Apex Racing hit the front with Oulton Park Esports double
Apex Racing Team took control in the ROKiT British F4 Esports Championship standings with a double victory at Oulton Park tonight [21 October], victories for Jamie Fluke and Luke McKeown elevating them to first and second overall.
The virtual edition of Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series swapped the fast, sweeping turns of Donington Park for a tighter, more technical challenge in Oulton Park’s Island circuit, sponsored by Base Performance Simulators.
Munster Rugby Gaming arrived with the bragging rights after a storming start last week, but with Apex’s main team and affiliated Academy squad hot on their heels, and it would be they who claimed pole position courtesy of an under-the-weather Fluke.
His margin back to erstwhile championship leader Josh Lad (Munster) was only 0.052 seconds, and in what is fast become ‘typical ROKiT British F4 Esports’ fashion, the battle for the victory between the pair was equally as close in race one.
When the lights went out, Fluke immediately pulled over to the right to cover off the line against a fast-starting Lad into Old Hall, with Lad’s stand-in team-mate Morena Sirica keeping a watching brief behind in third.
What followed was 30 minutes of high-stakes action around the Cheshire venue, the top three never separated by more than a second. On several occasions, Lad looked to have a run on Fluke for the race lead, but, with a long championship ahead, decided discretion was the better part of valour.
He therefore took second, albeit just 0.2 seconds adrift of Fluke at the chequered flag. Fluke in turn notched up his first win of the season, as Apex and Munster continue to move clear at the championship summit.
Luke McKeown, running for the affiliated Apex Racing Academy team, enjoyed a steady run to fourth, with Dion Gowda (Team Fordzilla Hybrid) rounding out the top five.
“I don’t know, really, how I put it on pole,” admitted Fluke afterwards. “That feels like a minor miracle. But we did it, got off the line reasonably well and held on for half an hour.
“Again, I don’t really know how! Josh was sort of sitting, there were a few opportunities where he could have gone for it, but he seems to already be thinking about the bigger picture.”
“I think it was just more of a case that there was no need to pass,” said Lad, his account proving Fluke’s theory to be correct.
“In terms of thinking about the championship, we saw that Peter Berryman had an issue, the same for Stanley [Deslandes], so for the Teams’ Championship, for Munster, there was no need to go for anything, we’d be outscoring them anyway.”
That result moved Fluke to within two points of Lad as it was, and when the lowest-possible number of cars – five, to be exact – were reversed for the second race, the former started at the head of the third row, with every chance of bagging another good haul of points.
Gowda was therefore the lucky driver promoted to reverse pole, and in almost mirror fashion to Fluke in the opener, he too pulled across to cover the inside when the final contest of the night got underway to block McKeown.
But the lead would change hands after just three minutes of the half-hour contest, McKeown getting a better exit from the last corner at Lodge to out-drag Gowda down to Old Hall.
Some opportunistic overtaking from Lad enabled him to follow through past Gowda into second, but from a convincing position, his night soon unravelled.
Fordzilla runners Gowda and Josh Poulain first inverted at Cascades shortly thereafter for third spot, giving Poulain the opportunity to make a lunge at Old Hall on Lad.
Poulain ran wide and allowed Gowda back through, but amidst the squabbling, McKeown was able to make a break for it out front and build a healthy gap. Then, contact into the back of Lad under braking for the Island hairpin by Poulain then sent the Munster driver straight on and left Poulain with damage at the back.
Fluke, fifth whilst this all kicked off ahead, quietly picked up the pieces to take third, then passed Gowda later on to finish second to race winner McKeown and open up a four-point buffer between them in the championship, with Lad now third, the same margin further back.
“I had a few glimpses in my mirror, I could see two or three-wide battles into the hairpin, and I was just thinking ‘now is my chance to get away’, and I did that, and it worked out,” summarises McKeown.
“I try to not to put myself in positions where I’m not going to be compromised too heavily either way,” explains new points leader Fluke on picking his way through the chaos.
“It’s a tough balancing act, but I think on this one, personally, I got it pretty spot on.”
Lad would recover from the earlier setback to take sixth on the road, Gowda, Sirica and YRDA Arden’s Ted Bradbury the three cars separating him from his chief title rivals.
That would prove important with regard to the Teams’ Championship, with Lad’s recovering drive and Sirica’s points-scoring cameo keeping Munster Rugby Gaming 18 points clear of Apex Academy.
After a one-week break, the 2022 ROKiT British F4 Esports Championship returns to action at Knockhill on Friday, 4th November.