Davies masters Virginia's country roads!
Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship Round 5 Race Report
Carl Jansson headed to round five of the Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship (ARLTC) with a miniscule points margin over Kieran Harrison. Throughout the opening four rounds, Jansson and Harrison have traded blows in a duel set to rumble on to the final round at Montreal in June.
The breath-taking surroundings of Virginia International Raceway (VIR) provided the arena for the most dramatic meeting of the ARLTC season so far. Built in 1957 by the Strickland brothers, VIR began as a humble facility, loved by fans and racers alike. Despite hosting the first ever IMSA GT race in 1971, won by Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg in a Brumos Porsche 914, the circuit closed shortly afterwards. In the new millennium, real estate tycoons Harvey Siegel and Connie Nyholm, transformed the barren land into a world class facility. Ever since, VIR has brought joy and benefit to the Danville area.
Fraser Smith settled into a swift pace across the narrow ribbon of Virginia track and clinched pole position for the start of the opening twenty-minute encounter. AM class qualifying plaudits went to Nathan Davies, who started fifteenth in his Hesketh Racing Audi.
Starting third, Kieran Harrison showed his intent to swiftly reclaim his championship lead. Before the end of lap one, Harrison squeezed into the lead and looked in imperious form. However, Fraser Smith wasn’t going to squander the opportunity of a race win from pole position. With three minutes to go, Smith had reeled in Harrison. Drafting Harrison’s HM engineering machine along the drag to the carousel, Smith pounced to the inside. Unfortunately, a misjudgement under braking sent Smith tumbling into the side of Harrison. Both drivers careered off circuit, leaving George Simmons to inherit the lead.
However, Simmons had a cast of challengers to fend off for the race win. Damien Harris, Romain Boeckler, and Jack Sedgwick all sharpened their elbows for a last lap dogfight. Harris was first to fall away after gathering up a heart stopping moment at the snaking S bends.
Heading towards the carousel for the final time, Simmons led from Sedgwick and Boeckler. Executing the perfect draft and subsequent overtake, Sedgwick broke Simmons’ heart in the dying moments of the race. To make matters worse, Simmons’ loss of momentum dropped the Apex Racing Team driver behind Romain Boeckler, who pinched second place.
Ben Gregory fended off Team Mad star, Mark Woodhouse, for sixteenth place and the AM class win.
Race two brought sizzling track temperatures of nearly fifty degrees Celsius. Neither a hot and greasy track, nor a two-pronged attack from David Baker and Norbert Leitner, was going to stop the most heroic drive of the season so far. Coined ‘The Gwyndaf Evans of ARLTC’, AM class star Nathan Davies held off the cream of the crop to claim overall victory. Despite their best efforts, David Baker and Norbert Leitner settled for second and third places, respectively.
Seeking redemption for his last lap disappointment in race one, Damien Harris delivered an inspired performance to set the record straight in race three. From third on the grid, Harris chased Stu Abbott towards turn one, but appeared too far back to overtake. However, Harris’ split-second decision from the cockpit of his Fiercely Forward Audi proved pivotal. Gingerly tiptoeing into turn one, Stu Abbott left a cars width on the inside and Harris lunged for the lead. Once into clean air, Harris proved his front running credentials and sped off to a dominant win. Despite George Simmons’ best efforts to unseat the defending champion, Kieran Harrison maintained second place to the line. Thus, salvaging some points from a difficult meeting.
Although Carl Jansson didn’t feature on the podium throughout the meeting, the Super Swede’s visit to Virginia International Raceway was a fruitful one. Jansson now leads Harrison in the championship standings by twelve points after three solid races.
After the race, several ARLTC aces joined the Apex Racing TV commentary team to share their thoughts on three exhausting races at Virginia International Raceway:
Fraser Smith: “It wasn’t too bad but I’m pretty gutted about race one. I threw away my first podium and crashed into Kieran in the process. So, not the smoothest one for me!”
Robert Rund: “My plan is just to finish the races. A few weeks ago, I started in the pits and still finished in the top thirty at Sonoma.”
Nathan Davies: “This track is quite difficult to overtake on and I consider my defensive skills as being on point and they worked out this time!”
On the 25th of February, the ARLTC face perhaps their sternest challenge of the season so far. Oran Park’s tiny confines resemble a life size Scalextric circuit. Therefore, accommodating fifty hungry touring car drivers is bound to provide an explosive spectacle. Don’t miss any of the action with live coverage on Apex Racing TV at 8pm GMT.