ARLTC Championship | Round Six Report!
At the mid-way point of the Apex Racing League Touring Car season, the title tussle involves multiple protagonists. Baker, Sedgwick, Mangan and Swirydowicz – all covered by a handful of points. With each passing round, the cost of a poor race ratchets up for the title contenders.
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is the permanent home of Canadian motorsport. Each year, the circuit hosts the spectacular Nascar truck series, the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship and various other major series. Based in the rolling hills of Ontario, this high commitment circuit poses a significant challenge in any car. Particularly so, in a scrabbling, understeering Audi touring car. Who would conquer this quirky Canadian course in round six of the Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship?
Real-world Audi RS3 owner, Alex Simpson, took his first pole position of the season in a typically frantic qualifying session. Alongside the Apex Racing boss on the front row was HM Engineering star, Kieran Harrison. Lurking ominously behind on the second row, was BTCC hard charger Ash Sutton.
Lee Berridge and Rickard Karlsson were the quickest AM class runners in eleventh and twelfth places, respectively.
Forty-eight Audi RS3 LMS machines snaked their way down the short pit straight and around the final corner, poised for the start of the opening encounter.
Simpson sped away flawlessly to convert pole position to a handy lead into turn one, followed by Kieran Harrison. Ash Sutton struggled to hook up his Audi from fourth on the grid and shuffled back to eleventh.
Kieran Harrison wasted no time pushing through to the lead and threatened to pull away. However, doing so in the ferocious ARL TC field is nearly impossible. Such is the depth of talent in the series.
On lap six, Ash Sutton’s climb back up the field ended abruptly with a typically uncompromising move at White’s corner. Unable to make his move stick, the 2020 BTCC championship contender struck the wall and tumbled down the field.
Two laps later, Kieran Harrison’s stint in the lead eroded at Moss Corner after a mild tap from Jake Blackhall. Pole sitter – Alex Simpson – capitalised on Harrison’s misfortune and reclaimed the lead. Defending champion, Scott Macfarlane, leapt to fourth after the skirmish and joined the scrap for the race win.
Following fourteen laps of hair-raising action, Alex Simpson and Wojciech Swirydowicz led an Apex Racing Team one-two finish. A red-letter day for the SDK gaming backed squad. Title challenger, Oscar Mangan clinched the final spot on the podium.
Fiercely Forward ace, Adrian Campfield, edged out Rickard Karlsson for AM class honours.
Moments after the chequered flag in race one, the ARL TC pack gathered on the grid for race two in customary reverse grid formation. Marius Breuer and Mark Johnston occupied the front row of the grid. Championship contenders – Ross Balfour and Jack Sedgwick – started on the fifth row after a torrid race one. Both Balfour and Sedgwick needed to score big to get their meeting back on track.
Oscar Mangan’s race two began in disastrous fashion. Mired back in the pack following the reverse grid, Mangan incurred damage to his Audi and dropped to the rear of the field. Yet another twist for the championship. Meanwhile, Marius Breuer sped into the lead from pole position. However, Breuer relinquished the lead to fellow German, Dennis Neidhart, on lap three.
Breuer valiantly resisted a growing swarm of PRO class drivers before surrendering second place to Craig Williams. By which point, Neidhart escaped to a 2.8 second lead. An advantage the DoT ExE Esports driver wouldn’t relinquish.
By lap ten, Ash Sutton arrived in fourth place from twenty second on the grid. An extraordinary charge through the pack from the Laser Tools Infiniti BTCC super star.
Jack Sedgewick recovered from a difficult race one to finish second. Craig Williams was third in the Craig’s set up shop Audi RS3 LMS.
In the AM class, Marius Breuer suffered from his earlier fights with the leading pack and lost the class lead to Mark Woodhouse in the closing stages of the race. Breur’s Michelin tyres had clearly given their best in the early stages of the race.
Race three’s reverse grid jumble placed race one frontrunner, Jake Blackhall, on pole position. Norbert Leitner joined the Pure Sims driver on the front row in his HM Engineering Audi.
During the early stages of race three, Blackhall looked to be speeding into the sunset to a dominant victory. However, Jason Cooper had other ideas. With five laps to go, Cooper began to reel in Blackhall after dispatching with Norbert Leitner.
As the white flag dropped – signalling the final lap of the meeting – any one of four drivers could win. Blackhall. Cooper. Leitner. Hadfield. One after the other, the leading quartet swept past the line. All in a major hurry.
By turn two, this quartet became a duo at the front. A typical tin top bump from Adam Hadfield sent Norbert Leitner’s Audi into an enormous slide, which the HM Engineering star duly controlled. However, a crucial loss of momentum dropped both from the lead battle.
Cooper and Blackhall sped into the final sector at top speed. Cooper throwing every move in the playbook. But Blackhall knew the script. Firm but fair defensive driving secured Blackhall the win. Jason Cooper could rest knowing he had exhausted every avenue, if only to find them all blocked. Norbert Leitner resisted Adam Hadfield’s advances to grab the final podium place.
Adrian Campfield capped off a superb day with a second AM class win of the meeting. A rare find in the rough and tumble of the Apex Racing League Touring Championship.
In the aftermath of a naturally chaotic ARL TC meeting, Fraser Smith and Preben Walle revealed their assessments to viewers on Apex Racing TV and the iRacing Esports network:
Fraser Smith: “We’ve all been putting in a lot of practice. It seems like you really need to if you want to do well.”
Preben Walle: “It wasn’t the best night for me. When you only practice thirty laps before the race, you can’t expect much. I qualified in the top twenty, which was really good. I made up a few spots in the first race for a decent finish. In the second race, I started eighteenth and moved up to eleventh and then Scott and I had our incident.”
Next up on the Apex Racing League touring car calendar is the Charlotte Roval. A unique road course layout with concrete walls waiting around every corner to claim their next victim. Keeping out of trouble will be the order of the day on the 15th of October when the ARLTC makes its return. Tune in to Apex Racing TV and the iRacing Esports network at 19.00 GMT to catch all the live action.
Images by @Groove_Media