ARL - TCR Winter Series 2019/20 R14 Daytona
The first green flag dropped all the way back on the 19th of September 2019 and marked the beginning of a new era for touring car driving on iRacing. A total of 73 drivers participated in the newly re-branded ARLTC, taking over from the BSRTC and leaving behind the KIA Optima in favour of the shiny new Audi RS3 TCR.
The championship has been a truly epic spectacle ever since, and has time and again demonstrated fantastic wheel-to-wheel battles, close racing, crashes and comebacks in equal measure.
This week marked the series finale at the awesome Daytona International Speedway! A fan and drivers favorite alike due to the combination of NASCAR style drafting on the oval section, and crowning our champions with an appropriate fireworks display under the lights!
Qualifying was a classic game of cat and mouse with the lead cars suffering badly without a tow around the 2.5 miles of oval section. That meant car positioning was incredibly important, and the cars jostled for real-estate each lap as they each hoped to make the most of the draft
Needless to say Qualifying was close, and just 0.026s separated the top 3 cars! Ross Balfour was able to snatch the pole from a trio of Apex Racing Team championship contenders, with Jack Sedgwick leading Wojciech Swirydowicz & George Simmons to 2nd, 3rd & 4th on the grid.
Tragically the evening had already begun to rule out drivers from the championship fight, with Ash Sutton & David Baker unable to join the session with internet problems, and Daniel Craft sadly forced to miss the final event due to the Detroit round being delayed.
Ross Macfarlane was still in with an outside chance however, and as we got underway in Race 1 he made sure the leaders knew that he was still in the fight! After battling past Jason Cooper on the first lap he pushed up to the lead fight and quickly got his elbows out!
After passing Sedgwick for 4th position he moved to the inside of Balfour at turn 1, but sadly went in a little too deep. With both Simmons and Swirydowicz infront there was nowhere to go. The lead pack shattered, with Balfour dropped to 17th, Woj back to 30th place, but crucially Sedgwick able to avoid the carnage and hold on to 2nd place.
It would be literally impossible for me to describe what happened over the next 10 laps, with each car taking a turn to pass the stripe in any combination of the top 5 positions.
I will therefore just talk about the last lap, by which time Simpson had managed to force his way past Macfarlane and won enough time for Sedgwick to break the tow such that he couldn’t be caught on the final straight.
Behind followed Simpson in 2nd, then Foggie 3rd after Ross backed out of the throttle, perhaps sensing a penalty was hanging over him. Jason Cooper brought his car home for a quiet but deserved 5th place.
Further back luck for Woj saw him losing use of his shifters mid-way through the race. It looked as if he would be forced to retire, but in the nick of time they started to work for just long enough to allow him to shift up into 5th gear. He was able to crawl around the track to just avoid going 2 laps down, and picked up points as the last placed running car.
In the AM category Adam Hedgecock finally showed his pace with the AM pole position, and looked happily in control of the race until the fallout from the crash at the front cost him his lead to Michael Blake.
Blake then held off a BoosTED Motorsport armada as Hedgecock, David Van Broeck and John Roberts worked together to recover the lost time! However, Blake was cruelly denied his AM victory as contact between a recovering Balfour and Jake Blackhall sent Blackhall through the middle of the pack at the international hairpin, and sadly right into the path of Blake.
This left the BoosTED guys to pick up the pieces, with Adam Hedgecock back in the AM lead, but allowing Van Broeck through on the final straight for the AM win, helping boost his own championship chances
Fortunately Blackhall & Blake were both able to finish on the lead lap, and when the reverse-wheel span a “FULL” they were gifted a chance of redemption by lining up on the front row for race 2.
Blackhall wasted no time on the rolling start and leapt off into the race lead on lap 1, however Blake was able to hold onto him and managed to stay within the tow coming up onto the banking for the first time.
Behind them, Pete Newman had managed to squeeze past Richard Warmingham for 3rd place, and their battle meant that for a couple of laps the leaders were able to get comfortable.
By lap 4 Newman and Warmingham had begun working together, and were able to catch Blake who dropped back into 4th place. There was now two battles at the front with the Knight Rider Motorsports pair of Blackhall and Newman working together for the win, and the AM victory contested by Warmingham and Blake.
Things stayed in the status quo until eventually a missed braking by Blake knocked Newman wide, and a fast-moving Ross Balfour slipped between them. Unfortunately on the exit Balfour and Newman tangled and dropped Pete down the pan.
The contact left Blake and Blackhall to fight it out for the win with just a few laps remaining, they drew ever closer until on the lap Blake had made it within touching distance.
Exiting the banking Blake went to the outside but Blackhall covered, then back to the inside and the pair touched! Blake was sent into the wall, and Blackhall scrambled back to the finishing line just in time to beat Balfour to the checkered flag. The stewards will be in touch!
In all the chaos, Richard Warmingham came home for the AM victory and 4th place, just behind Jack Sedgwick who carved his way back through the field to snatch a podium at Blake’s expense, and set himself up with just a 9 point lead over Wojciech Swirydowicz for the drivers championship!
The three title contenders started the final race separated by just a few cars. Foggie 23rd and needing a miracle, Woj 27th needing good luck, and Sedgwick 30th needing to hang on!
Contact at the international hairpin saw Paul Smith eliminated from the running and allowed Sedgwick to immediately take the advantage over Woj. At the 2nd hairpin a check up saw Foggie knocked off to the inside and dropped him immediately to the back of the pack.
More contact at the front of the field as they entered the international hairpin on lap 2 opened up more gaps, as Woj and Sedgwick passed through unscathed and moved through into the top 10.
Woj seemed to get stuck behind Pete Harrod who was working hard to pass Jamie Rushworth and Alex Kneller. The group all somehow survived a scary moment coming onto the banking as they went 4 wide and didn’t all fit! However Harrod did lose a couple of spots.
Meanwhile Sedgwick was on a charge and swiftly made his way up to 2nd place, only for disaster to strike going into T1 as Simon Field misjudged his braking while avoiding an accident and span Sedgwick far off on the outside of the circuit.
Sedgwick was left to watch as Woj passed him for what was now 2nd place, and set off to charge down race leader Michael Blake. He was only able to rejoin the race back in 12th place, and with just 3 laps left the title would surely be going to Wojciech.
There was nothing left that Sedgwick could do as Woj closed down Blake on the final lap, and with a healthy boost from Alex Kneller, Woj picked up the race win and claimed his 6th drivers title!
Looking at the final standings (*unofficial!!!). Woj takes the win ahead of Sedgwick, with Jason Cooper pinching 3rd from Foggie after yet another DNF.
Apex Racing Team win the teams championship after CQR were basically ruled out of the fight due to their connection issues
AM drivers is still pending a stewards enquiry, but the AM teams was won by SmileTime Productions Simmortal Racing who kept BoosTED Motorsport & SimSport at bay despite their bad luck in the final week.