The Bulls are way behind the leaders of Group A after a sloppy start to Season 2, while Aston Martin have been the talk of the town so far; dominating the group alongside last season’s winners Redline.
This is a huge match-up that could ultimately determine how Group A plays out. So, what happened?
Red Bull Racing Esports: Nestor Garcia, Graham Carroll, Joni Tormala
Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team: Daniele Haddad, Lucas Blakeley, Shanaka Clay
We headed to Belgium and the legendary Spa Francorchamps for the first two races of the day. Red Bull’s Nestor Garcia got things underway from pole position in the relay race, with Daniele Haddad in hot pursuit.
The two drivers were able to keep things clean as they went through Spa’s infamous first corner, with Haddad getting into his rival’s slipstream to make a move as they passed the uphill Raidillon section. Neck-and-neck along the fast Kemmel straight, Garcia held onto his lead into Les Combes ahead of the Aston Martin on his outside.
Some thrilling racing between the two throughout the first lap came to an end when Haddad dived into the pits to swap with his Aston Martin teammate Lucas Blakeley, while Garcia stayed out.
Blakeley put the hammer down to make up time on the Bulls, who switched Garcia for Graham Carroll on Lap 2. The Aston Martin team’s excellent strategy - coupled with some breathtaking driving from Blakeley - saw them make up time on the Bulls and set up a nail-biting final lap between Joni Tormala and Shanaka Clay.
The two were equally boisterous as they raced out of the pit, but it was Clay who got the better exit out of Raidillon as they headed to Les Combes side-by-side. Tormala was able to hold on though, keeping his cool as the Finn defended his line on the last corner to win for Red Bull - their first point of Season 2!
With the relay race boasting close and exciting battles throughout, the team race was sure to be one to watch as well.
Blakeley started the race on pole position ahead of Tormala, but it was the Finnish Red Bull man who was able to take the lead heading into Les Combes, with Blakeley running wide over the run off area. A rare mistake from the Scotsman meant he was chasing a rival in a team race for the first time this season!
Further back, contact between Carroll and Clay saw the Aston Martin spin off and rejoin at the back of the pack. There was drama at the front too, as Blakeley got into the slipstream of Tormala and made a daring move for the lead at the bus stop chicane at the end Lap 2 - but to no avail.
There was little more than a second splitting the top four cars as they headed into the final two laps. But with some fantastic defensive driving, Tormala was able to hold on and win for Red Bull. With Carroll rising through the ranks to 3rd place, Red Bull were ensured their second point of the day.
Aston Martin had it all to do in Mugello for the second part of the day, and it was their man Haddad on pole in the relay race.
But continuing the run of excellent getaways Red Bull have had in Round 3, it was Carroll who got ahead of the Italian to lead into the first corner. The Scot fended off the Aston Martin as they rounded the sweeping Poggio Secco, and pulled out a lengthy gap between them as each team headed to the pits at the end of Lap 1.
All of Carroll’s good work was undone though, as Red Bull were hit with a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. This handed Aston Martin and Lucas Blakeley the initiative as he stormed into a commanding lead of the chasing Bull of Nestor Garcia on Lap 2, which he carried into Lap 3.
With nothing to lose, Tormala took the Bull’s reigns on Lap 3 as Blakeley headed into the pits, with Aston Martin almost seven seconds ahead at this stage. The flying Finn threw caution to the wind as he attempted to chase down Clay on the final lap, but there was little he could do to deny Aston Martin their first win - and first point - of the day.
Looking to level the score in the final team race, Aston Martin started out on pole… but it was the in-form Tormala who shot into the lead for Red Bull as the cars headed into the first corner.
All eyes were on the back of the pack as a coming together between Garcia and Haddad sent the Aston Martin into a wild spin. It was flawless from Tormala and Blakeley though, as the leading pair powered ahead of the rest of the field.
By Lap 4, less than half a second split the front two, with Blakeley chipping away at Tormala’s lead. The very nature of the Mugello circuit means overtaking opportunities are few and far between, and the trailing Aston Martin was working incredibly hard to find a way past the Red Bull leader. Unfortunately, it seems Blakeley pushed a little too hard, with the Scot making a huge error midway through the lap and binning his car into the gravel.
With Blakeley forced to the back of the grid, it was plain sailing for Tormala to come through and win the team race for Red Bull, with teammate and rear gunner Carroll finishing in 2nd.
With their 3-1 win, it was all smiles among the Red Bull drivers. Credit belongs to Tormala for his cool and collected approach while under pressure, while Aston Martin will be rueing the mistakes from their star man Blakeley.
With this win, Red Bull are back in contention in Group A after their slow start. Team Redline will also be thankful to see Aston Martin slip up, as they bid to finish the group on top!