Matthew Payne and Liam Lawson shared a win apiece in the fourth round of the 2KCUP iRacing Sunday League.
An untamed battle for the lead between Payne, Liam Lawson and Shane Van Gisbergen headlined race one. Payne’s patience paying dividends as Lawson and Van Gisbergen tangled on lap 10, forcing Lawson to lose valuable time and SVG to be disqualified.
While a sagacious Lawson chased down Payne in the final few laps of race two, being as low as fourth with ten laps remaining, to eventually lead his rival home in an enthralling finish to win by 0.110s. Callum Hedge concluded his fourth successive race of the evening with a much deserved third place as he narrowly edged home Darryn Lobb for the final podium placing.
Drama unfolded immediately as the lights went with Chris Symon stalling on the grid before being collected by Peter Vodanovich
Pole sitter Darryn Lobb made a sterling start to lead the field unrivalled into turn one, Payne and Van Gisbergen in hot pursuit of ex-South African sports car racer.
Van Gisbergen was not going to be stuck behind Lobb any longer than necessary, stealing the lead from Lobb into the final turn as the field made its way onto lap two.
Another lap later and an intransigent Payne attempted a late lunge at turn ten to steal second away from Lobb but giving Van Gisbergen a tap in the process, forcing the 2016 Supercars champion to relinquish his lead.
Starting tenth virtue of the reverse top-10 race format, Toyota Racing Series champion Liam Lawson made an expeditious start, propelling himself inside the top three by lap four, before snatching away second and then the race lead two laps later.
But despite making his way to the race lead with seamless ease, Lawson began to struggle to build any advantage over Van Gisbergen and Payne. The trio trading paint on several occasions with Lawson repeatedly utilising all the available tarmac and more to fend off an alacritous Van Gisbergen.
Van Gisbergen was vividly frustrated as he remained stuck behind Lawson, frequently being blocked by the ramparted defence of Lawson.
But the on lap 14 the pair came to blows. The TRS star perhaps guilty of moving across in the braking zone at turn 10 and was subsequently tagged by Van Gisbergen, forcing himself into executing a pirouette. Fortunately, Lawson’s advantage over fourth place Matt Stevens was large enough for the Pukekohe teenager to maintain third place.
Then in bizarre circumstances, Van Gisbergen dropped off the timing boards in what initially looked as an internet issue. But under closer scrutiny it became apparent that Van Gisbergen had in fact exceeded his 30 penalty points limit with the collision with Lawson and was consequently disqualified from the race.
While the incident sparked controversy it didn’t deter the focus of Matthew Payne. The KZ2 national karting champion comfortably cruising to the chequered flag, 2.9s ahead of Lawson. Matt Stevens rounded off the podium placings.
The pivotal launch off the line was ultimately won by James Watson from the second row of the grid.
The second race of the evening is ordered in a reverse top-ten of race one results. Subsequent pole sitter Hayden Warrington yielded the lead to Watson but was too stubborn in his defence for second over Warren Crowther. The duo running each other out of road, spinning off into the infield. The incident compelled those behind to take evasive action to avoid a sizable accident.
Race one winner Payne capitalised on his rivals’ misdemeanours to leapfrog himself into fourth by lap two after starting tenth. Lawson making an equally sublime start to jump into the top three and behind Darryn Lobb.
Watson was resolute in fending off Lobb for the lead, the battle inviting Lawson to pip Lobb for second and work away at Watson. Payne quickly followed Lawson past Watson into second.
Lap six and Lawson made his move for the race lead in a forceful overtake on Watson.
But just as it was in race one, once Lawson got into the lead, he could never muster the speed necessary to build a comfortable advantage.
Payne kept Lawson honest for several laps before eventually finding a way past the NZ Grand Prix winner on lap 10.
An agitated Lawson then found himself down in fourth after being punted from behind by Darryn Lobb. But a resilient Lawson quickly found top gear, lapping upwards of four-tenths faster than leaders to chase and re-overtake Watson and Lobb with nine laps remaining.
Hunting down Payne, Lawson clawed back an advantage that at its maximum recorded 3.2seconds to find himself within striking distance of the lead.
Lawson eventually made his move for the lead five laps from the flag. A shrewd and rejuvenated Matthew Payne followed Lawson home for the final few laps with a lunge on the final lap.
But Lawson would ultimately lead Payne home all the way to the chequered flag, a mere 0.110s separating the duo at the line. New Zealand Porsche regular Callum Hedge would claim third position after finding his way ahead of Lobb on the penultimate lap.