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Written by Jon Rosario

Round two of the OTL Xbox Touring Car Championship brought the racing in both tiers to the epitome of closeness. Snetterton playing home this week, the drivers had a lot to say in what was an equally energetic race. 

“For me, it’s all about calculated risk; it’s not often me that’s hooked up in an accident unless I get caught out by someone else’s crash. I am patient and will wait for my chance” – MrFish

Race One went to plan for Fish, Khaos, and JHig, the BMW pair utilizing strategy and their drivetrains to strike first in the earliest portion of the day. With a 1:11.282 banked, Fish would take pole position, a crucial feat for the Bavarians: the key for me getting onto the podium. With the lights out, the Beamers, as usual, strong off the line, got away and immediately looked to build their gap. With JHig behind and the two comfortably in front by T1, the duo slotted in one behind the other, opting for lap time rather than track position.

A popular strategy appearing this season, it once again proved worthwhile, the two getting a big gap to JHig in third. By the second to last lap, things turned on their head. Khaos, realizing the gap was clear to behind, looked for a way by on the Brit. Pressuring him, Fish seemed impenetrable until the final lap. A little wide into the lengthy right-hander, the race was in the balance as he went defensive. LOCK UP! Fish slammed his BMW into the curb on the final corner, almost losing it in the process. The final straight to go, it was anyone’s to take. Khaos, edging closer and closer after his far better exit, was gaining. Bumper…quarter panel…door handle… FINISH! By just over half a car length Fish would hang on taking victory in race one, denying Khaos his first of the season by the slimmest of margins. 

“This week it was key to have very fast and consistent lap times up in front if you wanted to stay there otherwise you would’ve been scooped up by the rest…” – AJW Racing

If you thought Race One was intense, then Race Two had something else to add to the conversation. Starting on pole, GTR Yoda, just a hundredth off Fish with an 11.295, set the race in motion with a great getaway, but little did he know, it wasn’t good enough. Behind him, nailing it off the line, came the pair of Woof and AJW Racing who stormed up a 3-wide Turn 1 to shake up the podium from the get-go. An INCREDIBLE move, Woof inherited the lead, AJ through behind him, relegating Yoda to third for the moment. The next corner would see Yoda lose two more positions as the teammates Willy and Crampy sneak up the inside. That was only the frist sector. As the race went on, Woof would go out front, for the time being safe, enjoying a nice little gap to the chaos behind. By the next lap however, AJ was right back on his bumper, and the race was back on. Lap after lap, the top five of Yoda, AJ, Willy, Crampy, and Woof jostled for position.

Cutbacks, lock-ups, and door banging aplenty, one couldn’t have asked for a more nervewracking event. Unlike the beamers, this was an all-out brawl. Desperate for points, these drivers didn’t have the luxury of playing the long game; track position was essential, and it was right there for the taking.

The race hit a knife’s edge with just under two minutes to go. Just 1.5 seconds covering the top seven drivers, everyone went into Turn 2 deep. Jostling for position, the frontrunners bundled one another, Yoda coming out the worst, dropping back to fifth after being pushed off track. This however played perfectly into the hands of AJ and Willy, who coming out unscathed, inherited a lead devoid of the pack behind them: the lead AJ needed to take the win. Too far behind to mount a challenge, Willy was forced to set in behind as AJ’s Megane scooted away to victory lane. Amongst the chaos, both Fish and Khaos disconnected, the perfect circumstance for both the midfield and THAM. On for big points after two great recovery drives, they both failed to score, sending shockwaves through the championship.

The final race of the day, Race Three, was all about anticipation. The touchiness of the day getting to a boiling point, it was only a matter of time that desperation would set in for some, overambition for others. Off the start line, Khaos, the poleman, rocketed away in his BMW, Yoda, who started 3rd, leapfrogging Fish, who had a poor start, into T1. The plan to speed away as they did in Race One off the table, it quickly became a free-for-all for the leading trio. Getting back past Yoda, Fish was on the charge, knocking down the gap to Khaos, the green Megane content to sit behind for now. With 2 minutes to go, Khas clipped the final sausage curb, losing him immeasurable time on the front straight: the race was on.

After a good first sector, the gap was under two tenths, and into Brundle Fish went for the move, sneaking up the inside. Offline, Khaos was backed up into the path of Yoda, who needing a good result and sensing a great opportunity here went for the move. CONTACT! Together, the two went off, clearing the way for JHig in third, and eliminating both chances for a podium. Further back, after an uneventful final lap for Fish, the battle for fourth became the battle for second. After JHig’s massive time penalty was applied, Crampy, who spent the whole race in the middle pack, and Willy, who fell back to 10th on lap one, would come back to take the podium.

Driver interviews

We caught up with our drivers after the race to see how they felt about their performances so far, and what their hopes are for the next round:

MrFish

“It’s been a reasonable start for me to the season but Round One was difficult as the BMW had a massive disadvantage at Watkins Glen, so that round was all about banking as many points as possible whilst accepting I wouldn’t be anywhere near the front. I think this is the reason I sit mid-table, although it’s also true that the pace across the field is really tight so it’s hard to say where anyone really should be, pace is irrelevant if you can’t nail the results at the end of the day. I think anyone in my position would hope for more, but it’s far from over. It sounds like a cliche, but at this point, I really need to be beating everyone.

The pace is unreal, sometimes less than a second is separating the whole grid, so banking as many points as possible is key from here on. Your front runners (Willy, Tam, AJ, and Yoda) are looking good so far but myself and multiple-champion KhaosTheory are far from out of it, and to be honest, anyone of us could end up in the fight by the end of it. I do feel it is important that I try to at least match Khaos’ results, however; If anyone is going to make it from mid-table to the top it’ll be him and I would like to be amongst it when we reach Brands GP.”

Khaosthoery

“The season started ok, good points from Round One. I would like to be a little higher in the championship. My pace is good but everyone’s pace is so close. All I can do is be as consistent as possible and score good points for every round. Getting on the podium was all about working together with Mr. Fish and getting away at the front. The hardest part of the race was trying to pass the other BMW as we both have a very similar pace. It was so hard to get the pass done. I don’t think I have a main rival for the next round, but I hope to be mixing it with Willy, AJW, Tham, JHig, Yoda, and the other fast Megane lads plus mixing it with MrFish in the other BMW is always good racing. It will be another really close race.”

JHIG

“I think my pace has been strong from the very start of the season. I qualified on pole for the first two races of the season, but think I have just been unlucky… in the wrong place at the wrong time. I want more but it can’t just happen with a field of cars that are all so close on pace, so I’ve got to make it happen by putting the practice in. Getting on the podium this week was just all about trying nothing stupid and trying to stay close to the top 2 which were Fish and Khaos, hoping they would start fighting, allowing me to get a tow and stay with them, pulling away from the pack. For Round 3 I am just hoping to get some decent results and get higher up in the championship.”

AJ

“I am very pleased with how the season has gone so far, I’ve just focused on keeping myself out of trouble and not making risky moves that may not pay off. At the end of the day, it is Touring Cars and you do have to get right into it sometimes, but it’s just knowing when to do so. This week it was key to have very fast and consistent lap times up in front if you wanted to stay there, otherwise you would’ve been scooped up by the rest. I think we need to get into Tham this next meeting as he’s been on that top step of the championship for the past two rounds and we need to switch it up to make the championship even tenser!”

WILLY

“I’m very pleased to be sitting 2nd in the table after 6 intense races! I’ve got good pace in TC so I’m exactly where I had hoped to be. Keeping focused on what your own race and not the battle in your mirrors will help cut out the silly mistakes and land you a solid finish. Race 1, I battled hard every lap to 5th place only to bin it on the final lap after witnessing a god-like move from Captincrampy89 on Tham; good awareness and fierce battling was the key to victory around this short track. For me, Tham would be my main rival as he is currently ahead on points. I’ll have to make sure that I finish ahead of him as much as possible.”

THAM

“Yes, it’s been a good start to the season for me, leading the group by 14 points after Round Two is more than I expected to be honest. The list of talent in Tier One is insane, everyone is on fire running crazy times, so am happy even though I’m still to win a race, but I suppose constant points will do me well. Starting from the back in 2 races with a field as strong as this is intense but with a field of great drivers and racers all being respectful it’s great fun. Still hard work, but rewarding. Main rivals? More like they’re all bitting at my heels! Khaostheory and Willyblackhamer are the ones that are always on it, but as I’ve said, anyone in the league has a shot at the title as all are rapid drivers. I just need to keep the head down, look for wins, rack up the points, and keep my fingers crossed.”

CRAMPY

“I feel like I’m doing better than expected. The pace of these guys is unreal and with a lack of practice time on my end, my plan for each race is to finish in the top half and challenge for podiums. As the racing is so close to these guys, accidents will happen. It’s all about assessing the risks and not going for a risky move when already in a good points-scoring position. Picking up consistent good points will be key for this championship. I had consistent pace by Race Three, with a little luck with penalties with the guys around me and the guys behind having a good battle of their own slowing themselves down helped. Sometimes it just goes your way… My main aim is to keep in front of the BMWs. Will be hard work as we visit tracks that suit them more.”

The second race is done and dusted, Tier One is heating up as we near the halfway mark. Be sure to stay tuned with your favorite Tier One drivers as OTL: The Drive goes to Italy’s Imola for the third round of the OTL XBOX Project Cars 2 Touring Car Championship!