This week the ORL BMW M Sport Series made the jump across the Atlantic to sunny Florida in the United States. The historic Sebring International Raceway played host to Rounds 3 and 4 and the talk of the event was "Could Jacob Bowkett repeat his first performance with main contender F4H South being absent this week?". Bowkett wasn’t going to find it easy however as several new challengers joined the series this week. TX3 was among the newcomers, fielding the formidable team of Tactical, Switch, and RiiDGE, as the extremely talented FTR Adzhas and THR ne 70 also made their series debuts.
In qualifying, Bowkett was capable of seizing the pole with a blazing 2:03.913 just beating out newcomer TX3 Switch by barely a hundredth of a second. The talent of the entire field is realized when you look through the qualifying results and spot that the top 12 are within a second of each other.
Jacob Bowkett lead the field off the line to start but was almost immediately was swarmed by the TX3 trio. TX3 RiiDGE and Switch both were past Bowkett by turn 5 relegating him to 3rd position early in the lap. A little bumping near the rear of the pack saw FTR Lothario have a bit of slide but he was able to skillfully catch the car and hold his position.
TX3 Tactical was the next to take a shot at Bowkett as dove to the inside entering Turn 10. Bowkett tried to hold the outside line but was forced a bit narrow entering Turn 11 and clipped the grass. This allowed Tactical the opportunity to finish the pass while FTR Adzhas seized his chance following Tactical past Bowkett. THR ne 70 also took advantage of Bowkett’s misfortune, passing him a few moments later at turn 13. A bump between Bowkett and GTR ErikPipes saw Bowkett wide off the track at Le Mans, relegating him to 7th position, in a nightmare inducing first lap.
The race was now led by TX3 RiiDGE followed closely by teammate Switch and Tactical as they looked to distance themselves from the pack in the hopes of a TX3 podium sweep. Further back, a lock up from THR Astonash saw him and FTR Lothario forced wide at Turn 3 with THR SparkyDS and FTR Furore sneaking past. In a separate incident just down the track at turn 5, GTR ErikPipes had a slide off of one of the treacherous Sebring curbs and took a detour through the grass rejoining just in front of Lothario. A touch between the two had ErikPipes back into the grass and unfortunately into the tire wall under the Corvette bridge. A bit of shuffling through the rear of the pack occurred as everyone tried to regain their composure. Once it had all be sorted out FTR Lothario found himself in 11th and ErikPipes in 14th, a far distance off of the group.
At the front of the race, TX3 RiiDGE had begun to assert his pace, developing a decent gap over the chasing pack of TX3’s Switch and Tactical, and FTR Adzhas. A great dive by Adzhas allowed him to overtake Tactical on the inside through Sunset Bend, claiming third position. A mistake by THR ne70 allowed Bowkett alongside through the Big Bend and finishing the pass for 5th in the hairpin as Bowkett tried to climb back up the order. THR ne 70 had the pace to contend with the leaders but seemed to struggle with the tune of his car appearing to have issues with a lack of rear grip.
A slide from TX3 Switch at turn 13, allowed FTR Adzhas past for second but by this time RiiDGE’s lead had doubled. The rear of the field had become a bit spread so the main action was the battles for 2nd through 6th. The next few laps ticked off without major incident as the drivers looked for opportunities but found very little. Two trains developed with the chase group of 2nd through 6th distancing themselves from the second train of 7th through 13th led by FTR's Furore and Lothario.
As the laps wound down, the battle toward the front intensified, ending the 8th lap TX3 Switch got a run on FTR Adzhas down the Ullman Straight. Adzhas made a great cutback move through Sunset Bend to stay alongside but had to concede the position into turn 1 as the outside lane just couldn’t keep up with Switch on the inside. TX3 Tactical lurked just behind but Adzhas closed the door well preventing any chance for a pass through the 3-4-5 complex.
A brave late braking attempt by TX3 Tactical allowed him to get the alongside Adzhas for the hairpin but a touch of understeer resulted in a tap between the cars. As both slid just off track into the grass, Jacob Bowkett seized his chance and dove to the inside followed by Ne. Bowkett managed to pass both Tactical and Adzhas to take over third position as Tactical rejoined in 4th just ahead of Ne. Adzhas was fell from 3rd to 6th in a single turn and looked to try to catch back up for a last chance at a podium position on the final lap.
The last lap was tense but saw little changes to the order as most drivers' nerves held out. TX3 RiiDGE took home the win by a significant margin followed by his teammate TX3 Switch. Jacob Bowkett came through in third, a result he had to be happy with having been down to 7th early on. In the rear pack, FTR Furore and LRT Lambchop battled for 8th with Lambchop managing to hold the position with a quality cutback. GTR Warwick and FTR Bobby’s battle came down to drag race down the final straight and photo finish with Warwick claiming 12th by a bumper. With the second race being a reverse grid, spectators were sure a quality race of nonstop action as entire field was packed with talent.
GTR ErikPipes and FTR Bobby led the cars into turn 1 for the reverse grid race. ErikPipes held his inside position strong and would assume the lead as the pack battled side-by-side behind. The first incident of the race occurred as the cars entered the the Turns 3,4,5 complex, when a car in the rear of the pack got caught out during braking and bumped the car in front. This caused a domino effect forward that saw FTR Furore as the unfortunate victim as he was pushed wide into the grass.
The top 8 now formed a single file train as the Race 1 front runners Jacob Bowkett, the TX3 trio, and THR ne70 battled amongst themselves near the rear of the field. The first time down the Ullman Straight saw FTR Adzhas and FTR Lothario dive into Sunset Bend door to door with LRT Lambchop lurking. As the FTR members drifted wide, Lambchop made a strong move to the inside but a brilliant switch back by Lothario saw him exit the final turn with the best run and gaining both positions.
The pack of Bowkett, TX3 trio, and Ne took the opportunity of the battling Lothario, Adzhas, and Lambchop to catch back up. Bowkett made the pass on Lambchop down the Big Bend. At this point the race calmed down a bit and the only passing occuring was the TX3 trio of Switch, RiiDGE, and Tactical swapping positions amongst themselves.
Jacob Bowkett had made up the distance to FTR Adzhas and began to turn up the pressure. Adzhas was doing a great job of defending but Bowkett had an excellent run out of the hair pin. Eventually getting alongside, Bowkett managed a magnificent pass around the outside of Adzhas through Turn 10. A short time later, a miscalculation by TX3 Switch in the braking section saw him tap the rear of LRT Lambchop, nudging the LRT driver bit wide through Le Mans. Lambchop eventually recovered but by that point the trio of TX3 were past and THR ne 70 was just behind.
Around this time, while running in 6th position FTR Lothario suffered a disconnect, ending his chances at a strong result. The front of the order remained the same, GTR ErikPipes led, followed by FTR Bobby and GTR Warwick. Jacob Bowkett now had the duo of THR SparkyDS and THR Astonash in his sights as THR ne 70 battled with LRT Lambchop near the back of the order.
Jacob Bowkett seemed to have the outside line of the hairpin dialed in, mimicking the move he had made on FTR Adzhas prior, he dove to the outside of THR SparkyDS. Side by side on the exit of the hairpin, Bowkett appeared to have a slight run on SparkyDS, but a slip on the inside curb saw SparkyDS lose all his momentum. As Bowkett and Adzhas streamed past, SparkyDS fell into the grasp of the TX3 group. When SparkyDS finally recoverd he found himself having lost 5 positions falling all the way back to 10th.
Bowkett and Adzhas wasted no time as they pounced on their next target GTR Warwick when he took a defensive line into turn 13. Bowkett and Adzhas made the outside line again work as they powered past Warwick through Bishop to take 4th and 5th positions.
Out in front, GTR ErikPipes and FTR Bobby were putting in great runs as they had developed a gap over THR Astonash in 3rd. Over the next lap, the TX3 trio made their way around Warwick as he seemed to struggle with his car through the curves. A battle for third had developed as Jacob Bowkett and FTR Adzhas had reeled in THR Astonash. Bowkett again took the outside line but this time it was through the 3-4-5 complex and finished the pass down the Big Bend, with Adzhas following him past Astonash into the hairpin.
Now the focus was, "Would Bowkett and Adzhas have enough remaining laps to catch the leaders ErikPipes and Bobby or Would the have to battle each other for the final podium position?". Meanwhile in a battle for 5th, THR Astonash and TX3 RiiDGE had a touch at Bishop that saw RiiDGE into the outside tire wall. An unfortunate bounce saw him collect his teammate TX3 Tactical with both picking up significant damage.
As the penultimate lap begun, it seemed as if Bowkett and Adzhas had run out of time as they began to battle with each other. Ahead, FTR Bobby made the slightest mistake and hung a wheel into the grass while braking for turn 3, sending him wide. Bowkett managed to sneak past but Adzhas and Bobby came together that resulted in Bobby spinning. Adzhas recovered to seize third but Bobby fell to 10th before getting his Z4 going again. This freed Bowkett to pursue ErikPipes on his own while Adzhas was dropped into the clutches of TX3 Switch and THR Astonash for battle for third.
As the final lap begun, the battle for 3rd was a 2 car race between FTR Adzhas and TX3 Switch. A four car battle for 6th-9th had also broke out, with THR SparkyDS leading GTR Warwick, LRT Lambchop, and THR ne 70. Mistakes by Lambchop and Ne saw them drop off of the battle as Warwick and SparkyDS dragged race side by side down the Ullman Straight for the final time. Warwick grabbed the inside line and held it to pass SparkyDS for 6th as drifted wide through Sunset Bend.
At the front, GTR ErikPipes had held on with a brilliant drive to grab his first career ORL win. Bowkett had to settle for 2nd having simply run out of time to catch the leader and a solid last lap by FTR Adzhas had secured him the final place on the podium over TX3 Switch and THR Astonash.
Special thanks to LRT Lambchop and THR Astonash for sharing their race replays for our use.
Recap written by AJ "Ajax" Allen