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11 May 2021 ------

Redline & Aston Martin battle for Group A supremacy

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Who will claim the crucial bye to the semi-final?

Team Redline will be keen to see off Aston Martin and cement their place at the top of Group A as the V10 R-League reaches the final week of group matches.

Just two points separate these two teams in the standings as they head into this Round 5 clash, with a chance to skip the first playoff round and head straight to the semi-finals awaiting the winner here. But who will it be?

Clay’s Day

Team Redline: Michal Smidl, Enzo Bonito, Jeffrey Rietveld

Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team: Daniele Haddad, Lucas Blakeley, Shanaka Clay

The day’s action began in Spa for the relay race, with Daniele Haddad on pole for Aston Martin. Enzo Bonito was alongside him for Redline.

Both drivers were able to get away well at the start but it was Haddad who shot into the lead going into turn one. There was some slight wheel-banging between the two as they headed up Raidillon, before Bonito hounded the back of Haddad along the Kemmel Straight.

Some excellent defensive driving from the Aston Martin man throughout the lap kept Bonito behind him, before each driver entered the pits for the first driver change. Lap 2 began with Lucas Blakeley of Aston Martin ahead of Michal Smidl.

Blakeley and Smidl have each been described as their team’s best driver this season, and it was easy to see why. Both appeared to be pushing the other extremely hard on Lap 2, with nothing but half-a-second between them.

But by Lap 3, as both cars stayed out, Smidl started to lose ground on Blakeley. They entered the pits ahead of the final lap with nearly a second between them.

With it still all to play for, Shanaka Clay took over from Blakeley, while Jeffrey Rietveld took charge for Redline. The Dutchman, given the tricky task of stealing the win on the last lap, was just inches behind out of the pit exit.

However, there was nothing he could do to ultimately catch up and pass Clay, who defended well on the final chicane and crossed the line to win!

Smidl Success

With Aston Martin winning the relay, could Redline fight back in the team race?

Smidl was on pole for the Redline boys and was able to get off the line well ahead of a stuttering Blakeley. Rietveld was just behind the front two in 3rd place.

Aston Martin’s Clay was closing in on the frontrunners as the pack reached Eau Rouge, but the British driver lost grip on the exit of Raidillon and spun dramatically, before rejoining in last place. Blakeley was able to recover from his difficult start and was up to 3rd place by the end of the first lap.

Things started looking up for Aston Martin by Lap 2; Blakeley was able to challenge Rietveld, while Haddad overtook Bonito for 4th. Out front, Smidl was over two seconds ahead and controlling the race.

It was still close between Rietveld and Blakeley heading into the penultimate lap, with Blakeley sticking to the rear of the Redline car. But Blakeley was left with too much work to do to catch the leading pair, with Smidl winning comfortably and Rietveld completing a Redline one-two finish.

There was more drama after the race, as both Rietveld and Blakeley took penalties from the stewards for causing separate racing incidents; this simply meant Haddad and Bonito were promoted to 2nd and 3rd respectively. Redline kept their point, and the contest was drawing at 1-1 heading into Monza.

Monza Madness

Switching to the Temple of Speed, it was Bonito versus Blakeley for the start of the relay race. Bonito started just ahead of the British driver, but a poor getaway from him meant they were neck-and-neck heading into the Rettifilo chicane.

Inevitably, the pair clashed as they each tried to turn into the corner, with Blakeley running over the chicane to avoid the collision. Bonito, clearly incensed by Blakeley’s move, could do nothing but follow behind and attempt to catch up.

With Blakeley staying out for another lap, Bonito headed into the pits to be replaced by Smidl. Redline’s star man used the clean air to make up time on Aston Martin, even though they believed the team would receive a post-race penalty. Blakeley, after Lap 2, swapped seats with Haddad.

Back in action, the two cars jostled for position as Haddad exited the pits; Smidl getting alongside the Aston Martin driver as they entered the Roggia chicane. Just like on Lap 1, the two cars were side-by-side and came together as they turned in, with Smidl and Redline this time cutting the corner as a result!

With Redline widening the gap between the two teams ahead of the final lap, it was all down to Rietveld and Clay. Rietveld was able to get further ahead as they left the pit lane, control the lap and win the relay for Redline by over two seconds.

Redline was then able to keep their win, as the stewards dished out five-second penalties to both Blakeley and Smidl for their off-track excursions - leaving the result unchanged.

Blakeley Redemption

With their win in the relay race, Redline knew that top spot in Group A was theirs - regardless of what happened in the Monza team race.

Blakeley and Aston Martin were clearly not happy about this, and he bullied his way into the lead into turn one. Further back, Bonito and Haddad appeared to come together in their battle for 5th place.

While Blakeley pulled out a lead of over two seconds, Smidl was keeping in close contact with Clay in 2nd place. By Lap 4, less than half a second separated the two.

But as Blakeley crossed the line to win decisively for Aston Martin, Clay, in 2nd place, was handed a 10 second penalty for his first corner incident with the other cars. This meant that Smidl, Rietveld and Bonito each gained one place. With the in-race scores tied at 13-13 between the two teams, neither were awarded a point for the team race.

Redline, with their 2-1 win here, finished Group A top with 12 points. They'll head straight into the semi-finals.

It was a bad day for Aston Martin though, whose tally of nine points now means they’re under pressure in the standings from Red Bull!

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