Chris van der Drift has stolen victory at the death in the latest Racing Local Eseries event.
The three-time Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion worked in tandem with World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley in a classic IndyCar slipstream battle to eat away at the sizable margin of erstwhile leader Brendon Partridge.
Despite not having led more than a lap all race, Van der Drift ultimately edged himself into the lead along the start/finish straight to claim victory by a mere 0.012s.
The race proved to be unpredictable across its duration. With multiple leaders and crashes aplenty, the winner was always set to be the racer who could keep it clean and avoid going a lap down.
Robert Northway lead recently zealous sim-racer Mad Mike Whiddett across the stripe for the first of 45-tours; the field running a surprisingly clean opening lap around the two-mile banked speedway.
Whiddett and Northway then began to edge ahead of the challenging pack before a multi-car pileup at turn two saw the field neutralised behind the Safety Car.
The incident ruled out several key runners, namely Shane Van Gisbergen, Tom Blomqvist, Taylor Cockerton and Greg Murphy.
A unique feature for the event was that all drivers were mandated to stop for fuel at least once during the race.
But due to the multiple caution periods that interrupted the opening stages most of the field were able to pit under yellow and maintain valuable track position.
The restart was punctuated by Whiddett failing to get up to speed and checking up those drivers behind.
It dropped the Red Bull driver back to fifth while Northway retained his lead.
Another caution period was waved on lap 13 due to a 15-car-plus accident towards the rear of the field. The high speeds that characterise the circuit, coupled by the significantly large field meant accidents were evitable and, consequently, the race was set to go to time certainty rather than the full 45-lap distance.
On the restart Northway dropped behind Lawson, Griffin and Daniel Stevens.
Tragedy struck for Lawson when he was sent into the outside wall at turn One after making subtle contact with Stevens while duelling for the lead.
The 18-year-old had fallen outside the top-Ten before almost immediately Griffin and Stevens tagged each other in another race leader incident. The duo both going for an undesired pirouette on the in-field.
It meant the battle for victory came down to a three-way dual between Partridge, Van der Drift and Hartley.
Initially, Partridge’s 1.5s advantage seemed unassailable, but a calculated tactical slipstream play between Hartley and Van der Drift meant the pair quickly bridged the deficit. At the white flag a mere two-tenths separated the top-three.
An incredible last lap tussle ensued with Van der Drift utilising the tow along the final straight to pip Partridge at the line by 0.012s.
Brendon Hartley finished 0.096s behind the pair, with Shane O’Connor finishing in fourth and the last car on the lead lap.
After being victimised in an earlier incident, a rejuvenated Van Gisbergen would round off the top-five.
The race concludes the penultimate round of the charity Eseries which has already raised over $25,000 for small local businesses that have suffered financial hardships amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The final round is slated for Friday May 22 with venues and cars to be announced in due course.