The much anticipated ARG eSport Cup kicked off their virtual championship last night with a broadcast that could only be described as ‘shaky.’
Internet issues for the series’ directors meant both visual and audio were often difficult to follow.
Nonetheless, the mammoth 52 car grid definitely delivered on bringing fans an entertaining pair of races from Mount Panorama.
The 30-minute feature race was largely dominated by 2017 British Touring Car Champion Ash Sutton and Porsche Carrera Cup regular Dylan O’Keeffe.
After qualifying on pole, O’Keeffe survived the onslaught that occurred in the opening few turns, taking out a number of key runners. One of which was kiwi Porsche SuperCup driver Jaxon Evans.
After qualifying fifth, Evans was the highest place New Zealand driver on the grid. However, all of Evan’s pre-race preparation was immediately nullified when he was caught up in a collision at turn two.
Sutton, who had qualified just behind O’Keeffe in third, was another fortunate survivor of the lap one drama and began to chase after the race leader.
While everyone else seemingly struggled to keep their cars on the road, O’Keeffe and Sutton powered away from the field.
After following O’Keeffe for the opening half of the race, Sutton finally made his move for the race lead along Mountain Straight and into turn two.
Fending off a strong challenge from a rejuvenated O’Keeffe, Sutton subdued the pressure and led his rival all the way to the chequered flag.
After qualifying just outside the top ten, fellow kiwi Jaden Ransley began to make solid inroads on the race leaders. A fiercely fought battle over seventh ensued but the 18-year-old Toyota 86 driver was the unlucky victim of being tipped at The Cutting with less than five-minutes on the clock.
Leading the charge for kiwi outfit Track Tec Racing, Dutch driver Niels Langeveld crossed the line in a credible ninth-place finish.
Tom Alexander miraculously managed to bring home his bruised TCR machine. After being victimized in several accidents, Alexander would finish the race in 16th with only half the original bodywork still intact.
The second race of the round was a 15-minute top 25 reverse grid, giving kiwi Rowan Shepherd pole position.
In a race that proved to be more chaotic than the feature event, 2007 Supercars Champion and three-time Bathurst 1000 winner Garth Tander became the first driver in the series to experience the phenomenon of racing up Mount Panorama on his roof after he was tipped into a spectacular accident at The Cutting.
With most of the chaos behind him, Shepherd increased his lead on every passing lap and by the conclusion of the race, the Hawkes Bay driver cruised to a comfortable victory.
Meanwhile, fellow both Jaden Ransley and Jaxon Evans ensured their would be three kiwis within the top five, the pair finishing in fourth and fifth respectively. Brett Holdsworth and Aaron Cameron rounded off the podium placings.
Cameron Mason, who competes in the Paynter Dixon Touring Car Masters Pro-Am class, bizarrely finished the race upside down after being collected by Steven Johnson along the start-finish straight.
A venue for next week’s round is yet to be confirmed.