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Newly-updated Lime Rock Park Provides CTCC Thriller

As the Chazlington Touring Car Championship headed to Lime Rock Park, the playing field had been levelled in more than one way - iRacing had updated the Subaru Impreza by raising the centre of gravity and lowering some of its torque, so a number of the drivers at the top of the standings could struggle. On top of this, Lime Rock Park had been recently re-scanned for iRacing, so it was new to most on the grid.

It was the first Volkswagen Beetle Pole Position this season, with Harald Stadler and his teammate Michael Evdoka locking out the front row. Behind them was debutant Mark Fletcher in the Radicals Online Fiesta, and Lewis Bibby. Dan McAuley was the fastest Subaru in 5th with Ben Creanor, Pete Harrod and Ben Palmer behind him.

Around the first couple of corners, McAuley had made it up into fourth place, passing Mark Fletcher into turn one - the latter being very careful into his first corner in the championship. Through turns three and four though, the field bunched up, and Championship Leader Ben Palmer was pitched into a spin after contact with Steve Burke. He would drop to the back, and out of the points.

McAuley picked up a slow down penalty through the chicane, and allowed Ben Creanor up into fifth, while FitzSty Motorsport had a one two three on the go, as Bibby made it up a few spots. Fletcher and Harrod were soon piling the pressure on to Creanor for 4th place, and it wasn't until a mistake into Turn 1 on Lap 4 let the former through. Harrod hit one of the kerbs too hard though, and spun round, dropping down to 13th place.

Evdoka passed Stadler for the lead early on, after the latter went in late on the brakes into the chicane. Harald then pitted as early as Lap 5, to get into some clear air and hopefully jump back into the lead. Fletcher had caught up to Evdoka and Bibby before long, and was pressurising them for a podium spot - a really strong performance on his debut.

Ben Palmer was on a real mission, making a great recovery up to 5th place, as he overtook Ashley Blake-Hood, who was also having a strong performance. Another debutant on the move was Craig MacLeod Evans, who had made it up to 7th from 11th on the grid. After his pit stop though, he would drop down to finish outside the Top 10.

Over the space of one lap, two bizarre incidents took place, dropping key players down the order. John Roberts and Pete Harrod banged wheels at Turn 1, which flipped the CQR Club Subaru over, on to the grass, while down at the chicane, Lewis Bibby and Taylor Lane hit one another while the latter was being lapped. Lewis quickly turned the car round, and only lost one spot, to Mark Fletcher.

After the pit stops, Evdoka retained his lead and kept it on the straight and narrow to take his second victory of the season! Coming to the line, Harald Stadler ran out of fuel - the spluttering Beetle letting Fletcher through to take 2nd place on his debut. Behind them, Ben Palmer overtook his teammate and championship rival Dan McAuley to finish 4th - a great result after facing backwards on Lap 1.


The Reverse grid of 14 would see Craig MacLeod Evans on pole for only his second race in the series, after a disappointing end to Race 1. He would be joined on the front row by John Roberts, with the two DC Racing Fiestas of Draycott and Crowther behind. Race 1 winner Evdoka would start from 13th place.

Off the start, the two DC Racing cars came together slightly, and tapped Steve Burke wide on to the grass, after he managed to sneak his way through. John Roberts took the lead from Evans, who then made a mess of the chicane and dropped down the order. Just behind, Burke went into the back of Bibby under braking, who in turn hit Dan McAuley into a spin. After the dust had settled, Draycott inherited 2nd place, with Pete Harrod in 3rd.

The defensive drive started now - Draycott trying to hold off a snake of cars, which contained multiple championship contenders and usual front-runners - the reverse grid putting him in an unlikely situation. To everyone's surprise, the DC Racing Fiesta stood its ground through some hard resistance, Draycott afterwards said "in Season 1 Niall and I rolled over and let people through at the first opportunity - this season we'll be doing none of that".

Eventually, Harrod made it through and set about chasing down race leader John Roberts, who had built up quite a considerable advantage. It was at this point that Ben Palmer decided to come in, try to get clean air and jump Draycott in the pit stops. Mark Fletcher got through on track to get 3rd place, while light contact between Harrod and Roberts at Turn 1 gave the former 1st place.

Palmer's plan had worked, and he was followed by Steve Burke - both ended up ahead of Draycott as he emerged from the pit lane. As Fletcher continued his great charge to the front, Roberts gave plenty of room to let him by, as he looked at the bigger picture - pursuing a handful of championship points. After his pit stop though, he would assume 8th position, until a mistake from Dan McAuley put them both off track, and sparked a chain reaction between Draycott and Blake-Hood.

Harrod pitted from the lead, while Palmer began to put pressure on Mark Fletcher, after another great climb up the order. Pete kept his lead, and would maintain the gap over the battle behind, until the end. Further back, for 4th, 5th and 6th, Steve Burke came under attack from Texense FitzSty Motorsport teammates Michael Evdoka and Lewis Bibby.

Steve would defend hard, but fair, while a massive show of respect from the chasing pair would see no contact for four laps - Evdoka even showing signs of braking through corners to make sure he didn't tap the bright yellow, Team Lizard Motorsport Fiesta into a spin. Two laps from the end, Fletcher made a mistake into the chicane - as he did in Race 1, and Palmer sneaked through to take 2nd.

Pete Harrod drove a solid final few laps and took his first win of the season - a great reward after coming so close a week ago, and enduring a tough first race this time round. Palmer would make it a CQR Club one-two, while Fletcher took two podiums from two! Heartbreak was the buzz word behind though, as Burke - now being chased by a third FitzSty car in the form of Harald Stadler - ran out of fuel exiting the final corner, and was pitched into a spin by the unsuspecting Lewis Bibby. Stadler powered past to take 4th, with Bibby and Evdoka 5th and 6th. Steve Burke would not finish the race.

The series continues its American Tour on Monday the 16th of December, for its final meeting in 2019 at Summit Point, using the "Short" layout. Ben Palmer now has a comfortable 22-point lead at the top of the table, from teammate Pete Harrod, while a good round for the Texense FitzSty Motorsport cars puts them top in the Teams' Championship by just 1 point.


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