Apex Sim Racing took the laurels as VCO Esports Racing League revisited iRacing in its Fall Cup event at Fuji International Speedway.
The VCO Esports Racing League continues into its final split of 2022: the Fall Cup. Following on from their Summer Masters dominance, Team Redline was in high spirits heading towards another date with iRacing. Yet, despite their raving success one month ago, the Summer Cup was far from a stomping ground.
Both Apex Racing Team and GTWR claimed victories of their own, with the former coming away as the most impressive. A breakthrough win against Team Redline arrived in a heated duel around iRacing’s Road America and they arguably should have had a second in Assetto Corsa Competizione. Never mind that Unicorns of Love had now gone four complete rounds without a victory themselves.
It all set up quite nicely for the action on September 14th. Approaching the Semi-Final, the Unicorns were one of the big names to drop alongside Veloce, Williams Esports and BS+ Competition. With both Apex Sim Racing and Redline making the cut, many already had their predictions in for another Finals encounter between the two teams.
The championship saw a return to open-wheelers for the first time since the Summer Cup’s iRacing round. The Formula iR-04 was a tough car to extract speed out of, especially around a circuit such as Fuji Speedway.
Apex found themselves right at home, locking out the front row with an in-form Peter Berryman lining up on pole position. With Yohann Harth starting from fifth, they were easily the team in the strongest position off the line.
That position got all the stronger as Harth’s opening corners were strong enough to move him into fourth behind Quentin Vialatte. Jamie Fluke had passed Berryman for the lead and unwittingly forced his teammate into the aggressive overtaking attempts of the R8G nipping at his heels. Vialatte’s overzealousness cost him into the Dunlop Chicane as Harth locked down a timely third position steal.
With Enzo Bonito caught in an accident through Coca-Cola on Lap 2, all eyes darted to Patrick Holzmann and Chris Lulham as the only remaining contenders to take Redline into the Finals.
Not wanting to pick up a penalty that could affect the out-of-sight Fluke and Berryman, Harth was wise to stay conservative in the brutal battle that erupted between Redline and R8G. Holzmann was the first to blink, locking up into 1st Corner and leaving Lulham horribly isolated.
It was a tussle which words cannot do justice by. Lulham was mighty in keeping Vialatte and Valentin Mandernach within arms reach; Holzmann was equally as impressive with a double overtake on Harth and Przemysław Lemanek entering the penultimate lap.
Ultimately, it was contact between Mandernach and Lulham which confirmed Redline’s survival. Yet, there was a growing feeling that Apex looked unstoppable – irrespective of their opponents.
Finals – Race 1
Berryman and Fluke locked out the front row once again for the first race of the Finals. Although the slowest of the trio on the day, Harth once again proved too much pace-wise for all but one of the Redline squad. Lulham was the one tasked to try and shackle the Apex machines but a spirited opening few corners didn’t even leave a dent in their defences.
The lead gap increased to over one-and-a-half seconds while Lulham’s assault continued. Frustratingly for the Brit, even when he had finally passed Fluke down the home straight onto Lap 2, Harth had utilised the slipstream to pick up second himself.
Contact between Fluke and Bonito out of the Dunlop Chicane spelt the end of the race for both pilots. Holzmann was also caught up in the fracas forcing him to settle for fourth, conceding first blood to Apex Racing Team.
Finals – Race 2
Lulham had passed Harth near the end of the first race leaving the Frenchman to have a swing at Holzmann off the line in the second. The German’s intentions were very clear, moving immediately to the inside of the home straight and retaining the lead through Coca-Cola.
Harth was not done at that, telegraphing a bold move around the outside into the Dunlop Chicane. He was not given any room by Holzmann, who introduced him to the surrounding grass, but in doing so Redline’s leading driver had not noticed Lulham attempting to pounce on the opportunity. The two teammates made contact and the resulting damage forced both into retirement.
The rest of the race was academic given Bonito’s inability to now change the result. Much like the Summer Cup iRacing round, Team Redline had become the architects of their downfall but there was no denying how impressive Apex Racing Team looked around Fuji Speedway.
Berryman was inspired, taking a much deserved final win of the evening.
All images courtesy of VCO Esports