Michael Kundakcioglu retains GT World Challenge America title | FOS Future Lab
Canada’s Michael Kundakcioglu has successfully defended his GT World Challenge America Esports title after some late drama in the final race of the season at Suzuka.
Kundakcioglu came into the sprint race as the championship points leader, heading countryman Philippe Simard by two points, with Chris Severt only six points further back – all three in contention for the title.
The series has been pretty difficult to predict, with four different winners in the first four races, but it was Jordan Grant-Smith, winner of round four at Hungaroring, that set a stunning lap at the wet Suzuka Circuit to place his Porsche on pole position by some 0.8 seconds – a chasm in sim-racing terms. Simard was the best-placed of the championship contenders in fourth, ahead of Kundakcioglu in sixth and Severt in seventh.
Despite the treacherous conditions, the race start was relatively well-mannered, with the top eleven all staying in their starting order through the opening stages. Though Grant-Smith had been the clear class of the field in qualifying, he wasn’t able to pull away from the cars behind, headed by Killian Ryan-Meenan’s Aston Martin.
With the cars as they were, Simard was heading the points, but when Igor de Oliveira Rodrigues span out of fifth the three title contenders were line astern. That tied up the championship, with Simard and Kundakcioglu on 69 points apiece, although Simard still led on countback.
Severt was the first of the three to take his pit stop, coming in as soon as the window opened, and it proved to be the correct tactic. Using the clear track to his advantage, Severt passed Kundakcioglu when the latter pitted, and closed in onto Simard’s rear. That wasn’t going to be enough for Severt to win the championship though, as the American needed to finish well ahead of the Canadian. There was no way past the big BMW M6, as the two duelled for the last 25 minutes. It all boiled over with just two minutes remaining, as when the cars swept around the final curve to start the penultimate lap, Severt misjudged Simard’s position and tipped the BMW into a half spin. Kundakcioglu nipped between the two, while Zach Patterson jumped all three to go from seventh to fourth. The stewards took a dim view of Severt’s actions, and slapped him with a ten-second stop-go penalty, converted to a 40-second penalty as there was no time to serve it. It had no impact on the points table though, with Kundakcioglu’s fifth place enough to win the title from Simard and Severt in third overall.
As for the race win, that went to Ryan-Meenan, who passed Grant-Smith in the Dunlop curve with 12 minutes remaining, to make it five different winners in the five sprint races. Nicolas Alvarado took third, for his highest finish of the season.
Germany’s Moritz Lohner became ADAC GT Masters Esports champion for the third successive season in a final at Hockenheim that was also not without controversy.
Lohner had held a decent 65-point advantage over Jakub Brzezinski going into the seventh and final round, but saw that cut to 44 points following the sprint race courtesy of the stewards.
The German driver had qualified third for the sprint and looked set to finish there, behind Dorr team-mate Bence Banki and Marko Pejic. However, he slowed at the line in a tactical move to allow another Dorr driver, Florian Hasse, to take third. The stewards saw this as unsportsmanlike conduct and hit Lohner with a ten-second penalty to drop him to 15th, while Brzezinski came home in fifth.
With two feature races to come, Lohner effectively only needed to finish within touching distance of Brzezinski in one, and he did so at the first time of asking – almost literally.
An entertaining battle between the two throughout much of the closing laps saw Lohner finish just 0.08 seconds behind the Williams man for sixth place, while MRS eSports team-mates Tim Jarschel and Marc Gassner took a 1-2 for their squad.
That made the second feature race something of a dead rubber, though a fourth-place finish for Isaac Price – behind winner Pejic, and Banki and Jeffrey Rietveld on the podium – saw him nab fifth in the championship from Jack Keithley, to guarantee a place in the 2022 event.
If you fancy taking part in esports, but don’t want to go to the trouble of investing in all the sim-racing gear, Ferrari has launched a new esports competition that will fit the bill.
Called the Ferrari Mobile Esports series, the competition will run on your mobile phone, using the free Real Racing 3 software.
You only need to download the game, complete the tutorials, and reach player level four to unlock the competition, which consists of a time trial event at Monza.
The top three times when the competition closes on 11th November will win prizes, with a VIP Ferrari Challenge experience for the overall winner.
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