Harley Haber has fended off a final lap dual for the lead to claim victory in the opening race of round three for the ARG eSport Cup held at Watkins Glen.
Meanwhile it was a case of déjà vu for Ash Sutton in race two, capitalising on an early race accident to work himself into race winning contention before executing his push for the lead on the penultimate lap to cap off a sublime victory.
After a strategic masterstroke to pit early in search for clean air, Haber found himself leading a hungry battle pack of six cars for the lead as he neared the conclusion to the 30-minute race.
2017 British Touring Car Champion Ash Sutton initially led the field from pole position. Haber and sim-racing specialist Luca Giacomin duly followed the Brit into turn one and began to apply early pressure for the lead.
Steven Johnson’s second run in the Tru-Blue Falcon replica came to an abrupt end when he speared into the Armco barrier at turn one. But despite a grid in excess of 40 cars there were no further accidents on the opening lap.
The longer feature race included a mandatory pitstop for all the drivers. Haber and Sutton were the first of the leaders to pit for fresh fuel and tyres while Supercars co—driver Thomas Randle, who was running comfortably in third, opted to push on longer with his stint.
Points leader coming into the round, Dylan O’Keeffe struggled to match the pace of the leading pack. Then an unnecessary collision with Garth Tander sent the Super2 driver into a pirouette, dropping him out of the top-ten.
New Zealand based TCR team Track Tec Racing had a sombre moment when Niels Langeveld was tagged by John Martin along the start/finish straight. The Dutch factory Audi driver was consequently sent on a collision course towards the outside wall and was forced out of the race.
As the laps worn on, Haber found himself in the lead, holding a narrow advantage over Randle who had worked his way ahead of Sutton courtesy of fresher rubber. The dual for the lead subsequently invited Nathan Herne and ex-Supercars journeyman James Golding into the fight.
With one lap remaining, Randle sensed his opportunity to steal a victory. But a rare mistake at the penultimate turn culminated into 24-year-old being forced off the track and into a spin.
The incident thus gave Haber an unrivalled run to the flag with Sutton and Herne in tandem. Jaden Ransley was the first of the kiwis home in a respectably seventh.
Tom Alexander was awarded pole position for the 15-minute sprint race courtesy of a top-half reverse grid.
Alexander made a sterling start off the line, dancing away from the challenging pack out of turn one.
The kiwi’s lead wouldn’t surmount to too much however, as both Ricky Campo and Garth Tander moved themselves into the top two positions and demoting Alexander down to third.
Then the expected drama unfolded as Tander, who has quickly gained an infamous reputation in the series as a crash-magnet, was spun by Campo into the wall at turn five.
An ungoverned bounce off the wall saw Tander spear back directly into the path of Campo. The pair sustained heavy damage in the crash and ruled themselves out of the race.
Alexander duly regained the lead, albeit briefly as both Sutton and Haber, who quickly worked themselves inside the top three within a handful of laps, forced themselves past the kiwi.
Haber then led Sutton for all but two laps when the Brit executed a shrewd overtake at turn four. The lengthy back straight coupled by a healthy dose of slipstream allowing Sutton to slip up the inside of Haber.
The move ultimately proved decisive as Sutton fended off any resurgence from Haber to claim yet another victory in the ARG eSport Cup.
Alexander pulled off a man-of-the-match performance to finish third while Dylan O’Keeffe made amends after his race one mishap to follow the kiwi home in fourth.