For Round 3 of the Online Racing League’s (ORL) BMW M-Sport Series we made the trip north from Sebring, Florida to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, home of Road America. A staple of American road racing, Road America regularly features on the SCCA, AMA Superbikes, Nascar Xfinity, and IndyCar schedules, with 14 turns, multiple high speed straights, and numerous elevation changes Road America is a challenging track for any driver to fully master.
Going into this round we had no shortage of developing stories to discuss. First was the emergence of TX3 RiiDGE in Race 1 at Sebring, his shining debut was however marred by a disappointing result in Race 2. Could he recover and contend with current points leader Jacob Bowkett for the Driver’s Championship. Who would emerge as the favorite in the Team Championship? THR, GTR, and FTR drivers had all posted quality results in the first 2 rounds giving us a multi-team battle for 1st in the team points. F4H’s South announcement that he would not be finishing the series was also noteworthy, having had great results in Round 1, South’s absence from Round 2 was noticeable. His explanation for retiring from the series was that he felt that by competing on FM6 he was inadvertently causing himself to lose pace on FM7. While we were disappointed by his departure his reasoning is completely understandable as the top drivers have begun to prepare for the next Forza Racing Championship.
THR Ne 70 would claim the pole position early in qualifying with FTR Adzhas and TX3 RiiDGE just behind him. Undefeated in qualifying so far in the series, Jacob Bowkett sat in fourth as the top four posted times in the 2:05s. RiiDGE would then jump the order to first as Bowkett improved to second. On the penultimate lap of qualifying, Ne briefly assumed the pole but RiiDGE would come through the line improving his time to regain first. Bowkett stood in third with Adzhas just a tenth of a second behind. On the final lap with the pressure turned on, RiiDGE and Ne failed to improve leaving it down to Bowkett to finish his lap. As Bowkett crossed the line he put in an astounding lap of 2:05.500 improving by 3 tenths of second to claim his third pole position.
Jacob Bowkett would start on pole but a poor start would see him drop to third as TX3 RiiDGE and THR ne 70 would streak past him before turn 1. At a bit of chaos would then ensue as FTR Lothario would get caught sleeping into the braking zone, running into the back of THR SparkyDS. SparkyDS, having been punted forward, would then collect THR ne 70 and Jacob Bowkett. THR Flex would also be an unfortunate bystander of the incident and find himself in the sand trap after a bump from Lothario. TX3 RiiDGE would barely dodge the carnage but fly away from the group as everyone slowed to avoid the spinning cars.
Coming out of turn 2, RiiDGE had a significant lead as FTR Bobby had moved into 2nd after starting in 9th. GTR ErikPipe in third, led the main pack down the Moraine Sweep to turn 5. FTR Adzhas appeared to be extremely comfortable in his car as he made his way past GTR Cesarswrath to take over 4th.
The race was now a bit spread but a few small battles would spring up. FTR Bobby would be challenged by GTR ErikPipe into turn 5 with ErikPipe eventually claiming the position. Further back, GTR Cesarswrath would miss his braking point into Canada Corner, going wide and losing several positions.
FTR Bobby would continue to challenge GTR ErikPipe for second as FTR Adzhas was lurking just behind them waiting for his opportunity. ErikPipe would run a bit wide into turn 1 giving Bobby and Adzhas both the chance to overtake him. After his early setbacks, Jacob Bowkett had recovered to be running in 7th trying to chase down FTR Furore and GTR Warwick. Bobby and Adzhas continued to battle for 2nd amongst themselves while Jacob Bowkett made quick work of Warwick and Furore. A tiny slid from Bobby in the final turn would be just the opportunity Adzhas would need to finally secure 2nd position.
As Bowkett moved around the outside of ErikPipe to take 4th, TX3 RiiDGE had suddenly lost a significant portion of his lead. A follow up after the race would reveal that he had changed his controller batteries on the main straight. FTR Adzhas was now just out of striking range still several car lengths back from the leader.
In undoubtedly the best move of the race, THR Astonash would make a magnificent pass when on the main straight, he would follow the 3 wide battle of GTR ErikPipe, FTR Furore, and GTR Warwick into turn 1, diving to the inside and passing all three in a single turn. Without any significant mistakes TX3 RiiDGE and FTR Adzhas would cruise home but the battle for the last place on the podium was heating up. FTR Bobby defended against the hard charging Jacob Bowkett. A poor run down the Hurry Downs resulted in Jacob Bowkett getting alongside Bobby but on the outside for the Carousel. In a bit of being a little to nice, Bobby gave Bowkett a little to much space and clipped the inside grass losing caused a slide and gave Bowkett the position. The closing laps were slightly uneventful aside from a lag incident between THR Ne 70 and FTR Furore that resulted in Furore retiring with damage late in the race.
In the end, TX3 RiiDGE ran away with the race after the first lap chaos. FTR Adzhas had a great showing taking second and Jacob Bowkett in a solid recovery run took third. FTR Bobby and THR Astonash rounded out the top 5 with solid performance of their own.
Catch the replay on our youtube at YMTV Racing
The field would be led to turn 1 by the THR duo of Taity and Trypassin. Taity would push out wide through Turn 1 letting GTR CesarsWrath and THR’s SparkyDS and Flex past. Into the braking zone of Turn 2, a rear tire on the grass would send Taity again wide. This time the entire field would stream past, ruining the THR owner’s chance at top result.
FTR Lothario would make a great move on the brakes into Turn 5 passing 2 cars and taking over 5th. THR ne 70 would attempt to overtake Lothario on the outside of Turn 7 but understeer into the grass. Further back in the field, FTR Bobby and Jacob Bowkett would come together at Turn 7 sending both off of the track, eventually rejoining at the rear of the field.The pack would form a single file train for the Carousel through Kettle Bottom. Coming out of Canada Corner, GTR ErikPipe would get a great run of teammate GTR Warwick getting alongside through turn 13. ErikPipe would drift a little wide and THR ne 70 would sneak alongside him with FTR Adzhas making it 3 wide into the final turn. A bump from ErikPipe into Adzhas would push Ne wide into the sand trap outside of Turn 14. Ne would appear to collect damage after a bit of lag and ultimately retire from the race.
THR newcomer, Trypassin would lead the field after the lap 1 chaos followed by GTR Cesarswrath and THR Flex. The race 1 top finishers were finding it hard to move through the pack with TX3 RiiDGE, Jacob Bowkett, and FTR Adzhas still running near the back of the field. A mid pack battle for 7th through 11th would erupt in Turn 5 as ErikPipe would get swarmed by a group of cars as FTR Furore, FTR Adzhas, and TX3 RiiDGE would get past. Through the Carousel Adzhas and RiiDGE would bump a little resulting in RiiDGE off track in the sand trap.
At the front of the field, GTR Cesarswrath would make a minor mistake though the final turn and THR Flex would make the pass for 2nd up the hill on ending lap 2. THR Flex would use the draft down the Moraine Straight to pass his teammate Trypassin for the lead. The race would then quiet down a bit as the drivers would spread out and settle in. A mistake from THR Trypassin out of turn 6 would drop him back into the clutches of GTR Cesarswrath as THR Flex increased his lead at the front. Cesarswrath would assume 2nd from Trypassin with FTR Lothario and THR SparkyDS close behind.
FTR Lothario would have a good run through the kink and find his way into third passing Trypassin into Canada Corner. Turn 5 would again be the spot for a battle to erupt as GTR CesarsWrath, FTR Lothario, and THR’s Trypassin and SparkyDS would have a bit of bumping while battling for 2nd through 5th. Lothario would move ahead of Cesarswrath for 2nd while SparkyDS would get past Trypassin for 4th. This battling had allowed THR Flex a large lead at the front while the pack of GTR Warwick, FTR Adzhas and Jacob Bowkett had been able to catch up to the battling group.
Bowkett would patiently begin to move his way up the order, overtaking FTR Adzhas, GTR Warwick and THR Trypassin to finally crack into the top 5. A slide from Cesarswrath the last time through the kink would allow Bowkett into 4th position as behind TX3 RiiDGE and FTR Adzhas had both run out of time to move forward in the order.
In the end, a quality drive from THR Flex would earn him his first win of the series. FTR Lothario and THR SparkyDS would round out the podium with solid performances of their own. Bowkett would finish in 4th and Race 1 winner TX3 RiiDGE would finish in a disappointing 7th.
Looking forward to round 4, Jacob Bowkett will look for a bit of luck at Silverstone to regain his winning form after being held off the top step for the last two week. We’ve had 6 races and 6 different winners, who will be the first to win their second or will we see this trend continue with two new drivers standing atop the podium.
You can watch the Race 2 replay at YMTV Racing
Special Thanks to TX3 RiiDGE, THR Flex, FTR Bobby, and THR Astonash for sharing replays of the races.
Recap written by AJ "Ajax" Allen