The semi-finals of the V10 R-League have arrived.
Just four teams remain in the series, with McLaren Shadow and Aston Martin the first pair to fight it out for a place in the final.
McLaren, with superstar driver James Baldwin in their ranks, have had an extremely impressive first season in the R-League. But Aston Martin, fresh from their 4-0 demolition of Williams, will certainly be no slouches here.
Only one of these British racing behemoths will make it to the final, but who will it be?
Just Say Yas
McLaren Shadow: James Baldwin, Isaac Gillissen, Elvin Smith
Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team: Lucas Blakeley, Daniele Haddad, Shanaka Clay
The day began in Yas Marina for the first time this season, with Baldwin powering ahead of Daniele Haddad into turn one of the relay race.
With Baldwin in control at this early stage and continuing on into Lap 2, Haddad switched places with Lucas Blakeley. By Lap 3, Isaac Gillissen entered the fray and came out of the pits a second ahead of Blakeley.
After the final round of stops, Aston Martin’s hopes of winning fell to Shanaka Clay. But Elvin Smith was simply too far ahead to catch, and he crossed the line to win and take the first point for McLaren.
The team race began with Baldwin firing off the line into the lead ahead of Blakeley’s Aston Martin. But on the exit of turn one, Blakeley appeared to lose traction, allowing Gillissen to take 2nd place and hold a McLaren one-two.
With Baldwin building a commanding lead at the front, the real action was taking place further down the order; in the battle for 3rd place, Clay was having to defend for his life against Smith.
By Lap 4, Baldwin was nearly three seconds ahead of Blakeley. Blakeley, in turn, was over four seconds clear of his teammate Clay.
On the final lap, all eyes were on Smith as he hounded the back of Clay. But the Aston Martin rear gunner was able to hold onto his place, while Baldwin won for McLaren.
Aston Martin had it all to do as the two teams went to Spa Francorchamps for the final two races.
As expected, Baldwin led into turn one with Haddad in pursuit. But when the two exited the famous Eau Rouge corner, Haddad was able to use the slipstream through the Kemmel Straight to gain on Baldwin and pass before they reached Les Combes.
Leading into Lap 2, Aston Martin swapped their drivers; Blakeley taking the reins for Haddad while Baldwin stayed out.
By Lap 3, McLaren were still trailing as things went from bad to worse for them, with both Gillissen and Smith picking up penalties for pit lane violations. While Smith was able to overtake Clay on the final lap, it counted for nothing as Aston Martin were handed the win!
Aston Martin knew they needed to claim victory in the final team race and outscore McLaren on points to win the match overall.
Blakeley and Baldwin lead for their respective teams heading into turn one and two Brits came together; with Blakeley forced wide and down to 2nd place. Fighting back, Blakeley was able to gain on Baldwin on the Kemmel Straight and overtake heading into Les Combes.
There was drama behind as Baldwin spun on the exit and fell to the back of the pack. With McLaren’s star man down and out, Aston Martin could cement 1st and 2nd through Blakeley and Haddad. McLaren’s misery doubled on Lap 2 when Gillissen, challenging Haddad, lost grip on the same corner as Baldwin did the lap before and collided with the barrier.
Looking to make up places, Baldwin was up to 4th on Lap 4 and close to the back of Clay and Haddad. But there was nothing he could to find a way past, as Aston Martin won the race with Blakeley and came home one-two-three - sealing the comeback and their passage through to the final of the R-League!
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