For the final time in 2019, the Chazlington Touring Car Championship geared up to provide a night of entertaining racing, and Summit Point was the venue. The Short layout was to be used, and most drivers went into the meeting with a good knowledge of the track and its quirks, due to it being a free circuit, and quite frequently on the calendar in Official iRacing Rookie Series races.
The Championship would see three debutants on the night - Richard Gafencu of KC Racing eSports, Ant Woodward of Never Quit Racing, and Jack McIntyre from VRacer. These arrivals really showed the increased level of competition that Season 2 had brought upon itself, and the class of teams that were being enticed to come and give it a go.
Michael Evdoka started off his Qualifying session in a strong way, by topping the timing sheets early on. Pete Harrod was close behind until the end, and would eventually line up 3rd on the grid. Mark Fletcher had been shining since his debut at Lime Rock, and managed to grab his first pole position of the season in the Radicals Online MOATF Fiesta. The little Ford was yet to win a race this season, with Subaru and Volkswagen taking three wins each so far.
Off the start, Evdoka got a good launch and tried to make it around the outside of Fletcher into turn one, but it didn't quite work, and he slotted back into place. Behind, Jesper Lindh had missed his braking point in traffic and hit the back of Dan McAuley, who then collected Ben Gregory. Matt Bunn and John Roberts got caught up in the mayhem as well, dropping to the back of the pack, while the former retired on the spot.
The incident had split the field quite considerably - the Top 8 broke away, while Anthony Woodward lead the rest of the field. John Roberts would pull over and retire only a few corners later. While Fletcher and Evdoka started to pull away, Harald Stadler made a mistake at Turn 1, running wide on to the grass, allowing Lewis Bibby to make a move, and after some door-banging, the Austrian was demoted to 5th place.
He would try to re-take Bibby at the same corner on Lap 3, but made a mistake again, running wide and this time losing a spot to Jack McIntyre, who was showing good pace on his debut - as was Richard Gafencu, just behind him. Jesper Lindh's torrid race continued as he lost it in Turn 1 as well, just tapping the back of Niall Crowther. He would lose three places as a result.
Evdoka took the lead after setting up a beautiful switch-back maneuver on Fletcher coming out of the first sector, and outbraking his rival into the slow left hander. He would keep his lead through the pit stops, but yet another clever strategy and some fast laps put championship leader Ben Palmer into 2nd place with a few laps to go. Gafencu had gained a couple of spots in the pit window as well, but had to give them up due to a speeding penalty that he'd picked up, putting pay to a good result.
Dan McAuley and Steve Burke had managed to climb back into the Top 10, at the expense of Ant Woodward whose striking pink and gold Fiesta had lost a bit of time in the pits. Ashley Blake-Hood maintained great pace to stay in 8th until the end. Jake Robertson had missed the start of the race due to a technical issue, but got on track and managed to finish in 16th place, just outside the points, but with the possibility of a good starting positiong for Race 2.
At the front though, it was a fantastic chase by Ben Palmer, putting consistent pressure on race leader Evdoka, and showing great respect to make sure he didn't make contact. Michael would keep the lead until the flag though, and become the most winningest driver so far this season, with three triumphs to his name. Fletcher would guarantee that he hadn't qualified or finished outside the Top 3 so far with 3rd place, while Lewis Bibby and Pete Harrod rounded out the Top 5, ahead of Stadler.
The reverse grid being drawn at 16 was perfect for Jake Robertson - after missing Race 1 he had chance for redemption with pole position. He would line up alongside Robert Lundgren in the BoosTED Motorsport Impreza, with Billy Rose and Ben Gregory behind. Race 2 would not see Matt Bunn, Ashley Blake-Hood or Jesper Lindh take the start due to differing reasons.
Robertson's trouble-filled evening continued - the car being stuck in Neutral as the lights went out - Billy Rose taking very quick avoiding action down to Turn 1. Dan McAuley had an issue as the field bunched up in the braking zone, and the CQR Club Subaru became a bulldozer, sending Ant Woodward and Niall Crowther's Fiestas on to their roofs. Billy Rose ended up being flipped over while the field recuperated, then a couple of corners later, McIntyre and Gregory came to strife - the former rejoining into the path of Niall Crowther - both being launched in the air by the massive impact.
Another chaotic start had torn a hole through the field, with the two Subarus of Lundgren and Robertson running away - Stadler had made it up to 3rd, gaining eight places in half a lap thanks to the melee, with Burke, Bibby and Palmer right behind. McAuley had a slow-down penalty from the Turn 1 crash, and had dropped down to 8th, just ahead of teammate Harrod.
With Harald breaking away to chase the leading duo, Steve Burke's defensive driving would be put to the test for the 2nd week running - Ben Palmer being the first to launch an attack. Just ahead though, contact between the leaders but the both on the grass - Stadler prevailed, and Steve missed his braking point in the all the confusion, and dropped three places to Palmer, Bibby and Fletcher. Lundgren would recover to 8th, while Robertson somehow managed to keep 2nd.
Richard Gafencu got caught up in the first corner accident, and found himself fighting back up the order, soon gaining 10th from John Roberts into Turn 1. Evdoka had been held up as well, and was soon on the Maltese driver's tail as he tried to make the race an exercise in damage limitation to his championship. It would never be that easy though, as contact with Lundgren put Evdoka right into the path of John Roberts - the pair of them facing the wrong way out of the last corner.
The pressure was mounting on Stadler at the front - Robertson tucked right under his rear wing, with Palmer inches behind. Just before the five minute mark, Palmer dived into the pits to make sure he lost as little time as possible in the traffic. Stadler did the same the next time by, as he was having to defend hard. This left Jake out in front with Bibby, Fletcher, Burke and Harrod in tow.
As the Austrian driver emerged from the pits, the championship leader came flying past down the straight to confirm that the strategy had worked again. As the rest of the cars fulfilled their mandatory stops, it became apparent that Palmer was on for another win - this was made even clearer when Jake Robertson went too hot on pit entry - David Coulthard style - and hit the end of the pit wall. He would drop down the order and end up 13th, only getting 3 championship points.
Sure enough it was the #2 CQR Club Subaru Impreza that took the chequered flag, and 25 championship points for his trouble. Mark Fletcher continued his brilliant form with 2nd place, after also jumping Stadler in the pits. Harald would finish 3rd though - a strong result after such a tough round. A great tussle behind saw Bibby sandwiched between the two Subarus of Harrod and McAuley, with Burke, Gafencu, Evdoka and Woodward rounding out the Top 10.
Ben Palmer had now extended his championship lead to 37 points over Pete Harrod, with Evdoka a further 8 points back. Stadler overtook McAuley for 4th, with a 9 point cushion, while Mark Fletcher stormed up to 7th in the standings after only two race meetings. Texense FitzSty Motorsport had also built up their points lead over CQR Club in the teams' championship, with the other positions staying as they were.
Now as the championship breaks for Christmas and the New Year, the drivers and teams have plenty of opportunities to practice for the next meeting at Barber Motorsports Park - it proved to be a great venue for these cars in Season 1, so hopefully we see the same again. Make sure you watch live on January the 6th 2020!