10 Nov Christopher Hill Achieves Perfect Night At BMW CCA Club iRacing Of Road Atlanta
Article written for the BMW Car Club of America and posted on BimmerLife here.
Words and Photos by Matt Kalish, mattkalish.com
November 10, 2020
The first perfect event in BMW CCA Club iRacing Series competition has been achieved as BMW Performance Center driver Christopher Hill started from pole to lead every lap through a total 40 minutes of competition split into two 20-minute sprint races.
“In the first race, I feel a lot of the gap was from [Chris Braun and Dave Heinz] being so close together and I could see they were battling each other for most of the race. So, I had they hunch that they had the pace,” said Hill. “Throughout all the practice we’ve done during the week, I definitely was not at the top of the time charts. I was doing alright, but was not really confidently there. So, I felt like in Race 2 it was going to be a lot closer. And it was.”
Only half a tenth separated the top three drivers at the conclusion of qualifying. After lapping the 12 turn, 2.54-mile, sinuous Road Atlanta in 1 minute, 26.738 seconds, Christopher Hill would lead the pack from the inside lane at the start of Race 1, with Buckeye Chapter driver Kurt Polter and Matt Kalish from the New York chapter promising close competition just behind the pole sitter.
As the Race 1 clock began its countdown from 20:00, the three drivers quickly began to set a podium pace in their BMW M4 GT4s. After one lap, Hill, Polter, and Kalish had already established a 1 second lead to an intensely battling field behind.
Crossing the line to start the race’s second lap, Kalish had the speed and went inside as he caught Polter at the entry of the fast and uphill-sweeping Turn 1. But Kalish misjudged the corner entry on cold tires and understeered at the apex directly into Polter’s door, sending him into the grass and Kalish to the pits for a penalty.
Alone at the front with a substantial lead, Hill began to set qualifying-style laps in clean air as the battle for remaining two podium spots heated up. Trillium Chapter member Adam Poll, now in second, continued his battle with Road America Race 2 winner Chris Braun. The two jockeyed for position over the next ten laps, neither gaining an advantage before Braun made a daring inside move in the heavy-braking zone of Turn 10 to take the position.
Just two laps later, Poll was under pressure again, this time from Allegheny Chapter driver Dave Heinz. As the white flag wave, the intense fight for the final podium position slowed both drivers, bringing them into range of the closely following Tarheel Chapter driver Evan Levine.
Pushing his BMW M4 GT4 to ten tenths through Turn 12, Levine had the speed advantage on the straight and moved further inside of an already attacking Heinz on the entry into Turn 1. Three-wide with no driver backing down, Heinz had the middle lane and got on the power first, securing third as Levine slotted into fourth and Poll moved back to fifth.
Hill, keeping ahead of all the battles behind, extended an impressive 10 second lead over Braun in second as the checkered flag came out.
Rounding out the top 10 in Race 1 were Rafael Omar Rivas Espinal, Peter Eacmen, Kurt Polter, Matt Kalish, and Enrique Williams.
The finishing result of Race 1 would become the starting order of Race 2. A second 20-minute sprint around the undulating curves of Road Atlanta would begin with Christopher Hill once again on pole.
Hill was denied a clean breakaway as Braun kept close in his draft through the opening laps of Race 2. But the on-track action quickly heated up once again behind.
First to strike was Heinz, who took third place from Levine with a late-braking move into Turn 1. A few corners later, Boston Chapter driver Rafael Omar Rivas Espinal executed a similar inside-move on Levine through Turn 7 onto the long back straight.
But Levine had the better exit, and when they reached straight’s end, the two drivers were side-by-side with inches between them. As the inches turned to millimeters in the braking zone of Turn 10, the two cars rubbed against each other. The touch was slight, but it was enough to send Levine spinning into the gravel and earn Espinal a trip to the pits.
Polter and Kalish, who worked their way back into the top ten for Race 2, now found themselves directly behind fourth-place Poll. With momentum behind them, the two hard-charging drivers each found their way by as the clock counted down past the 10-minute mark.
In the podium positions, Hill held a narrow lead over Braun. But Heinz was setting qualifying-caliber laps in clean air and reeling in the leaders. He caught up two laps later and immediately made an outside move on Braun in Turn 6, running him tight at the apex. The two rubbed fenders mid-corner, but Braun held the position. It was the opening salvo in a fierce attack.
Heinz filled Braun’s mirrors as he ducked and weaved, attempting to distract, though he held position until the two were back in Turn 5. On the previous lap, Braun had gotten loose in the exit of the rough and high-speed Turn 5. Heinz was banking on him making the same mistake again, and he did.
Heinz had the speed advantage on exit and made another move into Turn 6, this time on the inside. With too much speed on the entry, he scrubbed high and made glancing contact with the defending Braun. But Braun had a more stable exit and moved to retake the position before the straight. Contact at the apex sent both cars spinning, ending both driver’s chance at a podium.
Polter, Kalish, and Poll slipped by, the former two now holding second and third on the podium with Poll right on Kalish’s bumper. The battle for third was set to go the wire, but half a lap later, Kalish spun in the bumpy Turn 3. Poll made it through the incident clean to take third, as a recovered Heinz slotted into fourth and Kalish brought it back on track in fifth.
Hill, unaffected by the drama behind, comfortably extended his lead. Three minutes later, he would become the first driver in BMW CCA Club iRacing Series history to score a perfect event.
Placing 6-10 were Jose Williams, Ismel Sierra, Rafael O Rivas Espinal, Cameron Evans, and Chris Braun.
A replay of the exciting event is available to watch right now on the BMW CCA YouTube channel.
Next up, the BMW CCA Club iRacing Series gets ready for its season finale at the legendary Watkins Glen International with two races on Thursday, November 12. The stream kicks off at 9 PM ET/6PM PT on the BMW CCA Facebook and YouTube pages alongside the Podium eSports network. For more information on BMW CCA Club iRacing visit bmwccaclubracing.com/iracing.
Full BMW CCA Club iRacing Series results from Road America were as follows: