We’re officially into the second half of the season, and the battle for the championship in the Online Racing League BMW M-Sport Cup is as hot as ever. This week, the drivers will be challenged by the storied Watkins Glen International Raceway in South-Western New York. Although weather isn’t a factor this week, there will be no shortage of difficulty in pursuit of the checkered flag. Between the kerbs and the one-line nature of this circuit, in addition to the momentum based style of the BMW Z4, overtaking will be difficult and track position will be everything. On top of that, new names like ForzaRC champion AMS RoadRunner and his teammate AMS Blaze have joined the fight, meaning a good result will be even harder to come by. In qualifying, AMS RoadRunner (3rd - 1:46.923) and FTR Adzhas (2nd - 1:46.802) put up strong fights in a bid to start from the point of the field. In the closing moments of qualifying, though, Jacob Bowkett took a page out of the book of racing legend Michael Schumacher to take the pole from Adzhas with a 1:46.722. Despite his last ditch effort for pole, Bowkett was far from having an advantage over the field, and it was obvious that race 1 could go to any of the top 5 drivers depending on circumstance. Regardless, Jacob Bowkett’s pole streak is now 5 races strong, as he remains undefeated this season; a truly commendable accomplishment.
The start of race 1 was rather cordial, with the top 5 drivers responsibly slotting in line on the opening lap. In lieu of last weeks chaos, it was clear that drivers like Bowkett and Swiift were simply looking to survive the opening lap in order to stay in contention for this week’s victory. Despite efforts from RiiDGE to move forward, Swiift was having none of it as he defended in the early parts of the race.
One of last week’s stars, AMS Nightmare, struggled early on in race 1. Following a rather disappointing qualifying per his standard, the Scottish driver was forcefully moved wide exiting the boot, shuffling him down the order. Unfortunately for this week, he was simply unable to move forward as quickly or as aggressively as he would’ve liked, which lead him to a quiet mid-field finish.
Up front, the twisting bends and long straights of the Glen treated viewers to an engineering chess match; it was obvious from the start of the green flag that the top three drivers were running slightly different setups, with Bowkett and Adzhas opting for less aero while Roadrunner went on the attack with a cornering based tune. This dynamic came to its fruition on lap four when FTR Adzhas - appearing to be under pressure from Roadrunner - carried more speed than his car could handle into the bus stop, costing him the position and valuable track position. From this point on, it was down to Bowkett and Roadrunner for the race win.
Midway through the field, the mid pack once again delivered in a battle between AMS Blaze, THR SparkyDS, FTR Lothario and a closing AMS Nightmare. Blaze acted as a cork in a bottle with Lothario and Sparky trading blows throughout the next through laps. His defensive nature also allowed Nightmare to close in on the battle, which was crucial in his bid for a decent finish. Following a critical error by AMS Swiift, which destroyed a majority of his front end, the four aforementioned drivers were now fighting for the fifth spot. Some argy-bargy between Blaze and Lothario ultimately ended with the former losing two spots. Regardless, his teammate Nightmare had moved up to 6th and was knocking on the door for 5th against FTR Lothario.
Unfortunately, the race would reach a premature end by virtue of a mass lobby disconnect, which saw the field locked in place at the time of the disconnect. With that said, Jacob Bowkett would take the win over AMS Roadrunner, FTR Adzhas, TX3 RiiDGE, FTR Lothario, AMS Nightmare, AMS Blaze and THR SparkyDS in 2nd through 8th, respectively.
In the second stint of the evening, all of the patience from race 1 had been thrown out of the window with drivers urgently trying to move forward. Through the esses, a chain reaction between Cesarswrath and MR SLAYER 19 would develop into a NASCAR esque pile up with drivers like Astonash, Cragadon and Nightmare all getting caught up in the carnage. Jacob Bowkett, who was not explicitly caught up in the incident, lost a considerable amount of time to his closest competitors as a result of the crash.
Up front, GTR Tyskie defended well from the front row of the grid over FTR Bobby, THR Flex, and AMS Swiift. Much like round 1 at the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit, the veteran driver had pulled out a small lead in the early stages of the race. After some side-by-side action through the early stages of lap 3, Tyskie was eventually shuffled to fourth in the bus stop in an incident which also saw AMS Swiift fall to 9th behind a charging Jacob Bowkett.
Bowkett, who had started in last, recovered nicely from early struggles to settle in the wake of a rapidly climbing TX3 RiiDGE - his closest rival in the championship. Some drama in the final corner of lap four would see Tyskie, who was looking to make it three wide with Swiift and Bowkett, attain damage in an eventual collision with THR Astonash. On a larger scale, this event would put Bowkett hot on the heels of TX3 RiiDGE in a bid to further extend his championship lead.
On lap six, the championship reached another crucial turning point. After being aggressively overtaken by Roadrunner and teammate Swiift, Bowkett would be forced to pit after an offscreen incident which almost certainly gave him some form of damage. This situation was huge for rival RiiDGE, who now had free reign to pick up as many points as he could in response to Bowkett’s hardships.
As if race 2 couldn’t be more dramatic, a feud between AMS Roadrunner and leader FTR Bobby turned the excitement up to eleven. The Full Throttle Racing driver had desperately defended his lead since he took the top spot on lap three, and he wasn’t going to let a hard charging Alien Motorsport squad walk in and take a possible first win in the ORL M-Sport cup. Heading into turn 6, Bobby aggressively attempted to cut across Roadrunner’s nose, who was unfortunately already up the inside. Bobby was consequently spun into the outside retaining wall, while Roadrunner was moved wide, allowing a quietly charging TX3 RiiDGE to momentarily take the top spot.
In the closing stages of this jaw-dropping race 2, it was four-against-one with championship contender TX3 RiiDGE desperate to hold off a field of Alien Motorsport drivers and gain a maximum points haul in the championship fight. Following some questionable defending from Blaze, RiiDGE was severely held up in the heel of the boot, allowing Nightmare and Swiift to close in. Exiting back onto the NASCAR circuit, Blaze aggressively ran RiiDGE wide allowing the ever-opportunistic Swiift and Nightmare to slide through, completing an AMS 1-2-3-4. Ultimately, RiiDGE would have to settle for fifth despite a good effort all race long, with Adzhas 6th, Lothario 7th, and Flex rounding out the top 6.
I was pleasantly surprised by the racing this week; many drivers appeared to learn their lesson from past meetings and there was a refreshed sense of calculation and patience throughout the evening. Drivers like Roadrunner and Bowkett truly showed that good racecraft is alive and thriving on console racing games. Despite this, there was no shortage of drama in this week’s event. The biggest story heading into the next three weeks is likely Bowkett’s struggles in race 2. The british driver rebounded nicely from last week and was tied with Roadrunner as the class of the field in my opinion. If it weren’t for his incident in race 2, Bowkett would have a rather comfortable championship lead moving forward. The drama doesn’t end there, though, as both the incident between FTR Bobby and Roadrunner along with the last lap battle between Blaze and RiiDGE are sure to stir up some controversy and discussion in the coming weeks. Although I’m not in a position to comment on either incident, I’m excited to see how these rivalries unfold in the coming weeks. In a high pressure environment like this, where anything can happen, I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the end of either battle this season.
As we move on to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Jacob Bowkett now has a 44 point championship lead as a result of a masterful race 1 victory and some hard racing between TX3 RiiDGE and Alien Motorsport in race 2. Will he hold on for the championship? Find out this Thursday on YMTV Racing at 8:00pm GMT/3:00pm EST.
Written By Daniel "ForceOne" Nyman