Leitner triumphs in Motegi melee!
Only four rounds remain to separate a multitude of Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship (ARLTC) contenders. On the ARLTC’s traditional Thursday evening slot on Apex Racing TV, viewers prepared for three barnstorming races around Honda’s very own Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
Based ninety miles South West of Tokyo, Motegi took over eight years to reach fruition. A combination of corporate procrastination and domestic economic downturn nearly de-railed the project. However, a deal to supply Indy Car engines gave Honda the final push to progress their ambitious new facility. At the Motegi oval in 2008, Danica Patrick became the first woman in history to win an Indy Car race.
Ross Macfarlane led a flurry of fast times at the end of qualifying, clinching pole position. Only seven thousandths of a second behind, was Wojciech Swirydowicz. AM class contender, Marius Breuer lapped Motegi’s road course within a second of Macfarlane. Breuer started twenty-fourth but led the AM class.
Defending champion, Macfarlane, dominated race one from pole position in the #1 Pure Sims Audi. Further behind, Kieran Harrison negotiated past Ross Balfour and Wojciech Swirydowicz, claiming second place by lap six. Balfour attempted a response to Harrison but couldn’t catch the HM Engineering ace by the chequered flag and finished third. Swirydowicz couldn’t convert a front row start to a podium and languished back in sixth place. German star, Marius Breuer, led the AM class in twenty-first overall.
Morgan Butler started race two on pole position in the #600 Audi alongside Swift Cooper’s Kip Stephens. In the early stages, Butler kept an AM class armada of Stephens, Gregory and Neidhart at bay. However, a bold move by PRO class protagonist Craig Williams, indirectly sent Butler off track. Williams pressed on in the lead. Butler dropped to ninth.
Williams looked to have the win sewn up but an unforced error at turn eleven sent the Briton back into the snarling pack of Audi TCR machines. Benjamin Gregory was the initial benefactor of Williams’ blunder but soon had the attention of Jason Stehney and Norbert Leitner on lap five.
Leitner and Stehney wasted little time behind Gregory and barged through with Leitner ahead. For the remaining four laps, Leitner and Stehney duked for the lead. Akin to Mac Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso in the drenched Japanese GP in 2017, Leitner and Stehney raced fiercely yet fairly. However, in touring car racing, this courtesy usually has a sell by date. In this instance, the battle went sour at the final corner. A tap from Leitner sent Stehney into the gravel and the HM Engineering star sped to the win. Incensed, Stehney limped to sixth place.
With tempers frayed throughout the field, race three promised to be another frantic affair. Marcel Fritsch started on pole position for the final encounter, held under the Motegi moonlight.
BoosTED Motorsport’s John Roberts bolted off the line to pinch the lead into turn one as Fritsch floundered. Roberts enjoyed the lead for barely a lap before PRO class front runner, Michael Evdoka, charged by. Close behind Evdoka, was Swift Cooper Esports ace, Jason Cooper. By lap four, a clear leading quartet – Evdoka, Cooper, Hadfield and Balfour – formed far ahead of the chasing pack. Despite some bickering back and forward, Evdoka held firm and led the quartet home in flying formation and took the win. Hesketh Racing’s Mark Johnston clinched the AM class victory, in seventh overall.
With three rounds of this classic ARL TC season to go, several drivers remain in the fight for the title. On the 19th of November at 8pm GMT, the series heads to Monza for round eleven. Tune in to all the live action on Apex Racing TV.