Red Bull needs to win their final Group A match if they want to reach this season’s playoffs.
The Bulls have been desperately inconsistent throughout Season 2, and they’re now on the brink of an early exit from the R-League. Can they get their act together and steal that all-important 3rd place away from YAS Heat?
Romain Grosjean’s R8G is the team they need to beat in this Round 5 contest.
Red Bull Racing Esports: Joni Tormala, Graham Carroll, Nestor Garcia
R8G Esports: Thomas Petitjean, Samuel Libeert, Erhan Jajovski
The teams kicked things off at Mugello, with R8G’s Thomas Petitjean starting ahead of Joni Tormala.
R8G’s lead didn’t last long though, as Tormala made an excellent move around the outside of Petitjean at San Donato. Gaining track position early into the race is key here, with overtaking at Mugello infamously tricky.
By the end of Lap 1, Tormala and Red Bull had a lead of over one second. Having done his job, the Flying Finn headed to the pits to swap places with Nestor Garcia. Petitjean stayed out to complete another lap for R8G.
Picking up for Tormala, Garcia maintained Red Bull’s advantage. By the time Samuel Libeert entered the fray, there was still a small gap between the two teams.
On the final lap, it was a straight fight between Graham Carroll and Erhan Jajovski. Carroll was able to pip the R8G into turn one as he was heading out of the pit, and kept his lead around the sweeping corners to take the win for Red Bull.
Red Bull on Parade
Looking to capitalise on their momentum, Tormala was hot off the line in the Mugello team race. The Finnish driver, brimming in confidence, stole the race lead by going around the outside once again into turn one.
Behind the leaders, Petitjean spun on the exit of San Donato and collided with Garcia. Despite Garcia’s woes, the Bulls were in a commanding position out in front. Tormala was leading by over a second on Lap 3, with Carroll his rear gunner in 2nd place.
Despite keeping close to the back of Carroll, Libeert could do nothing to overtake. Keeping their racing clean and tidy, Red Bull strolled through to their second win of the round.
Things were certainly looking good for Red Bull. With a 2-0 lead in the tie, they needed just one win in Silverstone to finish the job and reach the playoffs.
But R8G looked determined to prove they were no pushovers. Petitjean, who’d been so error-strewn so far, brilliantly battled Tormala from the start through Lap 1 and took the lead at the Luffield corner.
Unable to catch up, Tormala pitted to swap places with Garcia. Petitjean, feeling racey, stayed out to complete Lap 2, before he switched with Libeert.
By the time the Frenchman was replaced by his teammate Jajovski, R8G had a lead of over one second. Carroll, now in the hot seat for Red Bull, couldn’t find a way past.
Determined to make a move on the last lap, Carroll carelessly moved on the outside of Jajovski around Stowe. They banged wheels, and the Scotsman was sent into a high-speed spin onto the grass.
With no one on his tail, Jajovski rounded the final corner to win the relay race with ease for R8G.
Having lost out in the Silverstone relay race, Red Bull now had to throw everything at the team race.
But clearly feeling the pressure, Garcia stumbled off the line from pole, allowing Petitjean through into the lead. Then, as the pack turned through Aintree, the Spaniard ran wide and dropped to the very back.
With their advantage thrown away, Red Bull’s season was crumbling before their eyes. By Lap 3, Petitjean was over two seconds clear - despite Carroll setting the fastest lap of the race.
With nothing to stop him, the Frenchman comfortably won for R8G. Behind him, Carroll and Tormala came through in 2nd and 3rd for Red Bull.
With the match finishing at 2-2, Red Bull’s quest to finish Season 2 in the playoffs was all over. Mirroring their struggles throughout the campaign, the Bulls were simply too inconsistent against R8G.
So, that means YAS Heat will join Group A table-toppers Team Redline and Aston Martin in the playoffs. R8G, despite picking up two points here, finish bottom of the standings.