This was not to be thanks to a plucky Apex Racing Team performance, who continued to demonstrate improvement and truly take the fight to the series’ top dogs. The stewards were required to step in during the Finals, but a third new winner for the Esports Racing League had been rightfully anointed.
A final stop on the tour of sims was scheduled with Assetto Corza Competizione – the last platform to be raced on before the Summer Cup Masters. Team Redline would go no further than the Quarter-Finals, perhaps the biggest shock of the evening, dropping out alongside R8G Esports and Williams Esports.
Team Fordzilla desperately missed out by only one place in their group. Apex Racing Team was back into the top six once again, however, eyeing up a second consecutive round triumph. They would be joined by Unicorns of Love, enjoying their best run of the Summer Cup.
Recent anticipation regarding a return of the South African Grand Prix prompted a timely appearance for the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. Stepping away from open-wheelers once more, the vehicle of choice this time around was the Porsche GT3 Cup machine.
Apex made the front row for the Semi-Final through the hands of Bastian Richter, albeit not pole position. That honour would go to Michael Tauscher of the Unicorns of Love, though his closest teammate lay seven places away.
Unfortunately, Tobias Pfeffer on this occasion would find himself a lot further away before Barbeque; in a spin and plum last. The GTWRs (an academy team for R8G Esports) had life pretty good off the start, holding third and fourth. Yet, in a rather self-defeating effort, Luke Whitehead pushed his better-placed teammate too hard and opened the door to the YAS Heat of Maciej Malinowski.
The day for Pfeffer and Unicorns of Love proceeded to get worse with three penalty points applied post-race – practically eliminating them on the spot. This was a particularly shocking turn of events given the team’s level of success on Assetto Corsa Competizione in the ERL.
The next point of contention came between Whitehead, still on the backfoot after Malinowski’s overtake, and Dominik Blajer of Triton Racing. The incident through The Esses was initially on Blajer’s shoulders but the melee afterwards was messy and felled Jamie Fluke, dropping the Apex driver to ninth.
The move of the race came on the very last lap from Malinowski as he went side-by-side with the other GTWR of Niklas Houben. The pass lasted from Sunset through to The Esses: a shame there were little stakes for Yas Heat who had only brought two drivers with them to the event.
So, despite winning the race, Tauscher looked rather deflated knowing that the rest of the team hadn’t performed as expected. The combined work between Apex Racing Team and GTWR secured their places as the last two entries left to battle it out.
Finals – Race 1
Richter led Whitehead off the start for the first race of the Finals; GTWR with the better overall grid positions thanks to an Apex back row. The pole sitter would not last for long, Whitehead reacting faster and swooping around the outside of Crowthorne to claim the lead.
The unsung hero was Andrea Capoccia, moving down the inside of Richter from third position only to lose out to Houbenm, a sacrifice benefitting the entire team.
Status quo ensued from this point on as GTWR looked incredibly comfortable for the remaining seven minutes. The only major talking point would be a potentially calculated error by Richter who went wide through Cheetah, thus gaining pole position for the second race.
Finals – Race 2
Rather extraordinarily, before Race 2 had even begun, a lapse of concentration by Fluke opened up a multiple-second gap to the rest of the pack. This was disastrous leaving only Gaël Valero to attack GTWR from behind. Throughout the first lap, Whitehead was shuffled up to second position, primed to attack Richter.
The barricades fell just half a lap on into Leeukop; Whitehead went into the lead with Houben following the Englishman through. Whitehead himself would then make a mistake into Crowthorne, going deep and falling to fifth. Richter had to play the team game, moving to an ultra-defensive posture, effectively conceding victory to Houben who scurried up the road.
Arguably, Apex were their own worst enemies as chances on the final lap came and went. First was Valero’s unwillingness to let Fluke by now that the Northern Irishman had fully caught up.
Then came contact through Cheetah as Whitehead was left facing the wrong way. It ultimately didn’t matter thanks to Capoccia finishing third nonetheless and another new winner had been found.
They may not have been the fastest team on the day, but GTWR had been the smartest.
Images courtesy of VCO