ARL - GT Championship S2/R2 - Catalunya
Barcelona was the site for the ARLGT drivers this week; the brilliant Circuit de Catalunya the venue for races 3 and 4 of the young season. It was the Historic layout that faced the teams this weekend, with the mickey mouse final chicane and slower last sector replaced with the challenging, fun and fearsome last two corners used for the Spanish Grand Prix in the 90s and early 2000s.
Coming off the first race meeting, it was clear the EvoSR’s Tom McMahon was going to be a force in this championship, but when he claimed pole for the 25-minute Sprint Race in Spain by 0.35 seconds, he may even have been a bit surprised. The rest of the field surely were.
Nick Madsen was on great form in qualifying and underlined his natural speed with a front row start, with Silverstone Pole man Tahj Edwards in 3rd ahead of the consistently good Maik Wiesekopsieker. Matty Chambers once again impressed by heading the AM category in 6th.
To the start – all was pretty clean and respectful up front – it wasn’t a good start for Chambers however, plummeting to 15th on the opening lap, while Jentsen Adriaenssens (off into the gravel) and Jon Derrick (assisted into the gravel) also suffered early on.
Steven Brumfield was not having a banner day as he did in race 2 at Silverstone, going off and spinning while avoiding a spinning Porsche at Turn 10, a corner which was being used in it’s older form and was proving quite tricky for the drivers and their GTE machinery.
McMahon left everyone trailing in his wake, taking his second win of the season in only it’s third race – however the battle for 2nd was a great one, with Madsen being tracked every step of the way by Edwards and Wiesekopsieker. The Dane held on however, with Edwards taking his second podium after securing P2 in Race 1 last week.
Racing of course is sometimes about luck – something which the reverse grid wheel often likes to remind us. Number 14 was the result, giving Stevens pole position for the 40-minute Feature Race ahead of reigning AM Champion Bob Humphrey, Wolf, Garzotto, Salt and Daniel Lee rounding out the top five starters.
Race Two started very weel for Bob Humphrey, getting past his EvoSR Green team-mate into Turn 4, with Wolf and Garzotto battling fiercely for most of the opening lap. McMahon was the big danger here of course, but starting in 14th place meant there was a lot of work for the Race One winner to do, and he set about his task with urgency and diligence, dispatching three cars on the opening lap including Wiesekopsieker and Edwards, two of the main championship contenders. Daniel Lee and Dallas Pataska relegated Garzotto down to 7th, while James Salt’s excellent start put him up into 4th after just two laps.
Two EvoSR cars collided at Turn 1, dropping them way down the order and bringing a couple of drivers along for the ride with them.
Daniel Lee was on a major charge; getting up to 2nd place after just 7 minutes by passing Max Wolf down the main straight. Just moments after, 5 cars were involved at Turn 5 ironically, when two converging lines taken by Powell and Holman sent them spinning, with cars scattering as they desperately tried to make it through the chaos. Kittelmann and Becker however, weren’t some of the lucky ones.
Ipenburg had made his way up to 7th, however was now missing the front of his BMW M8, giving the impression that it was some kind of great mouth; a chasm into which GTE cars would be sucked into with little or no chance to escape. Unfortunately it was also hungry for drag, as the Dutchman’s straight-line speed was severely compromised for the rest of the race where he could only manage 13th.
Lap 9 (14 mins) and Lee has caught Humphrey, impressively at that. He looks for a way past, just teasing the Ferrari out of the slipstream in some braking areas, trying to unsettle Humphrey and take the lead. There is also motivation to take action quickly, as McMahon has inexorably made progress up to P4. Lee knows what he has to do, and Humphrey also knows that he cannot lose much time defending either.
After a couple of laps the tension has built and something has to give. Lap 13 is where it all comes to a head. Lee dives up the inside into Turn 5, however he was so far back he was never going to ake the corner, and around both of them went. McMahon must have felt like Vince McMahon himself as he strutted past, both Lee and Humphrey now having ‘no chance’ to beat him.
James Salt was up into 2nd but he was taken by Wiesekopsieker, a move which left the German actually leading the championship after four races. His consistent and rapid performances make him an extremely credible threat indeed.
Daniel Lee wasn’t done however, as he brilliantly recovered to 3rd including a fantastic pass around the outside of Salt into Turn 1 with just 4 minutes to go. If he can curb some of his more erratic tendencies, we will have a title contender on our hands.
4th to 9th were nose to tail at the end, just 1.8 seconds separating them – reaffirming how competitive and hard-fought this championship will be,
It was the double for Tom McMahon however, showing his great speed and precision once more. Max Wolf’s impressive campaign continued with 5th, while Garzotto’s 7th showed that he could be a dark horse if he keeps up this great finishing record.
The series heads down under in two weeks’ time to Phillip Island, a very technical track which will test every aspect of car setup and driver skill. Join us then!
Screenshots provided by James Salt