Season 3 of the V10 R-League has flown along at quite a pace. In Week 4 of the Group Stage, four teams were officially ruled out of contention for a place in the Abu Dhabi-based Finals. Just seven days later, Yas Heat and Team Redline confirmed their attendance of the event.
Redline went head-to-head with the equally strong Mercedes AMG-Petronas Esports culminating in the first and only draw of the season. Yas Heat, on the other hand, found their going much easier, performing a full sweep over BMW SIM Racing – last year’s champions.
The results of the final week set up two Wildcard matches. Those victorious in both would join Yas Heat and Redline to form the final four outfits left in the competition. R8G Esports, having secured second in Group A, would face an Aston Martin squad in searing form.
On the other side of the bracket, the aforementioned Mercedes would enter a Formula 1 derby of sorts against Williams Esports.
R8G Esports vs. Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Esports Team
The track picks and bans were first up on the docket before the first race could get underway. The team owned by Romain Grosjean were savvy in taking Spa-Francorchamps off the table, a circuit on which their opponents had found plenty of success on.
A relatively rare outing for Yas Marina Circuit was eventually locked in by the Aston Martin trio whilst Silverstone would be R8G’s home venue for the day.
As expected, Manuel Biancolilla was up for the first stint in the Silverstone Sprint and his launch propelled him into an early lead. That didn’t last too long thanks to some brave braking from Jiri Toman into Village.
Unexpectedly, Biancolilla matched Toman’s call to pit at the end of the first lap; the Italian usually completing the joker lap in Sprints. The job, on this occasion, fell to Simon Weigang.
His two laps were not close to Marcell Csincsik’s lap times and thus Erhan Jajovski had plenty of wiggle room to bring the car home for an important first point on the board.
The first Relay Race was finely poised. Csincsik sat on pole position but his two teammates occupied the back row of the grid. Toman’s launch was lightning, placing him in podium contention immediately.
Contact at Abbey aided the R8G cause with Alejandro Sánchez caught in between Weigang and the optimistic Czech and sent for a spin. The order would remain the same until the chequered flag flew meaning that Aston Martin now needed to win both of the next races to force a tiebreaker scenario.
Yas Marina’s Sprint was over before it really started. Biancolilla and Toman led the way once more but locked wheels after navigating Turn 1. The R8G machine was, by far, the worse off and the time lost was never recovered. What they did end up recovering was control of the series.
Toman was spun out early yet again in the Relay but Biancolilla was also tripped up by an eager Csincsik. Controversially, no penalty came the way of the new race leader and rather forced the hand of Biancolilla on the penultimate lap.
To break through the second-placed rear gunner of Jajovski, the Italian was far too late into Turn 6 and ended up impeding his own teammates through a half spin.
R8G Esports progresses to the Semi-Finals then with a 3-1 victory, their next foes the mighty Team Redline.
Mercedes AMG-Petronas Esports vs. Williams Esports
After Aston Martin banned it in the first playoff, Monza was off the cards once again as Mercedes prepared for their duel against Williams. Both picks were to be expected – the Silver Arrows going with Silverstone whilst Mugello was the pick of the Blue ‘W’.
Williams were perhaps the most unfancied outfit heading into the Wildcard stage but Michael Romanidis performed admirably to defend early on against Jarno Opmeer. Helped by a rare instance of lag for the Dutchman, Mercedes would remain behind until Lap 3.
There, Bono Huis would find a rather pedestrian overtake on Shanaka Clay into Brooklands and continue to extend his advantage through the joker lap. Bad news arrived post-race, however, as the switchover to Huis was deemed to be too fast and therefore punishable by a time penalty.
Cedric Thomé led a top-three lockout for Mercedes in qualifying for the Sprint, although third-placed Opmeer was struggling to breathe thanks to a tri-factor Williams assault from the get-go. Sadly, the fantastic teamwork on show was for nothing thanks to a hotly debated piece of driving from Jarno.
Whether a pure mistake or something akin to a professional foul, the incident saw the Dutchman hit the inside wall before Copse. His car then clipped Clay, forcing Romanidis into avoiding action and ultimately a spin of his own. For Thomé and Huis, it was a walk in the park to the race win.
Mugello’s Relay was far better handled by the Mercedes drivers. Their start, pitstops and laps were clinical. Williams, therefore, had to win with a 1-2-3 finish in the Sprint to claim the last place available in the Finals.
It wasn’t to be. Despite a very naughty piece of driving from Thomé through San Donato on Lap 1, effectively ruling Romanidis out of podium contention, Huis won the contest cleanly.
This has not been the first time that the team has been under the microscope for their on-track actions and they may well arrive at the LAN Finals as pantomime villains of the piece.
Yas Heat will be hoping to best them in the Semi-Finals.