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Woods waltzes to Spa victory!

Apex Racing League iRacing Prototype Championship

With just two rounds remaining, the Apex Racing League’s fledgling prototype championship now builds towards a dramatic crescendo. After a tightly contested encounter at Le Mans, drivers across all four classes prepare for a fresh challenge at the revered Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.

iRacing’s brutally strict stewards are particularly vigilant on track limits violations at Spa. Any breach of the circuit’s confines would guarantee a qualifying lap being invalidated. Therefore, precision during qualifying hot laps would be handsomely rewarded.

Porsche 919 LMP1 ace, Lennart Rahrt, continued his qualifying superiority to claim overall pole position. Narrowly missing out on pole was Audi man, Ismail Yakabu. LMP1 AM class championship leader Mateusz Drozda wouldn’t give an inch to his rivals and led the LMP1 AM class to the green flag.

Former runaway P2 PRO leader, Michele Costantini, was absent for yet another week. Seizing the opportunity, new championship leader Jakub Wyderka sped to pole position. In the P2 AM ranks, Tim Perry outpaced his rivals by a demoralising eight tenths of a second.

The Race

Gathered behind the iRacing pace truck at Blanchimont, the ARL Prototype field wouldn’t enjoy the luxury of a full pace lap to generate vital heat in brakes and tyres. Patience would be key at the start of this sixty-minute sprint.

Once released, the LMP1 hybrid pack unleased their 1000 horsepower powerplants on the dash to La Source. A rare spin from PRO championship leader Alex Salmon at the tight hairpin dropped the Audi star to the back of the P1 pack. Meanwhile, at the front, Lewis Woods promptly sped to the front and began to open a gap on Lennart Rahrt.

Second place qualifier, Ismail Yakubu, soon made his way past Rahrt’s Porsche in the opening ten minutes. On first impressions, the pace of the Audi R18 TDI e-tron drivers appeared too hot to handle for Rahrt and his Porsche 919 Hybrid.

Keen to settle the score after a late Le Mans disappointment, Lewis Woods stretched a three second advantage over Yakubu at the pit stops. A lead which the Scotsman maintained into the second stint. Up until the final ten minutes, Woods appeared to have the win secure. However, a stunning late race charge from Yakubu placed Woods back under the cosh once more. Unperturbed, Woods fended off Yakubu’s attack to claim victory and climb back into championship contention.

Alex Salmon recovered from a lap one spin and overcame a titanic tussle with Lennart Rahrt to clinch the final spot on the podium.

In LMP1 AM, Lochie Brown fended off stiff opposition from Mateusz Drozda throughout the race to claim class honours.

Jakub Wyderka converted his P2 PRO class pole position and constructed an advantage over Matteo Graziano and Daniel Bucher in the opening stint. After the pit stop, Wyderka continued his flawless drive, completing a lights to flag victory.

P2 AM class polesitter Tim Perry’s blistering qualifying pace yielded little reward. Arriving on the scene at the Jacky Ickx left hander, a roadblock of P2 PRO backmarkers left Perry with nowhere to go. Jonathan Keen picked up the mantle from the wounded Perry to lead for a handful of laps. However, a tap from behind from a following driver sent Keen hard into the wall and out of the running.

Jonathan Marechal and Jaxon Bell proceeded to duel for the lead for a handful of laps. However, a mistake from Marechal at Bruxelles sent the Frenchman into the gravel, handing the lead to Bell just before the pit stops. In another fascinating twist during the pit cycle, Jaxon Bell dropped away from the class lead. And who to take his place? The miraculous Jonathan Marechal!

Once back into the lead, Marechal wouldn’t relinquish his advantage and charged on to P2 AM class victory.

Post race driver quotes

Following the action, several of the ARL Prototype drivers joined the Apex Racing TV broadcast team to share their thoughts:

Lewis Woods: “It was quite easy from the start. Lennart was about 15 KPH slower than me on the straight”

Alex Salmon: “That was fun! I don’t like ending up at the back at turn one, but it was fun coming through the pack.”

Tim Perry: “This race was crazy. I qualified really well but I ended up right at the back at the end of lap one. It was a fun race in the end working through the traffic. This car and track combination is absolutely brilliant.”

On the 19th of March, the Apex Racing League Prototype Championship’s inaugural season reaches its conclusion at Sebring International Raceway. Known as the home of American sports car racing, the season is not one to be missed. Tune in to Apex Racing TV at 8pm GMT to catch all the action.

 

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Photos by Kevin Zhao

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