The first perfect event in BMW CCA Club iRacing Series competition has been achieved as BMW Performance Center driver Christopher Hill started from pole to lead every lap through a total 40 minutes of competition split into two twenty-minute sprint races.
“In the first race, I feel a lot of the gap was from [Chris Braun and Dave Heinz] being so close together and I could see they were battling each other for most of the race. So, I had the hunch that they had the pace,” said Hill. “Throughout all the practice we’ve done during the week, I definitely was not at the top of the time charts. I was doing alright, but was not really confidently there. So, I felt like in race two it was going to be a lot closer. And it was.”
Only half-tenth of a second separated the top three drivers at the conclusion of qualifying. After lapping the twelve-turn, 2.54-mile, sinuous Road Atlanta in one minute, 26.738 seconds, Christopher Hill would lead the pack from the inside lane at the start of race one with Buckeye Chapter driver Kurt Polter and Matt Kalish from the New York chapter promising close competition just behind the pole sitter.
As the race one clock began its countdown from from twenty minutes, the three drivers quickly began to set a podium pace in their BMW M4 GT4s. After one lap, Hill, Polter, and Kalish had already established a one-second lead to an intensely battling field behind.
Crossing the line to start the race’s second lap, Kalish had the speed and went inside as he caught Polter at the entry of the fast and uphill-sweeping turn one. But Kalish misjudged the corner entry on cold tires and understeered at the apex directly into Polter’s door, sending him into the grass and Kalish to the pits for a penalty.
Alone at the front with a substantial lead, Hill began to set qualifying-style laps in clean air as the battle for the remaining two podium spots heated up. Trillium Chapter member Adam Poll, now in second, continued his battle with Road America race two winner Chris Braun. The two jockeyed for position over the next ten laps, with neither gaining an advantage before Braun made a daring inside move in the heavy-braking zone of turn ten to take the position.
Just two laps later, Poll was under pressure again, this time from Allegheny Chapter driver Dave Heinz. As the white flag waved, the intense fight for the final podium position slowed both drivers, bringing them into range of the closely following Tarheel Chapter driver Evan Levine.
Pushing his BMW M4 GT4 to ten tenths through turn twelve, Levine had the speed advantage on the straight and moved further inside of an already attacking Heinz on the entry into turn one. Three-wide with no driver backing down, Heinz had the middle lane and got on the power first, securing third as Levine slotted into fourth and Poll moved back to fifth.
Hill, keeping ahead of all the battles behind, extended an impressive ten-second lead over Braun in second as the checkered flag came out.
Rounding out the top ten in race one were Rafael Omar Rivas Espinal, Peter Eacmen, Kurt Polter, Matt Kalish, and Enrique Williams.
The finishing result of race one would become the starting order of race two. A second twenty-minute sprint around the undulating curves of Road Atlanta would begin with Christopher Hill once again on pole.
Hill was denied a clean breakaway as Braun kept close in his draft through the opening laps of race two, but the on-track action behind quickly heated up once again.
First to strike was Heinz, who took third place from Levine with a late-braking move into turn one. A few corners later, Boston Chapter driver Rafael Omar Rivas Espinal executed a similar inside-move on Levine through turn seven onto the long back straight.
Levine had the better exit, and when they reached straight’s end, the two drivers were side-by-side with inches between them. As the inches turned to millimeters in the braking zone of turn ten, the two cars rubbed against each other. The touch was slight, but it was enough to send Levine spinning into the gravel and earn Espinal a trip to the pits.
Polter and Kalish, who worked their way back into the top ten for race two, now found themselves directly behind fourth-place Poll. With momentum behind them, the two hard-charging drivers each found their way by as the clock counted down past the ten-minute mark.
In the podium positions, Hill held a narrow lead over Braun, but Heinz was setting qualifying-caliber laps in clean air and reeling in the leaders. He caught up two laps later and immediately made an outside move on Braun in turn six, running him tight at the apex. The two rubbed fenders mid-corner, but Braun held the position. It was the opening salvo in a fierce attack.
Heinz filled Braun’s mirrors as he ducked and weaved, attempting to distract, though he held position until the two were back in turn five. On the previous lap, Braun had gotten loose in the exit of the rough and high-speed turn five. Heinz was banking on him making the same mistake again, and he did.
Heinz had the speed advantage on exit and made another move into turn six, this time on the inside. With too much speed on the entry, he scrubbed high and made glancing contact with the defending Braun. But Braun had a more stable exit and moved to retake the position before the straight. Contact at the apex sent both cars spinning, ending both driver’s chance at a podium.
Polter, Kalish, and Poll slipped by, the former two now holding second and third on the podium with Poll right on Kalish’s bumper. The battle for third was set to go to the wire, but half a lap later, Kalish spun in the bumpy turn three. Poll made it through the incident clean to take third, as a recovered Heinz slotted into fourth and Kalish brought it back on track in fifth.
Hill, unaffected by the drama behind, comfortably extended his lead. Three minutes later, he would become the first driver in BMW CCA Club iRacing Series history to score a perfect event.
Placing sixth through tenth were Jose Williams, Ismel Sierra, Rafael O Rivas Espinal, Cameron Evans, and Chris Braun.
A replay of the exciting event is available to watch right now on the BMW CCA YouTube channel.
Next up, the BMW CCA Club iRacing Series gets ready for its season finale at the legendary Watkins Glen International with two races on Thursday, November 12. The stream kicks off at 9 p.m. EST on the BMW CCA Facebook and YouTube pages alongside the Podium eSports network. For more information on BMW CCA Club iRacing visit BMWCCAClubRacing.com/iracing.—Matt Kalish
Full BMW CCA Club iRacing Series results from Road America were as follows:
Finish Start Car # Driver Chapter Interval Best
1 1 1 Christopher Hill Pacific 1:26.383
2 5 17 Chris Braun Boston -9.79 1:26.452
3 7 57 Dave Heinz Allegheny -12.623 1:26.467
4 8 118 Evan Levine Tarheel -13.617 1:26.689
5 4 11 Adam Poll Trillium -14.440 1:26.497
6 6 82 Rafael O.R. Espinal Boston -14.568 1:26.995
7 9 488 Peter Eacmen New Jersey -19.735 1:27.329
8 2 44 Kurt Polter Buckeye -24.209 1:27.031
9 3 54 Matt Kalish New York -33.471 1:26.601
10 10 50 Jose Williams Tarheel -43.496 1:28.344
11 13 77 Brooks Ezell Tarheel -54.684 1:29.441
12 16 141 Yakov Bielak Trillium -55.079 1:28.858
13 17 33 Charlie Copper Buckeye -1:00.829 1:29.434
14 15 176 Cameron Evans Tejas -1:01.660 1:28.204
15 12 73 Dave Coll Bluegrass -1:19.463 1:28.929
16 11 28 Tyler Perry Roadrunner -1 L 1:28.388
17 14 142 Matthew Kogan San Diego -1 L 1:29.677
18 20 888 Jim Anderson Trillium -2 L 1:30.998
19 18 80 Paul Wigboldy Los Angeles -2 L 1:30.350
20 19 19 Ismel Sierra New York DNF 1:44.049
Finish Start Car # Driver Chapter Interval Best
1 1 1 Christopher Hill Pacific 1:26.486
2 8 44 Kurt Polter Buckeye -5.522 1:26.474
3 5 11 Adam Poll Trillium -10.738 1:26.769
4 3 57 Dave Heinz Allegheny -18.701 1:26.230
5 9 54 Matt Kalish New York -22.515 1:26.521
6 10 50 Jose Williams Tarheel -30.915 1:27.946
7 20 19 Ismel Sierra New York -31.881 1:27.028
8 6 82 Rafael O Rivas Espinal Boston -35.915 1:26.977
9 14 176 Cameron Evans Tejas -39.636 1:28.110
10 2 17 Chris Braun Boston -40.079 1:26.428
11 11 77 Brooks Ezell Tarheel -52.941 1:29.384
12 16 28 Tyler Perry Roadrunner -54.344 1:28.615
13 7 488 Peter Eacmen New Jersey -57.055 1:28.675
14 17 142 Matthew Kogan San Diego -1:13.839 1:29.523
15 13 33 Charlie Copper Buckeye -1:23.198 1:29.552
16 12 141 Yakov Bielak Trillium -1:23.643 1:30.262
17 19 80 Paul Wigboldy Los Angeles -1 L 1:29.459
18 15 73 Dave Coll Bluegrass -3 L 1:31.117
19 4 118 Evan Levine Tarheel DNF 1:27.093
20 18 888 Jim Anderson Trillium DNS –
[Photos courtesy Matt Kalish.]