McLaren Shadow have been one of the surprise packages of the V10 R-League in Season 2.
The newcomers have beaten both Williams and BMW in spectacular fashion in recent weeks, and have already booked their place in the playoffs.
They now have their sights set on finishing top of Group B, but to do that they’ll need to score at least two points against JAESA Suzuki in their final match.
McLaren Shadow: James Baldwin, Isaac Gillissen, Elvin Smith
JAESA Team Suzuki: Giovanni De Salvo, Kamil Pawlowski, Michael Tonizza
The showdown started at Silverstone, with Kamil Pawlowski on pole for JAESA and Baldwin alongside him. But after a poor getaway from Pawlowski, who seemed to lose traction as he sped off the line, Baldwin raced into the lead at turn one.
The McLaren leader was able to pull away by almost a second as he started Lap 2, while Pawlowski decided to head to the pits to swap with his teammate Michael Tonizza.
But in a moment of utter confusion, Pawlowski somehow appeared to reset his lap. As he entered the pits, he essentially erased his progress before swapping seats with Tonizza. This then left his teammates with the impossible job of making up an extra lap on McLaren!
With JAESA in all sorts of trouble, Isaac Gillissen and then Elvin Smith took the final two laps for McLaren. Smith comfortably won the race for the British team, and in turn drew them level on points with BMW at the top of the group.
Might of McLaren
With the easiest of victories under their belt, McLaren entered the Silverstone team race full of confidence. Unsurprisingly, it was Baldwin on pole ahead of his teammates Gillissen and Smith.
The trio led into the first lap and then pulled away from the stricken JAESA cars - with only De Salvo looking capable of keeping up. With his two rear gunners behind him, Baldwin was able to stretch his lead even further; by Lap 4, he was nearly two seconds in front.
On the final lap, De Salvo started to look like he might be able to pass Smith's McLaren. The Italian was on the medium tyres, which generally worked better in the latter stages of the race. In contrast, Smith was starting to struggle on the softer compound.
But the Brit held onto his 3rd place, with Baldwin and Gillissen crossing the line ahead of him to give McLaren an impressive one-two-three finish.
McLaren were now guaranteed their place at the top of Group B - meaning they’d secured passage to the semi-finals.
But they still have two more races at Mugello to compete in, and they duly started the relay race on pole position with Baldwin. As was the theme throughout Silverstone, Baldwin shot into the lead and by Lap 2, was nearly one second ahead.
Despite the efforts of Tonizza and De Salvo in the final few laps, McLaren’s Smith was able to win by a margin of one-and-a-half seconds.
McLaren Clean Sweep
Looking to wrap up a clean sweep of points against JAESA, McLaren got away well in the Mugello team race.
By the turn one, Baldwin and Gillissen were leading the pack, although their teammate Smith was pushed wide at San Donato. As is customary at Mugello, overtaking appeared to be tricky for the drivers - although De Salvo was closing in on 2nd-place Gillissen.
But it was clear that McLaren’s front-runners were simply too good for their opponents, as they won their fourth race in a row - with a one-two finish to boot.
A relatively straight-forward final group match for McLaren saw them add four extra points to their tally. That means they finish Group B at the very top, with BMW and Williams behind them.
Unfortunately for JAESA, they finished Season 2 bottom of their group.
With the group stages wrapped up, it’s onto the playoffs we go!
Team Redline and McLaren, who both finished top of their respective groups, head to the semi-finals. There, they’ll be waiting for BMW or YAS Heat, and Aston Martin or Williams.
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