Touring Car championship. All season long, Kieran Harrison and George Simmons have slugged it out for honours in the PRO class. Meanwhile, Mark Woodhouse and Ben Gregory have fought with equal intensity for the AM title. Arriving at Le Mans for the penultimate round, both title chases remain up for grabs.
The customary ARLTC group qualifying session took on a unique complexion on the endless Mulsanne straight. Without a perfect tow from a willing teammate, scoring pole position would be impossible. Apex Racing Team duo, George Simmons and Wojciech Swirydowicz mastered the art of the draft to lock out the front row of the grid for race one.
As Simmons sped into an early lead in the opening encounter, controversy ensued immediately behind. A clash between Swirydowicz and Harrison, sent the HM Engineering driver careering off the road, albeit not entirely out of contention.
Meanwhile, Simmons’ attention was consumed by the advances of Martijn Asschert. However, the Briton’s Apex Racing Team guardian angel was on his way. Quickly regrouping after the clash with Harrison, Swirydowicz promptly advanced to second place. Thus, playing a perfect rear gunner and protecting Simmons out front.
Swirydowicz’s efforts were key to keeping a rapidly recovering Harrison at bay. However, Swirydowicz couldn’t resist the championship leader for ever. On the final lap, Harrison finally broke the deadlock and set off in pursuit of Simmons. Heading down the Mulsanne straight, the championship rivals banged wheels. The gloves were off.
Immediately behind, Swirydowicz and Romain Boeckler tangled at the second Mulsanne chicane, sending Boeckler tumbling down the order.
Back at the front, Harrison made his move at Arnage and pointed his HM Engineering up the hill to the Porsche curves in the lead. Nevertheless, a superb exit from Arnage gave Simmons a run to the Porsche curves. Knowing that only a win would do for the title race, Simmons seized his chance and swooped past Harrison to pinch the win at the final moment.
Following a dramatic opening contest, the ARLTC fraternity lined up for another brawl around Le Circuit de la Sarthe. Due to his race one demise, Romain Boeckler started in fifth position for the second race, while his rivals started deep in the field. Taking full advantage of his favourable grid position, Boeckler burst through the pack to lead by the second Mulsanne chicane.
As the pack bickered behind, Boeckler appeared to be in for an easy cruise to the line. Terje Flaten had other plans. Plotting his way through the pack, Flaten had Boeckler in his sights by the start of the final lap.
Approaching Indianapolis, Flaten made his move for the win and appeared to have picked Boeckler’s pocket. However, a crucial error at Arnage cost Flaten dearly as Boeckler reclaimed the lead and the race win.
For the final race, Fraser Smith and Wojciech Swirydowicz formed an all-star front row of the grid. While Smith, Swirydowicz and Roman Paerschke formed an early breakaway group, disaster struck for Kieran Harrison. By virtue of his fourth-place finish in race two, Harrison started the final contest in the perils of the mid pack. Unable to avoid a turn one pile up, the championship leader suffered significant damage to the front of his #1 HM Engineering Audi. On a circuit where top speed is everything, Harrison would be severely hampered for the entirety of the twenty-minute sprint.
By lap four, championship challenger George Simmons had ascended into the front group. Crucially, led by his teammate Wojciech Swirydowicz. Acutely aware of his stablemates need for maximum points, Swirydowicz appeared to control the pace of the group, so that Simmons could make it to the front.
Swirdowicz led all the way to the very last chicane, before lifting off at the last moment and allowing Simmons through to the win. As controversial as team orders may be, this admiral gesture may prove vital to the outcome of this ARLTC season.
On Thursday the third of June, the Apex Racing League Touring Car championship reaches its climax. Will Kieran Harrison be able to defend his now slender championship advantage from George Simmons? Can Mark Woodhouse finish the job and claim the AM title? Find out at 7pm GMT with live coverage on Apex Racing TV.