Baldi wins FIA Esports WTCR title | FOS Future Lab
Hungary’s Gergo Baldi has wrapped up the FIA Esports WTCR title with two races to spare in the final round this weekend.
Driving the Hyundai i30N for M1RA Esports, Baldi won courtesy of a hard-fought second place in the first of three races at Circuit Zolder. In a race that also involved real-world WTCR drivers Yann Ehrlacher and Esteban Guerrieri, Baldi qualified in second behind Giancarlo Fiduci’s Lynk & Co, and could do nothing about the Italian driver throughout the 25-minute race. Fordzilla driver Fiduci simply drove away at the front by a couple of tenths per lap, to secure his first race win of the season.
In turn, 2018 champion Bence Banki, the only remaining driver who could catch Baldi, didn’t have sufficient pace to catch up with his title rival, who also had countryman and M1RA team-mate David Nagy acting as a rear-gunner in an Audi RS3.
With the title secured, Baldi immediately set pole position for the second race, and repaid Fiduci with an equally composed drive. This time it was the Hyundai that kept moving away by a couple of tenths each lap, as Baldi managed a grand slam - setting the fastest lap too. Banki rounded out the podium, beating Nagy on the drag to the line from the final corner of the lap.
The final race of the three saw a surprising pole-sitter, with 16-year old Russian driver Kirill Antonov taking the spot ahead of M1RA’s Zoltan Csuti. Antonov, officially with the Lada Sport ROSNEFT eSports team, converted it to a race win too, with Csuti in second. That result also confirmed Banki as the championship runner-up, with Nagy unable to gather the points needed.
V8 Supercars will run into a final round too, as another real-world driver caused an upset. Shane van Gisbergen, racing again as a wildcard entry, took victory in the first race of the day at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The pro driver managed a remarkable win, a week after coming so close but losing out to team-mate Jarrad Filsell at the finish line. This week there was no such luck, as van Gisbergen took the win by just under 0.2 seconds.
Amazingly, van Gisbergen backed that up with a second place – again behind Filsell – in the reverse-grid race at the same oval circuit.
Championship leader Rogers hadn’t had the best night on the oval, but a return to circuit racing saw him once again prove the class of the field. After setting pole position at Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Rogers quickly escaped the clutches of his team-mate and nearest rival Dayne Warren to win by more than four seconds.
The lead gap has narrowed a little, with Warren closing up by five points, but Rogers takes a 94-point lead into the final races at Phillip Island and Interlagos next week. With 150 points for a win, the title could still go to any one of eight drivers, but with seven wins from 14 races few would bet against Rogers.
Brazil’s Adriano Carrazza won the Americas region of the GT Sport FIA Online Championship after his final race win settled a three-way points tie with Chile’s Angel Inostroza and Canadian Andrew Brooks. It was Nicolas Rubilar, also of Chile, who set the early pace though. Former World Tour winner Rubilar had a relatively comfortable lights-to-flag win at Interlagos in the Hyundai Genesis Gr.3 – Gran Turismo’s in-game GT3 equivalent – with Brooks coming home second almost four seconds behind and just ahead of Inostroza.
Brooks then took the second race at Laguna Seca, after an incident involving the lead pairing of Inostroza and polesitter Lucas Bonelli. With two laps remaining, Inostroza misjudged Bonelli’s braking into turn six, allowing Brooks to sneak past both. A two-second penalty wasn’t enough to swap the South Americans again, with Inostroza coming home in second ahead of the Brazilian Bonelli.
The final double-points race put the drivers into the X2019 prototype, a car based on a design by Red Bull’s Adrian Newey. This time it was Carrazza on pole, and he converted that to a narrow win over the 25-lap race, ahead of Inostroza who opted for an unorthodox tyre strategy – running the mandatory hard and medium tyres for a single lap each, and the rest of the race on softs. He couldn’t catch Carrazza though, and had to settle for his third successive podium of the night, with Brooks coming in just behind.
That put all three drivers on 38 points for the day, with the tie-breaker being the final race result. This put Carrazza, who’d almost won the World Tour in Tokyo last year but missed out to Ryota Kokubun by under half a second, on top due to that final race win.
Despite beating Inostroza in two of the races, and winning one, Brooks had to settle for third. Bonelli snatched fourth place in the final race and overall, securing the final qualification spot for December’s World Final.
2018 world champion Igor Fraga was also involved in the regional final but endured a pretty difficult day with a best finish of seventh. That result, along with the absence of 2019 champion Mikail Hizal from last week’s EMEA regional final, guarantees that there’ll be a new world champion in 2020.
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