Johnston jukes with the pros in Catalunya!

Nestled on the outskirts of Montmelo, the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya has hosted the pinnacle of two and four wheeled motorsport for three decades. Moto GP fans will never forget the 2009 Catalan GP when the undisputed king, Valentino Rossi, usurped the young pretender – Jorge Lorenzo.

In 2012, fans of the once dominant Williams F1 team rejoiced. With Lady Virginia Williams in attendance alongside her husband – Sir Frank –Pastor Maldonado shocked the motor racing world in his Williams FW34. Maldonado’s historic triumph in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix remains the only grand prix victory for a Venezuelan driver and Williams’ last victory to date.

In the Apex Racing League Touring Car Championship (ARL TC), unpredictability comes as standard. Who would spring a surprise in the Spanish sun?

Race 1

During the closest qualifying session of the season, Ross Macfarlane edged Oscar Mangan for pole position by one thousandth of a second. In twenty-third overall was Mark Johnston, the fastest AM class contender.

Macfarlane motored off the line and led down the endless pit straight to turn one. Mangan, however, bogged down his Audi and was swarmed by Matthew Turnbull and George Simmons.

Pure Sims stablemates – Macfarlane and Turnbull – led the field into lap two whilst their team boss, Ash Sutton, hit problems. An errant Wojciech Swirydowicz swerved across the nose of Sutton and sparked a chain reaction that wiped out several drivers. Embarrassingly, Swirydowicz’s team principal, Alex Simpson, was one of the victims from the Pole’s blunder. One for the annual appraisal perhaps?

Fortunes wouldn’t improve for Sutton either. A string of incidents left the BTCC ace with no points throughout the meeting. The Englishman will hope for better luck at Brands Hatch in a fortnight’s time, when he faces off against Colin Turkington for the BTCC title.

Halfway through the opening contest, the leading trail of Macfarlane, Turnbull, Mangan, Simmons and Cooper appeared worryingly serene. Surely, this couldn’t last. On the penultimate lap, Mangan’s patience ran out. Heading into turn one, the Irishman lunged up the inside of Turnbull and made contact. Both continued but Mangan made it through to second.

With his rivals squabbling behind, Ross Macfarlane scampered to the win at the same circuit where fellow Scotsman, David Coulthard, made his F1 debut.

Hesketh Racing’s Mark Johnston converted AM class pole to victory, two spots ahead of his teammate, Nathan Davies.

Race 2

For the second eleven lap contest of the evening, Morgan Butler started on pole position. Butler would only cling to the lead for a couple of corners before the charging Alex Simpson flew by. Clearly, Simpson was in no mood to be hampered by a similar incident to the race one clash.

Whilst Simpson enjoyed a cruise to victory, the midfield descended into an unrestricted brawl. Wheel to wheel combat is unavoidable in the reverse grid format of the ARL TC series. Nevertheless, race one winner Macfarlane safely negotiated his way through several skirmishes to claim twelfth place.

Pete Newman came home second, only two seconds behind the imperious Simpson. Rounding out the podium, was Pure Sims ace, Michael Evdoka. AM victor, Darius Neidhardt pulverised the competition in his class and finished eighth overall.

Race 3

Race one AM class winner, Mark Johnston, started on pole position for the final contest of the event. Joining the Hesketh Racing star on the front row, was Craig Williams.

Johnston held off the advances of PRO class hot shots – Williams and Simmons – throughout lap one. However, on the second tour, Williams and Simmons ganged up on Johnston and went three wide around Renault curve. This formation persisted to Repsol corner, but Johnston refused to budge. Eventually, George Simmons barged through to the front of the pack. However, the leading group had plenty new members when Simmons, Williams and Johnston finally looked in their mirrors. Most ominously, a stampeding Oscar Mangan.

By lap four, Simmons amassed a sizeable lead by ARL TC standards. However, Mangan finally manoeuvred his way through to second place and began his pursuit of the Apex Racing Team ace.

Mangan eroded Simmons’ lead at a rapid rate and looked odds on to take the lead. Frustratingly, a mistake in the final sector of lap five dropped the Irishman back to fifth.

On the penultimate lap, Simmons lead evaporated once more. On this occasion, Craig Williams and Ross Balfour made up the invading army, desperate to dethrone Simmons. With half a lap remaining and the sun setting on the Catalan tarmac, Balfour pounced on Simmons and pinched the win. To rub salt in Simmons’ wound, Balfour’s move pushed the Apex Racing Team driver back into the clutches of Craig Williams, who promptly stole second place.

Mark Johnston completed his dream day in the Spanish sun with another AM class win.

Round ten of the ARL TC championship takes the digital paddock to Japan and the Twin Ring Motegi. Tune in at 8pm GMT on the 12th of November for live coverage on the iRacing Esports network.

Images by @Groove_Media 

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