14 Nov Kurt Polter Breaks Out To Sweep BMW CCA Club iRacing Series Season Finale At Watkins Glen
Article written for the BMW Car Club of America and posted on BimmerLife here.
Words and Photos by Matt Kalish, mattkalish.com
November 14, 2020
It’s been a disappointing several weeks for Kurt Polter. The Buckeye Chapter member was the expected front-runner heading into pre-season BMW CCA Club iRacing competition, but after being on the receiving end of several incidents, his best finish was only a distant second place. But that all changed at Watkins Glen International.
“I’m thankful to be part of it, honestly. It’s been a blast,” said Polter. “I made the car as wide as I could going up The Esses and into to the Bus Stop. That’s definitely the area where, having the draft, [Rafael Torres Jr] could’ve taken advantage of and stuffed it down the inside and taken the lead. Any time he was close enough to do that, I tried to make sure I had the inside line and cover that off. I was nervous when he was that close, we had a couple 0Xs from a little bump-drafting going up the back stretch there.”
“I’m really looking forward to next season already.”
Polter would start the first of the evening’s 20-minute virtual club races on the outside of the first row after being out-qualified by only one driver, Road America and Road Atlanta winner Christopher Hill. Hill, a BMW Performance Center instructor, rounded the full 11 corner 3.4-mile track in 1 minute 55.894 seconds – near world-record qualifying pace for the BMW M4 GT4 on the iRacing platform.
As the drivers crossed the start line to begin their first 20-minute race, Polter immediately found himself challenged from behind. A blistering start from Trillium Chapter driver Adam Poll brought him down the inside of Polter into the first corner. The two exited side-by-side and fought their way through the Esses.
Hill attempted to break from the pack as they battled behind, but Polter kept within his draft as they took to the back-straight for the first time. Into the sweeping outer loop, Polter continued to close the distance as the race moved into the Boot.
Through the Chute, Hill entered the downhill left-hander with too much speed, a rare mistake that forced him to drop two wheels into the dirt. With a clean exit, Polter was in the lead before the next corner. Behind him, BMW CCA Driving School teacher Rafael Torres Jr made a skilled move down the inside on Poll to take third.
Back at the front, Hill was hot on Polter’s tail with Torres close behind. For the next 15 minutes Hill would fill all of Polter’s mirrors as he tried moves in nearly every corner of the course, but none stuck. Polter would take the Race 1 by 3 seconds win with Hill and Torres, separated by 3 tenths, securing their own podium positions.
Further back, Allegheny Chapter driver Dave Heinz had made up ground on Poll, and the two were now in a hard fight for fourth as they took the white flag. Poll defended hard through the final lap, but missed the apex of Turn 11 while defending the inside line of the race’s last corner.
The last lap battle would be decided by a drag race on the front straight as Heinz capitalized on a strong exit to come alongside the Trillium driver. Inching closer at the line, Poll managed to just hold on. He took fourth by a nose – only 2 one hundredths of a second.
Just missing out of the Top 10 was Chris Braun from the Boston Chapter, who finished less than a car length behind Poll. Ismel Sierra, Evan Levine, Matt Kalish, and Peter Lanik rounded out the top 10.
The night’s second race would repeat the 20-minute sprint race format of the first. But this time, the start order would be set by the driver’s finishing positions in Race 1. Polter would lead the field from the inside lane as the lights turned green.
Polter got the jump he needed, and Torres slotted in behind. Hill fell back on the outside as Braun seized the gap between him and Heinz to the inside – they were three-wide come the 130mph entry into Turn 1.
Braun was late on the brakes, but only just. He tapped Polter’s rear bumper and went wide, straight into the door of Hill. The incident would earn Braun a penalty while Polter and Hill carried on.
The Turn 1 troubles continued further behind the leaders. Tarheel Chapter driver Evan Levine cut right to avoid Braun. The move took him into the front fender of Ismel Sierra from the New York Chapter, and both cars were sent into the wall.
The crash triggered a cascade of carnage behind, as cars throughout the field moved to avoid the growing incident. In all, nearly half the field emerged with damage, and this series doesn’t have restarts.
Ahead of the incidents, Polter held a narrow race lead over a Torres as the two began a near race-long battle for the lead. Heinz held position in third as a second battle began behind him.
New York Chapter driver Matt Kalish, who started ninth and somehow emerged from the middle of the Turn 1 havoc without incident, was now nose-to-tail with Hill in a fight for fourth.
The battles raged for three quarters of the race. At the front, Torres tried multiple moves into the Bus Stop and in the Boot, going so far as to bump draft Polter down the back straight in a search for any advantage. But Polter defended strongly and kept the door firmly closed.
Likewise behind, Kalish made several pass attempts on Hill, but none of the moves stuck. As the clock counted down past 5 minutes, the situation in the top 5 remained unchanged.
With only a few laps remaining, Heinz decided to join the fray at the front. After getting a strong run down the back-straight, Heinz went for an outside pass on Torres into the Bus Stop. The move worked, but the position gained wouldn’t last. Just four turns later, Torres took the position back with a daring move down the inside into Toe.
The battle for second allowed Polter to extend a gap and secure the win to sweep the event. Torres, in taking back the second position, earned his second podium of the night as Heinz took third. After fending off a hard-charging Kalish, Hill brought it home just outside the podium in fourth.
Rounding out the top 10 were Adam Poll, Robert Gagliardo, Chris Braun, Enrique Williams, and Peter Eacmen.
If you like the way that race sounded, you can watch all the action for yourself right now on the BMW CCA YouTube channel.
The BMW CCA Club iRacing Series would like to thank its participants, sponsors, and organizers for an excellent pre-season. We look forward to beginning our first complete season in January 2021. In the meantime, we’ll be offering a slew of driver training and practice sessions opportunities over the next two months. For more information on BMW CCA Club iRacing visit bmwccaclubracing.com/iracing.
Full BMW CCA Club iRacing Series results from Watkins Glen International were as follows: