Robertson rumbles on in Phoenix
Jon Robertson and Yohann Harth arrived at the penultimate round of the iRacing Rallycross World Championship locked in a title fight. Only seven points separate the Team Yokohama pairing after a packed season. In this newly formed World Championship, Team Yokohama look set to clinch the teams title, as Robertson and Harth lead the standings.
Phoenix Raceway in Arizona hosted the penultimate round of a frantically contested IRX series. Although Phoenix Raceway is better known for welcoming the NASCAR Cup Series for their season finale, the Rallycross layout at the facility is a cracker.
Qualifying and Heats
Yohann Harth lined up the #90 Advan Subaru in third for the opening heat race of the day. In recent rounds, Harth has cultivated notoriety around his rapid launches. Right on cue, Harth catapulted his Subaru off the line and pinched the lead. Keen to consolidate track position, Harth dived to the joker lane immediately. Although leading for most of the race, a last gasp trip through the joker lane from Tommi Halman snatched the heat win from Harth. Nevertheless, Harth’s championship rival – Mitchell de Jong – failed to progress to the feature race and faced the dreaded last chance qualifier.
Team Yokohama’s championship leader – Jon Robertson – started his heat race from second. Younger brother, Jake, started fourth for Ed Carpenter Racing. Jon and Jake may share a surname but went their own way on strategy. Jake – the youngest driver in the IRX World Championship – took the joker at the first opportunity. On lap three, Jon Robertson darted for the joker lane, emerged in the lead, and sped to the win. Adorning the championship leader’s red windshield strip, Robertson booked his place on the front row for the feature.
A spin for Jake Robertson pushed the ART ace back to sixth with a mountain to climb in the last chance qualifier. Sadly, the teenager from Aylesbury couldn’t progress to the feature race. Such is the brutality of the last chance qualifier.
For the feature race, Jon Robertson and Yohann Harth started from third and fifth, respectively. With Mitchell de Jong eliminated, the Team Yokohama duo enjoyed a prime opportunity to dispatch with the Subaru USA driver in the championship race.
Once again, Yohann Harth took to the joker lane early, mirroring the SET Esports Subaru’s of Hallman and Ollikainen. A slight brush of the wall for Hallman, hampered Harth’s progress momentarily. A lap later, Robertson visited the joker lane and appeared immediately ahead of Harth’s Advan Subaru in third place.
Robertson’s rapid tour of the joker lane proved critical and the Englishman edged Harth for the final spot on the podium. A critical moment in the championship battle?
Jon Robertson: “Qualifying was pretty horrendous and I was gutted when I saw the timing tower after my last lap. However, Mitchell and Yohann also messed up their laps, so I got lucky. My heat went really well after I adapted to the track conditions quickly which meant I moved up from 2nd to finish 1st. I was worried in the feature as I lined up fourth, which was right in the middle of everyone. Fortunately, I had a good getaway and jumped up to 3rd. From there, I just focused on holding my position to the finish. Now it’s just me and Yohann in the run for the championship and I’m really looking forward to the last round, as we secured a 1-2 finish earlier in the season at Sonoma.”
Yohann Harth: “I’m disappointed after that one, I’m pretty sure we had a lot more with the car. Qualifying was different compared to the last few rounds, cars were allowed to go on track for the full 20 minutes of practice and by the start of qualifying, there was no dirt left on the racing line, we were driving just on tarmac. The track had that much grip I rolled on my last qualifying lap.
In Heat 1, I had a perfect getaway once again and took the line in turn 1. However, with the track state reset just before the start I didn’t manage to adapt and I had no pace. P2 in the end which meant P5 on the grid for the Feature.
In the Feature, it was all about trying to finish ahead of Jon. I thought I had him after lap 2 because he got stuck in traffic before taking the joker but he still managed to exit it right ahead of me. 0.1 behind him at the start/finish line, a pretty big gap with the guys behind, I went for the dive down the inside into turn 1. It was close, we banged doors, but I had to go for it. We stayed P3 and P4 for the rest of the race. Not really happy with that one, I tried something on the setup last minute for the Feature but the car was undrivable for the first 8 laps, I only had pace at the end.
10 points gap to Jon in the standings, 16 points ahead of P3 and P4, everything is still possible, but it’s going to be a tough one.”
On the fifth of December, the IRX World Championship builds to a final crescendo at Sonoma. Team Yokohama’s Jon Robertson and Yohann Harth have been constant contenders for feature race podiums. By virtue of Robertson and Harth’s continued lockout of the top two, Team Yokohama sit as champions elect in the IRX World Championship. Tune in to the Apex Racing TV You Tube channel on the 5th of December to see how the red and black Advan Subaru’s fare in the championship showdown: https://youtu.be/tqYBTgC8WeQ.
Images by @Groove_Media