ARL - GT Championship S1/R1 - Watkins Glen
Round 1 of the ARL GT Championship season 1 took place at one of the most famous Northern American tracks, Watkins Glen.
A 4 lap Qualifying saw very close results amongst the top 7 drivers, all of which being within half a second of each other. With qualifying over, we saw Djawad take the first spot on the grid with Sai Andra very close behind in 2nd to complete the front row.
Eneric Andre in 3rd place gives us a Satellite Racing 1-2-3, with Aaron Powell for EvoSR Green in 4th, and a good qualifying lap for Tahj Edwards saw him round out the top 5 just ahead of Nick Rowland.
With Djawad leading the 30 car pack down the front stretch, some early confusion would see Nick Rowland go into Edwards which would in turn cause a massive pileup down the narrow front S/F straight, leaving many drivers with damage and drivers, Jonathan Kerns, Kevin Kittelmann, John Gordon and Tahj Edwards in the pits after a devastating first lap incident.
The lap 1 incident had allowed the top 6 drivers to make an early breakaway from the rest of the drivers. This allowed the Satellite Racing drivers to work together to break away from everyone else.
Throughout the race, the top 6 cars seemed to stay very passive with only one lead swap which would put Eneric Andre in the lead on lap 4. Further back the grid was very spread out for the majority of the 25 minute race, on lap 7 a mistake from Joseph Saul saw him into the wall, Saul was not slow to react, though, as he got the car back into the pits and got back out onto the track to finish his race.
Leader of the AM category, Brandon Warren of Satellite Racing had a huge gap to the next AM on the track, the BMW if Christophe Adriano. Brandon managing to avoid the first lap drama and Adriano unfortunately getting slight damage from it.
In the middle part of the race, we would see an unfortunate incident for Djawad, slightly missing his braking point and in order to not hit his teammate, taking the car off of the track and pushing him down to 8th place.
The end of the very first race of the season, the last lap held an incredible battle for 2nd place between Tom McMahon and Sai Andra, the finish line would see the end to an incredible drive from the Satellite Racing boys, with them making 1-2 in the pro class, shortly followed by Tom McMahon of EvoSR, and then Karoni from Satellite racing in 4th. For the AM class, we would see Brandon Warren from Satellite racing take first with Bob Humphrey 9 seconds down the road and Jesse Payne-Wilkins to round out the podium for the AM class.
The on stream wheel spin landed on -8! This would see AM driver Tom Stevens on pole, and John Tresidder for SERVO on his left hand side. With the first Pro class driver, Derick Holland starting in 4th. The drivers all made a very clean getaway from the line, but further on in the lap trying to avoid a sideways car, Dennis Ipenburg would take to the grass.
Some drama on the Outer Loop would cause two Satellite Racing drivers massive damage, also leaving Jeffrey Garzotta for Gold Racing Team Blue in the barrier.
After lap one, the top 5 would see Damien Harris replace Derick Holland as the only Pro driver there. With the Pro drivers trying to make their way back through the reverse grid, we would see Paul Smith and Derick Holland make contact; pushing Paul all the way back 16 positions to 23rd place. Lap 3 would have an off for Tahj Edwards as he gets a slight bump from behind from Paulo Preto, putting Tahj in 20th position.
Throughout the rest of Lap 3, we could see the gap really widen between the 2nd place car of Bob Humphrey and the 3rd place car of Jesse Payne-Wilkins, this would allow the two AM drivers upfront to have some clean air and make a getaway.
Over the next few laps, we would see the rapid Djawad Karoni make his way up through the cars ahead of him putting him in 3rd by lap 6, by lap 7 we would see Djawad reel in Bob Humphrey with Aaron Powell tagging along, midway through lap 8 Djawad had brought himself and Aaron Powell up to P1 and P2. Slowly throughout the race Sai Andra would catch Damien Harris on track, and on Lap 9 taking that position, putting the Satellite Racing team in for another very good team finish in the Pro class.
The battle between Tom Stevens and Bob Humphrey for pole in the AM class would remain prominent, but their battle for 3rd on track would soon end as Sai Andre puts in two swift moves to take that 3rd place. Unfortunately on Lap 14 we would see a misunderstanding between two drivers, Eneric Andre and Dennis Ipenburg and cause contact, putting Ipenburg into the wall of chute corner and rebounding back into the track into Jess Payne-Wilkins, in turn, two more drivers, Pro Tahj Edwards and AM Kev Copeland would lose out.
An incredible drive from Djawad Karoni would allow him to cross the line in P1 with team mate Sai Andre in 3rd and Aaron Powell in 2nd. For the AM class, a very tense last few laps for Bob Humphrey would see John Gordon catching ever so slightly, but in the end Humphrey managed to pull off a stunning win.
The drivers would now look to the next round at the famous Road Atlanta!