V10 R-League: Aston Martin battle Williams in quarter-final clash

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The V10 R-League has reached crunch time, with just six teams left standing as we move into the playoffs.

First up, it’s Aston Martin against Williams - with the winner here knowing they’ll face McLaren Shadow in the semi-final

It’s been a season of the unexpected for these two teams; Aston Martin surprised many by finishing runners up in Group A. Williams, meanwhile, scraped into 3rd place in Group B, having started the campaign as one of the hot favourites. 

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Which British outfit will come out on top in this one?

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Showdown in Spa

Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team: Daniele Haddad, Lucas Blakeley, Shanaka Clay

Williams Esports: Kuba Brzezinski, Martin Stefanko, Nikodem Wisniewski

The first race of the quarter-finals began at Spa, with Kuba Brzezinski on pole for Williams ahead of Daniele Haddad. 

There was drama between the two drivers almost immediately as they fought for position heading into turn one. Haddad, who misjudged his braking point, clipped the back of Brzezinski and sent him into an awkward spin. No doubt fearing a post-race penalty for the incident, the Italian slowed his car down to a crawl - allowing Brzezinski to right himself and retake the lead. 

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Despite having Haddad on his tail throughout Lap 1, Brzezinski kept his cool and was leading into Lap 2. Haddad headed to the pits to swap places with his Aston Martin teammate Lucas Blakeley. 

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The Scotsman, one of the stars of the R-League this season, brilliantly caught up on Laps 2 and 3. He then overtook Nikodem Wisniewski as he made his way out of the pit, and by Lap 4 Aston Martin were in front by over two seconds.

This gave Shanaka Clay a healthy advantage over Martin Stefanko in the final stint. Try as he might, Stefanko struggled to catch up, and after making an error while pushing on the Stavelot corner, Clay cruised to victory.

Leading Lucas  

Williams had their work cut out if they wanted to level the score in the team race, as Aston Martin lead into turn one with all three of their cars.

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But Stefanko seemed determined to not let Aston Martin have it all their own way; he was able to use the slipstream and pass Clay on the Kemmel Straight, and by Lap 2 the Czech driver was within touching distance of Blakeley.

However, Blakeley seemed to be controlling the race. With Haddad fending off Stefanko, he was able to clinch the win and double Aston Martin's advantage in the tie.  

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Williams Woes

Williams now had it all to do in the two races in Silverstone.

Sensing the urgency in his team, Brzezinski stormed into the lead of the relay race ahead of Haddad. But after some flamboyant jostling for position, the pair were side-by-side as they reached the Wellington Straight.

With Haddad then ahead, Brzezinski clumsily clipped his rear as they went around the Luffield corner, sending them both into an uncontrollable spin onto the gravel. 

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Brzezinski was first to free himself, but the Polish driver lost grip on the exit of Stowe and ploughed into the barrier at high speed. Avoiding the carnage, Haddad nipped into the pits. Wounded and beaten, Brzezinski followed him in, some five seconds behind. 

Aston Martin, sensing victory and passage into the semi-finals, called upon Blakeley to take over from Haddad. Wisniewski was handed the impossible job of catching up, but with victory in the bag, Blakeley made way for Clay who held on to make it 3-0.

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Blakeley the Boss

With their place in the semi-final nailed down, Aston Martin were now simply looking to make it a 4-0 clean sweep. 

Blakeley, as expected, raced into the lead ahead of a vengeful Brzezinski, but Haddad, Clay and Stefanko were close behind. As the Aston Martin front man built up a lead, the battle for 2nd place began to get interesting; by Lap 4, less than a second split the rest of the pack, with a train of cars forming behind the steadfast Brzezinski.

While Blakeley held on to another superb victory, Brzezinski was starting to struggle on his wearing tyres. On the final lap, Haddad finally got past the stricken Williams car to seal another stunning one-two finish for Aston Martin.

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A dominant 4-0 victory for the British outfit not only sees them through to the semi-finals, but also lays down a marker to the other teams left in the playoffs. Blakeley, Haddad and Clay make up a seriously classy lineup, and they'll full of confidence ahead of their bout with McLaren.

Williams, though, will be understandably disappointed. Last season's finalists have fallen short throughout Season 2, with Brzezinski's costly mistake in the Silverstone relay race epitomising their campaign.

All eyes now turn to Match 2 of the playoffs, which pits BMW against YAS Heat.