Monterey magic for Harrison, Williams and Cooper
Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca’s narrow confines presented a stern challenge to the Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship (ARLTC) field for the eighth round of the series.
Three sprint races, jumbled reverse grids and typical tin top tussles are the order of the day for ARLTC. Throw in the magical Monterey curves of Laguna Seca and action was guaranteed for viewers on the iRacing Esports Network.
A furiously contested season has prevented any one driver from dominating the series. In fact, only fifty-four points separate the championship leader David Baker (1176 points) from Jason Cooper (1122 points) in tenth. In short, the championship battle is wide open.
HM Engineering ace, Kieran Harrison, delivered his free practice promise and claimed pole position. Joining Harrison on the front row, was Ross Balfour. Fastest in the AM class, was Mark Johnston in twenty-first overall.
Harrison deployed the perfect launch to lead the forty-nine strong field into the Andretti hairpin for the opening thirteen lap contest. Whilst the Briton’s rivals bickered behind, Harrison checked out to the win.
By half distance, the battle for the remaining spots on the podium ensued between Ross Balfour and Ross Macfarlane. Balfour and Macfarlane couldn’t be separated on pace and held formation to the flag in second and third place. Swift Swede, Rickard Karlsson, took the win in the AM class following Mark Johnston’s demise at the corkscrew.
Immediately after the chequered flag signalled the conclusion of race one, the green flag poised to commence race two. PRO class drivers, Damien Harris and Jamie Rushworth, started from the front row of the grid. Harrison, Balfour and Macfarlane faced the pitfalls of a fight from the wrong end of the top twenty.
As Harris scampered away to an early lead in his Fiercely Forward Audi, the snarling pack biffed and barged their way through the opening curves. First of the high-profile casualties, was Ash Sutton. A trip to the nearby wall, sent the BTCC hard charger to the back of the field.
Sutton’s Pure Sims teammate, Ross Macfarlane, faltered next. Contact with the #333 Audi of Corentin Guinez sent the Scotsman off course and down the order after a promising start.
Race one’s leading duo of Harrison and Balfour carefully progressed to the top fifteen by lap seven. Eventually, Balfour edged Harrison for twelfth place.
Throughout the race, Craig Williams chipped away at Damien Harris’ advantage. By lap nine, Williams was on the case of the Fiercely Forward ace. With two laps to go, Williams made his move. A pristine manoeuvre at the Andretti hairpin was enough for Williams to pinch the win from Harris. Further behind was Jack Sedgwick in third. Rickard Karlsson doubled up on AM class delight in ninth overall.
French independent driver, JB Massida, started the final thirteen lap contest on pole position alongside Shaun Gardiner.
Massida made a strong start with Jason Cooper immediately in his wheel tracks. Lurking ominously behind, was Ash Sutton. From ninth on the grid, the 2017 BTCC champion cut through the field to third in two laps. Shortly afterwards, Cooper moved past Massida and into the lead. Keen to prevent Cooper from escaping, Sutton promptly passed Massida for second.
Unperturbed by the view of Sutton in his mirrors, Cooper never flinched and took the win by eight tenths of a second. Mark Johnston made amends for his race one blunder with the AM class win and eighth overall.
Following the race, the ARLTC championship protagonists debriefed live on Apex Racing TV:
Kieran Harrison: “It’s always successful when you can keep it clean all the way through! It was good to get another win in the first race. Although it was made easier with the incidents behind me.”
Ross Balfour: “This combo (car/track) is really fun. All three races went pretty well. From my perspective, it was a very clean round.”
On the 29th of October, the ARLTC championship rolls on to the ninth round. Circuit de Catalunya will be familiar to F1 and Moto GP fans in the field and indeed those watching on the iRacing Esports Network and Apex Racing TV. Tune in at 8pm GMT to catch all the live action.