Apex deny Redline iRacing juggernaut in VCO ERL Summer Cup
The second round of the Virtual Competition Organisation’s Summer Cup took place on iRacing, and has been won by Apex Racing Team ahead of Team Redline.
It certainly isn’t a bad time to be a Team Redline fan, is it?
Okay, we realise that it’s arguably never a bad time to be a Team Redline fan but no one can argue that 2022 hasn’t been particularly fruitful for one of sim racing’s most established organisations. The good times have rolled into the Esports Racing League where, as of the first round of the Summer Cup, four victories were well-earned with only Unicorns of Love able to break the form book.
One of the ERL’s features is its flexibility of platform use. Round 1 of the Summer Cup was held on rFactor 2 and Round 2 would take the teams to Road America on iRacing. This, in theory, suited Redline down to a tee; iRacing was its bread and butter evidenced by Max Verstappen’s endorsement of voting in the BMW Sim Bash last month.
The platform did not suit many others, however, with R8G Esports a prime example – going from finalists two weeks ago to not even reaching the Quarter-Finals stage this time around. The aforementioned Unicorns of Love found itself in a similar situation with other notable names such as Veloce Esports, Williams Esports and Fordzilla falling before the Semi-Final got underway.
The Dallara IR18 IndyCar added to the fresh look of Round 2 moving firmly away from the touring cars of Round 1. Apex Racing Team looked good in the tin-top machinery but around Elkhart Lake’s racing track the trio of Jamie Fluke, Peter Berryman and Yohan Harth were a welcome surprise in the competitive order.
Pole position and a second-row lockout respectively were the team’s qualifying result, bettering the other teams including Redline’s Enzo Bonito, who would at least grab second on the grid.
Bizarre scenes emerged immediately as, despite the start following rolling orders, Harth found his way onto the grass. Stymieing his potential to defend properly, Chris Lulham gobbled up fourth position with eagerness. Fluke, meanwhile, also found himself under threat but this was from teammate Berryman whose strong launch saw him into the early lead.
Truth be told, despite some midfield mayhem, that was it for jostling within the top six. Apex Racing Team and Team Redline knew that their strong placements would guarantee their spots in the finals and so it was. Berryman crossed the line to win, Fluke his rear gunner keeping Bonito in check.
Finals – Race 1
Now in a straight shootout scenario, Redline roared back into life with a much more complete qualifying performance for the first Finals duel. The trio of Bonito, Lulham and Jeffrey Rietveld had created a threatening divide between pole-sitter Fluke and the rest of his stable.
The communication from Fluke as he punched it was flawless. Both Berryman and Harth visibly got the jump on Lulham and Rietveld although the only change of position would be between the two Apex machines thanks to Berryman tangling with Lulham. With Peter heading to the pits, this left Luke on his own requiring either misfortune to befall one of the Redline cars, an overtake of his own volition or both instances.
It would end up being the middle option on the penultimate lap down the Moraine Sweep into Turn 5. Utlising Push-To-Pass, Harth lunged down the inside of an unsuspecting Rietveld who was caught on the outside of Turn 6. A mistake on the final lap, through that same corner, put Harth under heavy pressure towards the end. Lulham dropped back in an effort to aid Rietveld but the Dutchman clashed with his opponent, went wide into the gravel at Canada Corner and cemented the point going Apex Racing Team’s way.
Fluke deserved massive praise for controlling the race as well as he did; a big victory for a big occasion.
Finals – Race 2
Harth’s heroics had not simply earned his team the first point of the Finals, but reverse grid pole position for Race 2. The contest was beautifully poised as one of each team sat on each row. Harth, Bonito and Berryman were the best of their pairing with the latter two gaining one place by Turn 1. Berryman would get crossed up into Turn 3 thus relinquishing his good work, yet Rietveld would make a mistake himself resetting the play.
All this meant for the bigger picture was that fifth and sixth place were too far behind to make any further impact for now. Lulham had to go for the lead and did so on the second lap with no success. By the fourth lap, a decision was made to switch Redline drivers; Bonito now chasing down Harth. This left Lulham in the unenviable position of fending off a flying Fluke, a task which ended in tears thanks to contact spinning Fluke through the Bell Mitchell Bend.
More drama unfurled on the final lap as, in an effort to steal the point away from Apex, Bonito changed his line into Turn 5 far too late. The Italian clattered into the back of Harth who hit the wall hard, leaving Lulham – who himself was under investigation – to fly through and take the win on track.
Apex never wanted their first series victory to be decided in the stewards’ room but in such obvious circumstances there was only one way the official results were going to fall for Race 2. Penalty points were dolled out and Apex Racing Team became only the third different team to win in the Esports Racing League.