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Written by Jon Rosario

Round One of the OTL Xbox Touring Car Championship on Project Cars 2 is in the books. After another eventful season opener here at OTL, the initial punches of the championship boxing match have been thrown. With each and every league we run, the competition gets more and more fierce; a trait that true to its form, has made TC closer than ever.

“The level of competition in this season’s Touring Car Championship is crazy close, especially when in qualifying for the races, the whole grid can be within half a second. One mistake could put you from the front to the back: the pressure is truly real in these races! But that’s why I’ve always come back to race with OTL.”

AJW Racing

Race 1

The gift-wrapping on another season ripped off, it was all nerves as the top-class level of competition in Tier One restarted on full display. In what was a round that can only be called “Crazy!” it was a weekday dominated by AJ, Willy, Yoda, and THAM. The day started out with everyone gunning for an early jump on the competition. A mad dash for the season’s first pole position, the top four in Qualifying #1 were separated by less than a tenth. JHig came out best of the bunch, bagging a respectable 1:12.136, which would only be the start to the day’s ruthless, heroic pace. Race one was a beauty, the perfect start to a new year. Race One was the rise of WIlly, as qualifying 4th after a very close qualifying session, the OTL veteran drove the wheels of his Megane to pull off one of his best drives as of late. With a great jump off the line, he managed to squeeze into 3rd. Now with just GTR Yoda and JHig ahead,then came the hard part: staying as close as possible to the car ahead. Applying ample pressure to the leaders, about halfway through Race One, it finally paid off as both drivers came together, gifting Willy 1st place. The race was still in jeopardy, however. With a charging Tam close behind, Willy had to press on. Be it rust, nerves, or the new car/track combos for this season, a small mistake through the bus stop chicane saw Tam sneak past with just a handful of laps to the finish. Unfortunately for Tam, the pass garnered him a 1-sec penalty from the race standards, a gap that although large, is doable to break. Pressing on, Tam got onto the final lap with just 9 tenths in hand: he needed one more. Willy knew if he could just stay close enough, the win would be his. A brilliant game of cat and mouse, the gap constantina-ed between sectors one and two, coming down to the final straight. Tam in the distance, was it enough? Just! Willy would come home to finish just 0.22 seconds within the time penalty delta, gifting him victory in Race 1.

Race 2

Race Two would be just as entertaining, but for a very different reason. As Willy, Tham, and Yoda, our Race 1 podium, sat out for Qualifying, Jig once again would find he pace for a stormer, taking two out of two pole positions on the year with a 1:12.136. As GTR Yoda explains “there were so many drivers within 0.5 seconds of the track’s ultimate pace limit. You had to be so consistently quick to keep up with the front-runners… It means with one bad race, you can really find your season in jeopardy.” As the lights went out, and away they went, it was easy to see how imperative it was for everyone to get some points back on Willy. With an incredibly aggressive start, Touring car racing’s ‘elbow’s out’ nature was in full swing. With some incredibly tight racing, the climate on track, especially when paired with the difficulty to pass, could be seen to visibly be rising and rising until BANG! We hit the boiling point. Going up the hill into Turns 3 and 4, Girolamo would lose control. Prompting counter steer, the upset Megane drifted into the path of the subsequent field, most notably, the previous winner: Willyblackhammer. The worst possible outcome after winning the previous round, the massive incident, although not terminal, was race-ruining for the trio involved. After recovering to get up to the midfield, Willy yet again was collected in an accident, killing any chance to claw back some points. This changed everything, in the championship, but further developments were taking place up at the front. A brilliant tactic was being played by the two frontrunners, AJ and Jhig, who, seeing the carnage unfolding behind them, took matters into their own hands, forming an ingenious temporary alliance. As AJ describes “the race when I got a podium was honestly down to teamwork… the first lap [me and JHig] towed each other and made a one or two-second gap. After that, we just kept working throughout the race to break the tow from the rest behind, bagging some great points.” The perfect strategy call, the two were able to cruise to a 1-2, staying out of harm’s way, controlling the pace, and placing themselves in the hunt to be this year’s champion.

Race 3

Race 3 was anyone’s game. Uninhibited by the rules, Tham pumped in a day’s best qualifying effort to take pole, being the only driver in the 1:11.6’s. Tham then, an obvious favorite, did not disappoint. Another perfect launch, the field returned to their fine form, a clean, close race was on the cards. As Yoda states, the key to doing well this round was “finding some clean air, and just putting in the laps I practiced was key.” A common phenomenon then, was people struggling to stay close enough to challenge for an overtake, as, through the long, sweeping corners, there was just a bit too much dirty air. At the sharp end, this was becoming more and more apparent, as the race went on, it quickly became a two-horse race. The final laps would be an intense battle between Ireland and Britain for European superiority. Willy, who showed pace all day, was back at it again, sitting in second applying his pressure. Pushing to the absolute limit, Willy had some heart-in-mouth moments in his pursuit, catching the curb in Turn One and unsettling his car. Willy knew he had to push hard, as tam had a 2 sec penalty and him a 1 sec, every corner had to be perfect, but he managed it… Coming home then, the winner of two races, Willy is putting a demanding opening to this season, currently second in the driver’s championship, it’s so far so good. Tham remains second for race 3, but his consistency and pace sees him as the man to beat right now, leading the championship by 7 points, whereas Yoda is doing well to keep the boys honest, sitting in third on 75.

Driver Interviews

We caught up with our drivers to see how they thought of the Season so far.

“Am happy with my pace and am hoping for the championship win this time out. In this league the Tier 1 is awsome and anyone of us could take the championship, look out for pure action”

Tham

“I already knew that race pace would be insanely close from the assessment races but I will be trying my best as always to take the title! With the format that we use it makes it even more difficult but at the same time more rewarding! Well one thing is for sure Khaostheory will be on the move up the table, as reigning champion he has the pace and skill to do it. But realistically Tham, Yoda, JHig or AJWracing will all be in with a shout too!”

Willy

“The races overall went fairly to plan not disappointed I went into the mentality of staying away from trouble and letting the other boys make a gap for me which doesn’t always work and sometimes you do have to roll up your sleeves and get the work done. But it was really close clean racing thankfully and came away with some decent results to carry onto the next meeting. The championship is all about consistency and once you’ve cracked the consistency you are definitely onto things! Everyone’s mental attitude towards the championship because every driver in here is capable, but it’s sometimes just down to a sprinkle of luck or extra skill to take the championship.

AJW

“I’m happy with my round 1 results. 3rd, 5th, 3rd is nothing to be sniffed at, but part of me feels I’ve missed an opportunity here given the Megane had such a track advantage versus the BMW. Next week will no doubt be more competitive as the BMW’s come back into play at the front. Never-the-less, I’m in 3rd and only 12 points behind the leader. That’ll do just fine. I feel really happy with my pace, but to take 1st is going to be really, really tough. My goal is to get on the podium for this season. I don’t think I quite have the experience level or consistency needed to take first away from some of the other exceptionally talented front-runners, but I’ll certainly push them as far as I can.”

Yoda

There are 4 drivers who I think are very closely matched at the front:

  • Tam: His pace was astonishing, I think on raw race pace alone, he’s the quickest Megane driver in the field this season.
  • Willy: So experienced and very consistent, his pace in round 1 was superb too. A real threat.
  • Hig: The last few leagues, he’s really improved, to the point where he took pole from Tam, Willy, and myself in quali 1. He’s right on pace.
  • KhaosTheory: Pound for pound, my favourite to win any league… if everyone was in the same car that is! Sometimes I think KhaosTheory is actually just an AI algorithm doing perfect laps, but the BMW might hamper him this season.

Can Willy make up lost ground? Can Yoda knit together some impressive performances? Does Tham have what it takes to keep up this remarkable pace, or will a midfield runner come and surprise us all? Get your questions answered as the OTL Touring Car Championship heats up Tuesday night from Snetterton this week. Be sure to keep up with your favourite racers on otlracing.com today: get ready for what will be an incredible season!