ARLTC Championship | Round Five Report!
Stewart, Rindt and Brabham. Three of many blockbuster names in motor racing who triumphed at Zolder. Situated deep in Belgian woodland, Zolder’s challenging route has welcomed all forms of motorsport. Including the pinnacle of the sport, Formula 1. As the Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship (ARLTC) approaches its halfway point, who would conquer Zolder in round five of the series?
Fifteen minutes on a track clogged with forty-six other Audi RS3s certainly isn’t the ideal recipe to set an optimum lap. Such is the intrigue of an ARLTC qualifying session. Clear track is paramount.
Ross Balfour seized his opportunity and put the #2 CoRe Sim Racing Audi on pole position. HM Engineering’s Kieran Harrison joined Balfour on the front row. Mark Woodhouse was fastest of the AM contenders, in twenty-second overall and only eight tenths off pole position.
Balfour blasted away from pole position and led into turn one. A perfectly executed getaway to the opening thirteen lap encounter for the Northern Irishman. Harrison had to fend off the advances of Matthew Turnbull through Lucien Bianchi bend to maintain second place.
Further behind, a melee ensued at the devilishly difficult Kleine chicane. Installed in 1972 in preparation for Formula One’s inaugural visit in 1973, the chicane has never been popular with drivers. For Marius Breuer, Jason Stehney et al, the infamy of this fickle corner remained.
In an unusually calm contest at the front, Ross Balfour led Harrison and Turnbull home to claim victory. However, with a reversed grid, the podium trio from race one faced a battle through the field in the second thirteen lap race of the night.
Adrian Campfield kept on brand for Fiercely Forward racing, charging to sixteenth overall and first AM class finisher.
Ross Malcolm, occupied pole position for race two alongside Mark Johnston. However, the Scotsman couldn’t convert from the prime grid spot, bogging his Audi down off the line and losing out to Johnston.
As Johnston escaped out front, chaos intervened behind. Numerous incidents claimed a significant portion of the field. Most notably, an incident on the pit straight created an Audi RS3 LMS barricade. Zolder’s narrow confines proved too oppressive for many of the ARLTC competitors.
By half distance, championship contender Jack Sedgwick reeled in Mark Johnston. Meanwhile, Sedgwick’s championship rival, Ross Balfour, climbed to sixteenth from deep in the pack. However, an incident at the Villeneuve chicane sent Balfour into the barrier and tumbling down the order.
Johnston repeatedly rebuffed Sedgwick’s attempts to pass. Slowing both down and allowing Apex Racing Team boss, Alex Simpson, to join in. Simpson showed no mercy and immediately nerfed Johnston wide to claim second place.
Nevertheless, Johnston maintained third place and continued his podium defence with Simon Trendell in hot pursuit. Johnston and Trendell’s battle erupted as they sped past the white flag to begin the last lap. Johnston dealt the first blow, running Trendell’s Team Chimera machine onto the gravel. Trendell retaliated on the run to the Villeneuve chicane, tagging Johnston’s Audi and sending the Hesketh racing ace into the wall. A vicious conclusion to a stern battle.
Meanwhile, Sedgwick slipped to victory with Alex Simpson in second. Trendell finished third on the road but couldn’t relax with the Apex Racing League stewards surely studying his last lap indiscretion. Marcel Fritsch profited from Johnston’s demise to finish top AM class driver, in seventh overall.
For the final race, Rob Sutherland started the race from pole position in his Three Spires Motorsports Audi. Team Hesketh’s Nathan Davies joined Sutherland on the front row. Davies launched his RS3 LMS perfectly from the grid and bested Sutherland into Kanaal bend.
Davies day in the sun at the front of the field would be short lived. On lap two, Davies’ mirrors were already filled with the CoRe Sim Racing Audi of Ross Balfour. Davies valiantly managed to keep Balfour behind but on lap four, Balfour’s patience ran out. Heading to turn one, Balfour claimed the crucial inside line. Stuck on the outside line, Davies vulnerability was exposed as Balfour barged the Welshman into the gravel.
Nobly, Balfour backed out of the throttle and waited for Davies to retake the position. An honourable gesture which cost Balfour two further places to Rob Sutherland and John Roberts. Davies quickly reclaimed the lead and continued unharmed, ahead of Sutherland and Roberts.
Sadly, Davies only resisted until lap seven. This time, Ross Balfour slipped past cleanly and made the move stick. Enjoying open road ahead, Balfour’s brilliance shone bright. A rare ARLTC double victory strengthens the Northern Irishman’s championship challenge considerably.
After an eventful race, Nathan Davies held second place overall and claimed a dominant victory in the AM class. Adam Hedgecock was the second AM class finisher, in eleventh overall. HM Engineering hot shot, Norbert Leitner, pinched the final spot on the podium.
Next week, the Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship heads to Canadian Tyre Motorsports Park. Tune in on Apex Racing TV and the iRacing Esports network at 19.10 GMT to catch all the live action.
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