First virtual points won towards real‑world championship | FOS Future Lab
France’s Arthur Rougier, racing for the Emil Frey Racing team, has taken victory in the first round of the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series to become the first driver to take real-world championship points from a virtual race.
The Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series is the first time that virtual races will award points towards a real-world racing series. It will form one of three arms of the Fanatec GT World Championship Europe, with the established Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup series, each of which also contributes points for the overall title as well as their own championships. There’s only a small amount of points on offer – three for a race win, two for second, and one for third in each of the two classes – but that will mean 15 points are available for a perfect virtual season of five wins.
Each team entered in the full season of the Fanatec GT World Championship Europe, in either the Pro or Silver categories, is required to field an entry in each of the virtual championship’s five races, and that meant that Rougier was one of 24 drivers who lined up on the grid in this weekend’s first round at Monza. The drivers, naturally, all drive their own race car in the series, so the grid looked just as it would for the real-world race at Monza on Sunday.
Daniel Juncadella, for the AKKA ASP team, was on pole position, but set exactly the same lap time as Rougier with a 1:47.298. Lead Silver driver, Philip Ellis, was only 0.033 seconds behind the duo in third, as Rougier’s Lamborghini was the odd-car out in an otherwise all-Mercedes top six.
However, Juncadella was caught napping at the start, and Rougier jumped into the lead immediately. The Spaniard was lucky to survive the notorious first turn at Monza as he, Ellis, and Ezekiel Companc went in three wide. Ellis came off worst, while Companc – also in Silver – emerged in second and Juncadella in third.
That sparked a series of incidents, shaking up the order further back quite dramatically. Adrien Tambay, who’d started last in the Sainteloc Audi R8, emerged from the della Roggia chicane in seventh, but was later disqualified after failing to serve two drive-through penalties awarded for causing collisions in the process.
While Juncadella was able to sneak past Rougier before the pit window opened, with a pass into Rettifilo, Rougier returned the favour on lap 23 at the same point on the circuit and, courtesy of a sequence of quick laps, established a gap Juncadella couldn’t close by the chequered flag.
Nicklas Nielsen, who had been seventh on the grid but third in the Pro class in the Iron Lynx Ferrari 488, had a quieter race but came home third overall, eight seconds behind the lead battle, to pick up a point for the team.
Ryuichiro Tomita won the Silver class race for Team WRT. Tomita started a lowly ninth in class in the Audi R8, but greatly benefitted from the chaos of the first two laps, to emerge behind only Companc in the class – dispatching the Argentinian Madpanda team driver only three laps later. Companc would take second, with the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari of Benjamin Hites finishing third.
For those who want to get into esports themselves, this coming week will see the start of the 2021 season of the Gran Turismo Online Championship. This series has official FIA affiliation, and the winners will receive prizes at the FIA Annual Prize Giving gala at the end of the year alongside champions of other FIA series – including Formula 1 and World Endurance Championship.
There’s two championships running simultaneously, with players racing both individually in the Nations Cup and for a chance to represent their favourite car brand in the Manufacturer Series. Each championship will consist of 20 races this year, running from April to September.
The fastest players will qualify to five events scheduled through the year, with the traditional World Final to be broadcast in December.
Toyota will stage its annual Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup series alongside the official FIA GT Online Championship, with seven rounds across the year, also starting next week. This year’s series expands from just the GR Supra we saw in 2019 and 2020 to cover a whole range of Toyota machinery, including the new GR Yaris and GR 86.
Anyone can take part in all three series and they’re free to enter. You only need a PlayStation 4 (or 5) console and Gran Turismo Sport, and a PS Plus subscription for online play.
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