The time for Masters action had come around once again for the VCO Esports Racing League as teams vyed for all-important points to make the 2023 World Cup in Hamburg. As far as splits go, the Fall Cup was one of the most exciting to date with three different winners.
Of those, Team Redline was still the most successful having made all three finals but only in rFactor 2 were they able to convert come the Finals.
Team Redline’s crown in iRacing had seemingly been taken away by Apex Racing Team who had beaten them on the platform for the second time in 2022. Strangely then, heading to the Hockenheimring and back to said platform, it appeared that Apex were the favourites for the Masters event.
They lived up to this billing beating BS+ Competition twice to face Triton Racing in the Semi-Finals. Redline also had a strong showing, taking down Leo Racing X Ballas and Veloce Esports en route.
Their opponents would be fierce rivals R8G Esports who had taken down Unicorns of Love; multiple event winners in their own right.
Semi-Finals – Team Redline vs. R8G Esports
The grid represented a vertical take on the ‘Noah’s Ark’ analogy as R8G lined up on the left side on the grid whilst Redline held the right; Przemyslaw Marek Lemenak earning pole position in his iR-04. Enzo Bonito was worst off the line handing the advantage to R8G as the Italian slipped back to last place.
Chris Lulham did not care a jot. The man who had qualified plum last put together a storming first lap, threading his way up to the race lead by Sachs corner. Lemenak, meanwhile, was heading the other way. His relevancy was killed off after a failed attempt to retake fourth from Patrick Holzmann on Lap 3.
All hopes of R8G progressing now lay with Valentin Mandernach who had hounded Lulham following his assertion of dominance. Despite throwing everything at the Brit, he simply would not yield. His defensive heroics sent Team Redline to their fourth consecutive Fall Cup final.
Semi-Finals – Triton Racing vs. Apex Racing Team
On the face of it, the second Semi-Final appeared a lot less competitive following a Qualifying stomp from ART. Pole sitter Peter Berryman checked out early doors but only because of how strong Dominik Blajer’s challenge to his teammates was. The Polish driver made short work of Yohann Harth although Jamie Fluke proved stiffer competition.
Triton’s strength-in-depth eventually escorted Harth down to last leaving Fluke a very isolated rear gunner up against three pilots hungry for a first finals appearance. Unfortunately for the underdogs, Harth’s demotion was completed following a bruising move by Jerzy Glac; a move deemed worth of a penalty point.
This all but secured Apex’s date with Redline.
Finals – Race 1
Berryman’s speed around this German circuit was electric. Following his trouncing of those behind in the Semi-Finals, he would take another pole position for the Finals’ first race. This time around, however, there were only enemy vehicles surrounding his grid spot.
Bonito one-upped his poor Semi-Final getaway by delivering a false start off the line; immediately removing one problem for Apex to deal with. This scenario effectively forced Redline into a win or lose exercise which Holzmann was more than ready to take on. The German wrestled the lead away from Berryman out of the Hairpin.
A failed move for Berryman on Lap 3 ended up in a four-wide braking contest into the Hairpin. Out came Fluke in the lead followed by Lulham who snapped up first place for himself through Mercedes. Despite Bonito’s eventual disqualification, things were looking rosy for Redline heading onto the final lap.
Then came the hammer blow as Holzmann was removed from the race for reaching iRacing’s incident limit. Thus, in spite of Lulham taking the chequered flag first, Apex took the point by virtue of keeping it clean.
Finals – Race 2
Of course, the fallout of this result was perfect for Apex Racing Team. All three of their team occupied the top three grid positions for Race 2. Their launch could not have gone any better either. Berryman and Fluke were undisturbed up front whilst Harth defended for his life forcing Lulham into an early lock-up.
The Frenchman channeled his inner Yas Marina-style Sergio Pérez, holding all three Redline drivers at bay for a full lap and a half. By the time his barricade had been overrun, his teammates were over two and a half seconds down the road. Given how closely matched all six drivers were on race pace, there was simply no overhauling that gap in such a short sprint.
It might have been boring viewing in the end, but Harth had won his team the Fall Cup Masters with a tactical masterclass.
Images: VCO Esports