Photo: TCR Australia/iRacing

Ash Sutton and Garth Tander share wins at Zolder in competitive eSports Cup round

The Belgian Circuit Zolder played host to the second round of the Australian Racing Group’s eSports Cup with a 40 car field after a massive opening round at Bathurst as the results showed the best real world races still rise to the top online.

Two former champions in their local diciplines shared the honours through the night with Ash Sutton taking a commanding victory in the opening race while 2007 Supercars champion Garth Tander won the reverse grid outing to cap off the night.

Sutton proved his form in the opening round of the series was not a fluke as he took pole for the first race, taking the Panta Fuels backed car to the front of the grid ahead of Harley Haber and former Supercars driver James Golding.

Making a strong getaway from the line, Sutton held the lead in the opening lap as Nathan Herne got up to second from fourth on the grid. Defending TCR Australia Series champion Will Brown had his race end before it got properly going, being taken off at the first chicane and adding to his 100% attrition rate for the series.

A big crash on the third lap took out TCR Australia regulars John Martin and Nathan Morcom, initiated by the Wall Racing driver ending up in the fence and bouncing back onto the track into the path of Morcom’s HMO Customer Racing entry, taking both of the “Hyundai” drivers out of the race.

As Sutton streaked away at the front of the pack, Golding was holding up those behind him after fighting back up to second place, coming under attack from Herne but giving his rival a serve off the circuit and triggering a multi-car crash.

With Garry Rogers Motorsport pilot Dylan O’Keeffe taking second place, some ten seconds behind Sutton, the TCR driver’s biggest threat was the Kiwi Jaden Ransley behind him in the Track Tec Racing car, a new outfit for this year’s TCR New Zealand series.

The race ended how it began with Sutton leading the way to the flag, taking his second win of the ARG eSports Cup as the scrap between O’Keeffe and Ransley ended in the Australian getting up over his trans-Tasman counterpart for podium honours as Herne got back up to third.

With the top first 20 finishers from the first race being swapped around for the final outing of the night, Sutton found himself in trouble early on after getting turned around on the run to Turn 1, making his job of getting in the lead harder thanks to the shorter 15 minute race.

The lead battle heated up after Aaron Cameron was turned while in the front of the pack, letting Garth Tander come through to take the lead position though his lead went away lap by lap with Cameron chasing him down to take back the position he held early on.

As Cameron started to fight off Jordan Cox behind him, Tander could extend his lead while the scrap for second intensified with the young guns battling which let Nic Carroll close up on the Garry Rogers Motorsport duo.

With just over two minutes to run, Cox made his move, bumping Cameron to get past as Carroll followed, soon making contact with Cox which dropped him behind O’Keeffe to fifth. Cameron had to fight off Carroll, O’Keeffe and Cox in a four-way fight for second.

Carroll was able to get his way past Cameron to lead the three GRM drivers with just over a lap to run, over five seconds down on Tander who had been able to streak away at the front of the field en route to his first virtual win in the eSports Cup. After dominating the opening race and being spun on the first lap of race two, Sutton was able to recover up to 13th place by the end of the 15 minute sprint.

Next week’s round will be from Watkins Glen, the track which used to host the US West Grand Prix and still continues to have events for NASCAR and Indycar now.