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22 Apr 2021 ------

McLaren Shadow debut in tight contest with Fordzilla

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The new boys weren't going to have it easy against a resurgent Fordzilla team

The final match-up in Round 2 of the group stage is between Fordzilla and McLaren Shadow Esports.

This is McLaren Shadow's first match-up in the V10 R-League, but they are predicted to do well, as they have an all-star line-up that includes sim racing icon James Baldwin.

Fordzilla showed some promise for this season in Round 1, as they picked up a point against Group B leaders BMW Sim Racing Team. Let's see how this clash panned out!

Tuscan showdown

McLaren Shadow Esports: James Baldwin, Isaac Gillissen & Elvin Smith

Fordzilla: Emre Cihan, Shaun Arnold & Pablo Lopez

Mugello in Italy was the first venue that these teams went with for this tie. We began with the relay race, where Fordzilla's Emre Cihan started on pole with James Baldwin of McLaren Shadow in second.

Baldwin rocketed into first off the line and held his lead through Turn 1. Baldwin is well-known for his incredible speed and he soon pulled out a gap ahead of Cihan. Both drivers stayed out for a second lap and Cihan closed up on the leader before their pit-stops.

Shaun Arnold emerged in the lead thanks to Baldwin speeding in the pit-lane and Isaac Gillissen serving that penalty immediately. Arnold had a four-second advantage, which Pablo Lopez held through the final lap and Fordzilla took the lead 1-0 in the contest!

McLaren's show their pace

Next up was the team race and McLaren Shadow was in an ideal position to level the tie, as they locked out the front row. Baldwin and Gillissen held their advantage at the front, but their teammate Elvin Smith made contact with Cihan going into Turn 1.

McLaren led 1-2-3, but Smith would be in trouble for spinning out Cihan. Lopez was ringing the neck out of his Fordzilla to catch Smith for P3, but even he couldn't get within striking distance.

Despite Smith's penalty, McLaren Shadow levelled the contest 1-1 with a solid 1-2 finish.

Eau Rouge bites back

For the second half of this contest, we travel north to the sensational Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

Baldwin started on pole for McLaren in the relay race with Cihan behind him. Baldwin got off to the perfect start and led into La Source. The slipstream is extremely powerful at Spa and Cihan got a run on Baldwin up the Kemmel Straight.

It wasn't enough to get past though, as Baldwin picked his braking point to perfection.

Both drivers continued for a second lap, but Cihan now had the looming threat of a penalty for a corner cut at Eau Rouge. The pair came into the pits at the end of Lap 2 and when Gillissen re-joined, he had an over two-second advantage.

Sensationally, Fordzilla had jumped McLaren in the pits with Arnold and Smith re-joining the circuit side-by-side. The pair took their battle into the fearsome Eau Rouge/Raidillon section, where chaos ensued.

Arnold left Smith space on the right-hand side of the track, but it is a notoriously hard line to take through that section. On the right-hander Smith understeered wide into Arnold, sending them both tumbling off the track and bouncing off the barriers.

Smith ended up pointing the right way, unlike Arnold, and got going much faster, taking a lead of over seven seconds.

Smith would cross the line first but had earned a penalty for his contact with Arnold. That meant that Fordzilla took the lead in this match 2-1.

More contact in the team race!

Baldwin was on pole, with Cihan alongside him on the front row for the team race. The McLarens did an amazing job to overtake the Fordzillas off the line, with Gillissen and Smith launching themselves into P2 and 3. Cihan had a chance to regain ground, but was boxed in going up the Kemmel Straight.

To add insult to injury, Cihan and Arnold made contact through Les Combes, which lost the Fordzilla trio vital time against McLaren.

Cihan was doing his best to break McLaren Shadow's stranglehold on the race. On Lap 3, he launched a move down the inside of Smith into the bus-stop chicane but there was more contact which sent both of them wide. Both drivers regained their places, Smith P3 and Cihan P4.

Despite Smith running out of fuel on the final lap, McLaren more than made up for their mistakes in the relay races, as they produced a tour de force to complete a 1-2 finish in the team race. This meant the contest was tied 2-2 in the end.

Despite dropping two points, James Baldwin was upbeat when he spoke to Rachel Stringer:

"We wanted to start with a bang... There were some mistakes in the relays, one of them being mine, I sped in the pitlane - rookie error.

"I'm very happy with the performance from myself and the two boys - Isaac and Elvin."

In the Group B standings, Fordzilla remain third, now on three points, just two behind Williams in second. McLaren Shadow move up to fourth, just a point behind Fordzilla.

Next time, McLaren Shadow take on Williams. Fordzilla sit out Round 3 and will be back to face JAESA Suzuki in Round 4.

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