The championship title battle is heating up in the V10 R-League as we approach the mid-way point of the season!
Last week's Nordschleife ties <font color="#000117"><a href="https://realsport101.com/racing/v10-r-league-round-3-nordschleife-results-and-standings-porsche-and-williams-contnue-as-top-dogs-but-bmw-red-bull-close-in-racing-point-yas-heat-suzuki-fordzilla-germany/"> </a></font>were all close contests as nobody completed a clean sweep. This week saw the R-League return to Italy for four championship ties at the Vallelunga Circuit.
Some changes were made to the events as we've returned to a more normal lap time after the Nurburgring. The head-to-head was two laps, the relay race was increased to seven laps, with the team race was run over 12 tours.
Here are all the highlights from Vallelunga!
Red Bull v Yas Heat
Incredibly, Red Bull and Yas Heat were tied on four points each going into Round 4. Heat had managed their first win last time out, but Red Bull were the favourites after becoming the first team to take a point off Porsche.
NECK AND NECK: Heat and Red Bull were equal on points going into this content
Red Bull: Joni Tormala, Aurelien Mallet, Graham Carroll
Heat: Simone Fedele, Eamon Murphy, Jaroslav Honzik
Joni Tormala v Eamon Murphy was the first head-to-head contest this week. Murphy lunged for the lead but Tormala held firm. Neither driver made a mistake as Tormala made it advantage Red Bull, 1-0.
Graham Carroll started on pole for Red Bull, but Simone Fedele wasn't lying down, attempting a move around the outside, but the Brit held firm to make it 2-0 and win the head-to-head contest for RB Esports.
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Fedele was chasing Tormala at the start of the relay race and was keeping close to the back of the Finn's Red Bull. Fedele would spin on his first lap though, losing almost ten seconds to the leader.
Things got even worse for Heat, as Fedele ran too long and was disqualified from the event. Heat only had the team race to redeem themselves. Carroll would spin off thanks to contact with the Heats off the line.
Aurelien Mallet would lead but was being chased hard by Murphy. The top four were separated by less than two seconds going onto lap two as Red Bull led by 15-11.
Murphy lunged for the lead but overshot and opened the door for Tormala to make it a Red Bull 1-2. Murphy was looking to redeem himself but ended up punting Tormala off.
CRAZY: The team race was one you couldn't keep your eyes off
Through all this, Tormala somehow led from Fedele, a contest that Red Bull won to make it a clean sweep over Yas Heat. Murphy and Honzik both got penalties for their various crashes.
Three points is exactly what the doctor ordered for Red Bull and lets them close on Porsche and Williams in the championship standings.
Racing Point v Fordzilla
A bottom of the table clash between Racing Point and Fordzilla offered both a chance to catch the mid-pack. Fordzilla hadn't picked up a point since the opening round, while Racing Point needed a victory to keep up with BMW.
BASEMENT BATTLE: Who would rise from the ashes to take victory in Italy?
Racing Point: Lucas Blakeley, Shanaka Clay, Rafael Lobato
Fordzilla: Pablo Lopez, Shaun Arnold, Ruben Rodriguez
Lucas Blakeley v Ruben Rodriguez was always going to be an interesting tie for the first head-to-head. Blakeley placed his Racing Point perfectly to hold off Rodriguez into Turn 1. Racing Point would take the lead in the H2H.
Shanaka Clay took on Fordzilla's Shaun Arnold for the next battle. The pair were neck and neck into the first braking zone, Clay holding firm before Arnold spun and ruined his chances. RP took a 1-0 point lead.
The relay race began with Lopez v Blakeley and Lopez challenged round the outside into the first braking zone. It was too much for the Fordzilla man though, but he kept close to Blakeley throughout his stint.
Clay v Arnold was the second stint and Clay didn't put a wheel wrong to maintain Racing Point's lead. It was all down to the final stint, but Arnold's mistake put Fordzilla at a huge disadvantage.
It got worse for Fordzilla too, a long pit stop ended their hopes of taking the victory in the tie and the relay race. It was now 2-0 to Racing Point, could they get their first clean sweep of the season?
Pablo Lopez got a fantastic start to take the lead in the team race, as Clay slotted into P2. It was advantage Fordzilla though, especially after Clay spun to make it a 1-2 with Arnold.
LARGE IN THE MIRRORS: Fordzilla were putting up a fight against RP
But there was more drama! Arnold spun on Lap 5 to make it 2-3-4 to Racing Point and a tie on points. Rodriguez was all over Lobato for P4 though, the pendulum could've swung again.
Rodriguez would spin on Lap 9 of 12 though, sending him to the back and meaning that this round was tied. Racing Point still ran out victors though, with a score of 2-0.
Williams v BMW
Williams and BMW were second and third, respectively, going into this round of the championship. Both needed a win to attempt to catch Porsche, but something had to give around the Roman circuit.
HOT ON THEIR HEELS: Williams led but BMW were looking to make up ground
Williams: Martin Stefanko, Kuba Brzezinski, Michael Romanidis
BMW: Cem Bolukbasi, Kevin Siggy, Laurin Heinrich
Kuba Brzezinski v Cem Bolukbasi kicked off this highly anticipated match-up. Brzezinski got a run on Bolukbasi into the first braking zone, but the Turk held firm.
A mistake for the BMW man opened the door for Brzezinski but contact between the pair threatened to involve the stewards. Brzezinski crossed the line first, but a penalty handed Bolukbasi the first point.
Martin Stefanko and Laurin Heinrich was incredible contest. The pair swapped position seemingly endless times in their two laps but Stefanko crossed the line first to win and tie the head-to-head contest.
Kevin Siggy started on pole, but Michael Romanidis had a run on the Slovene. Romanidis got into the first braking zone too hot and overshot the corner. It was so tight into the last few corners but Siggy came out on top to win the head-to-heads for BMW 2-1.
ON THE LIMIT: This was a no bars held contest
It was as tight as you'd expect in the relay race, BMW leading ahead of Williams, but not for long, as Stefanko spectacularly overtook Siggy on the first lap.
Siggy was losing time and decided to pit as Williams took their joker. Heinrich has been rapid since joining at the previous round and put pressure on Brzezinski in the second stint.
The gap was coming down, but Williams still led going into the final stint. Bolukbasi v Romanidis was the final match-up but BMW's poor pit stop cost them vital time! A fantastic contest came to an end, as Williams evened up the battle 1-1 going into the team race.
Bolukbasi led at the start of the team race but was taken out by Romanidis at the end of the first lap. Heinrich took his teammate's place at the point of the field but was being chased by the Williams of Stefanko and Romanidis.
BMW narrowly lead the points battle but just one position change could change the balance of power. Romanidis was then given a penalty for his contact, sending the Greek driver to the back of the field.
Stefanko was trying to right those wrongs though, taking the lead but would it be enough? 15-11 in favour of Williams was the final score, a massive 2-1 victory for the British team.
Suzuki v Porsche
Suzuki sat second-bottom of the championship going into this round, while Porsche led. Porsche had to keep their good form up though and nobody has managed a clean sweep of JAESA Suzuki yet.
TOUGH TO BEAT: Nobody had beat Suzuki 3-0 yet
Suzuki: Danilo Santoro, Giorgio Simonini, Alex Turato
Porsche: Ben Cornett, Michal Smidl, Atze Kerkhof
Ben Cornett led from lights to flag, but Alex Turato kept him honest throughout their contest. Porsche led 1-0 in the head-to-head tie and Atze Kerkhof was looking imperious.
Danilo Santoro was pushing the limits, having a wide moment before recovering and catching Kerkhof. It wasn't enough though, as Porsche drew first blood and led 1-0.
The relay race was an opportunity for JEASA Suzuki to tie the contest, but Porsche started on pole. Starting second wasn't a big disadvantage here at Vallelunga though, as Simonini kept the Porsche honest.
Suzuki gained time in the first stop before taking the lead in the second and final change. Ben Cornett was absolutely all over Turato's gearbox, but it wasn't enough, Suzuki won the relay race and tied the contest 1-1!
Incredibly, it was all to play for in the team race. Cornett led but Santoro and Simonini were hot on the Poscrhe's heels. Turato spun wide though and Simonini showed his inexperience as he lost third to Kerkhof.
Simonini attempted to take the place back but Smidl took the Suzuki out, Smidl earning a 10 second penalty for his trouble. Porsche still led in the points, but Santoro was challenging for the lead!
DRIVER'S SEAT: Porsche were leading the championship going into this round
This was another amazing contest, could the Alesi team pull off a massive upset?
It wasn't to be, but it wasn't for lack of trying, Suzuki could hold their head up high despite the 2-1 loss.
Here are the updated standings after the Vallelunga ties:
|3||Red Bull Racing Esports||7|
|4||BMW Motorsport Sim Racing Team||6|
|5||BWT Racing Point Esports Team||5|
|7||JAESA Team Suzuki||3|
Porsche maintained P1 but Williams and Red Bull are still very close!
The Next Round
The V10 R-League travels across the Atlantic to the USA and sunny California. Round 5 will be held at the famous Laguna Seca Circuit on 5th October at 7 pm BST.
The entire Season 1 of V10 R-League will be shown on BT Sport in the UK.
Those in the US can watch on ESPN3, while in the Middle East it will be available on STARZPLAY Arabia.