This is it. After 7 weeks, hundreds of laps, and an exuberant amount of drama, it has come down to just 2 quick races. This week, in what is the final race of the Online Racing League BMW M-Sport Cup, drivers are faced with the ever-sunny and flat out Autodromo Nazionale Monza. The two frontrunners of the season, Jacob Bowkett and Riidge, are entering qualifying split by just 47 points at a track where anything could happen. In qualifying, Bowkett looked to take one last pole position in the series after a hard-charging Riidge stole the show last week at Catalunya with a stunning pole position. The two undisputed front runners of the series put on a show at Monza, entering the closing stages of qualifying with equal lap times; a truly impressive feat. Unfortunately for the Riidge, Bowkett proved his final pole position was yet to come as he dropped a stunning lap time (1:47.501) as time expired to take the top spot. Riidge held on to second (1:47.785) with AMS Nightmare landing himself in the final podium starting spot.
Despite the tight nature of Monza, race 1 began with a rather structured and cautious first lap. Apart from a few taps, the small field of 11 cars performed one of the cleanest starts of the season. The early stages was hardly boring, though, with drivers like LRT Lamb Chop capitalizing on the slow nature of the tracks’ chicanes. The British driver would find himself in the top 5 for the first time in a race 1 this season before being shuffled down the order. He was far from done, though, as he struck back on FTR Lothario to solidify himself as a contender in the mid pack for the days races.
Further forward, AMS Nightmare was barely hanging onto the leading train, which consisted of Riidge, Bowkett, and Adzhas. On lap 4, this battle really heated up with Riidge taking the lead and doing what it would take to win the championship. Bowkett, who was shuffled out of his early lead, found himself under heavy attack from the incredibly consistent AMS Nightmare and FTR Adzhas. Bowkett, who desperately needed to stay in front of Riidge to maintain his championship lead, had it all to play for with two thirds of the race remaining. From this point of the race onward, Riidge would quickly put his qualifying disappointment behind him as he went on to set a blazing pace and pull a comfortable gap over his rivals.
Towards the closing stages of the race, the battle between Adzhas and Swiift was fierce. The AMS driver was struggling to maintain his car through the lesmos, which lead to a strong attack from Adzhas heading down towards the Ascari curves. Swiift, appearing desperate to hold second, forced Adzhas onto the grass. What happened next was unclear, but the two ultimately ended up into the righthand wall, with the Alien Motorsports driver attaining some heavy damage. This had serious implications on the championship, as it extended a lifeline to Bowkett (Who benefitted to 2nd as a result of the crash) and reduced a heavy points loss to just 10 points. For Riidge, who won the race by over 5 seconds, race 2 was going to be an uphill climb.
It would be unfair to only talk about the championship contenders this week, though, as there were many great drives throughout the field. LRT Lamb Chop had an amazing run in race 1 to finish 4th, as did AMS Nightmare who was setting some of the fastest laps on track en route to a third place finish. Further back, The FTR team of Bobby, Adzhas, and Lothario can all be proud in finishing 5th-7th, respectively. (Although you’d have to expect Adzhas to be disappointed after being taken out with a shot at second.)
As a race fan, I was almost sad to see race 2 come. As a huge fan of reverse grids in league racing, this would be the final time we’d get to watch the likes of Riidge and Nightmare climb from deep in the pack to the pointy end of the field. With that in mind, the start of race 2 did not disappoint. Into turn 1 there was a lot of contact with Freheliaz and CesarsWrath forced to take the inside cut in order to maintain their spot. After contact in the curva della roggia, many drivers found themselves slowed considerably or off the track completely, allowing Bowkett, Nightmare, and Riidge through into the middle parts of the field. After a mistake in turn 2 at the start of lap 2, Bowkett was left vulnerable to an overtake from Riidge, who’s championship relied on him finishing as many positions as possible ahead of his championship rival.
Further ahead, Nightmare, Swiift, and Bobby found themselves in a battle down through the Ascari curves. The two Alien Motorsports drivers would masterfully team up on their Full Throttle Racing rival into the Parabolica, assuming second and third position respectively. Just behind, Bowkett and Riidge continued their season-long battle, which took a decisive turn on lap 5 when Riidge had nowhere to go but into the back of FTR Bobby. The loss in momentum saw the British driver shuffled back to 7th, behind Bowkett and Adzhas who capitalized on the situation.
On lap 7, the lead changed once again, with Swiift making a masterful move on Lothario to take the lead in turn 1. His crossover move was nothing short of beautiful, and was in my opinion one of the best overtakes of the season. Just a lap later, AMS Nightmare repeated the move on Lothario - this time around the outside - to set up an Alien Motorsports 1-2 for the time being. At this time, though, the action was just behind the battle for 2nd, with Riidge, Bowkett, Bobby, Adzhas, and Lamb Chop all battling for supremacy in the mid field. Unfortunately, the battle for the championship came to an end in this fight, as Riidge made a slight error in Ascari forcing him into the sand trap.
In the end, Nightmare would catch Swiift in the final moments of the race to pull off a stunning move on his AMS teammate and take the win in the final race of the championship! The Alien Motorsport 1-2 would be followed up by Lothario who did well to hold the last step of the podium, Adzhas, Bowkett, Bobby, and Riidge who finished 3rd through 7th, respectively.
That wraps up the Online Racing League BMW M-Sport Cup! This has been an amazing series to cover and the racing was phenomenal. Congratulations to Jacob Bowkett on his driver and privateer championships, and well done to Full Throttle Racing for their win in the team’s championship. I can’t wait to see all of you in the next Thursday night ORL series; the Online Racing League Porsche Cup, which starts later on this spring on YMTV Racing!
Written by Daniel "ForceOne" Nyman