This year’s GT World Challenge Esports Championship has got underway with four races across the three continental championships delivering wins for Ferrari, Bentley, and Porsche.
The Asian competition got the racing underway, and it was Dayne Warren who took a dominant win. Warren, 2020 V8 Supercars Esports champion, qualified his Bentley Continental GT on pole position for the hour-long sprint race and Brands Hatch by 0.3s ahead of the twin Ferraris of Dillan Tan Qi Long and 2020 series champion Andika Rama Maulana.
Although Maulana was able to clear his 11-year-old team-mate Tan early on, he couldn’t keep in touch with Warren who built a nearly nine-second gap before Maulana took his mandatory pit stop.
Warren nearly hit disaster in the pits, but despite losing a lot of time was still able to get back out with four seconds of his advantage remaining. That was helped by Maulana having his own troubles in the pits, ending up behind Tan again before appearing to be let back past again.
Fadhli Rachmat, in a second Bentley, picked Tan’s pocket while lapping backmarkers to take third, and made a nuisance of himself behind Maulana for the final two laps – ending up just 0.17s from second in the end. Warren was untouchable though, and took a comfortable win by nearly eight seconds.
Ferrari Esports driver and 2019 F1 Esports champion David Tonizza also managed the double of pole position and victory in the European sprint round at Monza, but was really made to work for it. Tonizza took the top spot in his 488 by 0.03s from Kevin Siggy Rebernak in the McLaren 720, but his lead didn’t even last until the first turn.
It was in fact Porsche Esports Supercup champion Joshua Rogers who hit the front first, from fourth on the grid, but Siggy had the advantage of the line through the first chicane to emerge in the lead, with Tonizza back in third.
That’s how they remained for seven laps before Tonizza hit the front again. Rogers attacked Siggy into Parabolica, and Tonizza took the chance to go three-wide all down the main straight. The Ferrari had the inside line for the first chicane and made it stick.
Released from the battle, Tonizza was able to stretch his legs at the front, quickly building a two-second advantage which he kept until the chequered flag. Rogers claimed second, with Nils Naujoks, British GT Esports champion, a surprising third considering his eighth-place start. That came courtesy of an impressive late charge which saw him pass five cars in the last 20 minutes, inheriting one final position as Amir Hosseini picked up a track limits penalty.
Europe’s Endurance Series also got underway this past week, also at Monza, and the result was more of the same as Tonizza yet again beat Rogers.
This series sees drivers representing their esports teams, with multiple drivers per car. Tonizza paired with de Salvo for the Ferrari Driver Academy team, but the duo could only line up third on the grid behind a pair of VRS Coanda cars. Kroenke took pole position with Charlie Collins in one 911, with Rogers second on the grid with Pashchalis Gkergkis in the other.
Again, there was an almost immediate lead change, but this time it was Rogers – taking the first stint – who hit the front from Kroenke, but Tonizza stayed in close contact and got up past Kroenke just before his first pit stop, handing over to de Salvo, while Rogers and Kronke double-stinted
A stellar middle hour from de Salvo saw him slash Rogers’s lead from nearly eight seconds to under two, before the crucial final stops. Unusually, de Salvo handed back to Tonizza for the final stint, and when Gkergkis emerged from his slightly later stop he came out staring at the Ferrari’s rear wing.
With no cars ahead of him, Tonizza drove clean away to take victory by 11 seconds. Third went to the GPX Racing car of Chris Hoeke and Samir Ibraimi, beating Kroenke/Collins through the final stops.
That only left the GT World Challenge America Sprint race from Kyalami. Michael Kundakcioglu kept up his form from winning the 2020 season to take pole position in his McLaren 720S, but his lead didn’t last long as both William Hendrickson and Cody Pryde swept past into the first turn. After harrying Hendrickson’s Mercedes for much of the first lap, Pryde then took the lead and never looked back.
Kundakcioglu was able to get past Hendrickson too, and keep in touch with Pryde’s Porsche to the first pit stop, but Pryde stretched his legs in the second phase of the race to win by over five seconds. Hendrickson took third, ahead of Aenore Rose who continued her good form from the GT4 championship in 2020.
Defending V10 R-League champion Team Redline won’t lift the trophy this year after a semi-final defeat by BMW, courtesy of a controversy.
After BMW raced into a 2-0 lead in the head-to-heads at Monza, Redline appeared to have won the relay race at Spa but the stewards found that Redline’s Enzo Bonito had braked at La Source to deny Kevin Siggy Rebernak the slipstream on the long run up to the Les Combes chicane, and disqualified the Italian to give BMW an unassailable 3-0 lead.
BMW was actually lucky to be in the semi-final, after a 2-2 quarter-final draw with Yas Heat which was settled in BMW’s favour by qualifying pole positions.
Aston Martin meanwhile crushed Williams 4-0 in their quarter-final, before coming back from 2-0 down to beat the fancied McLaren team on driver points in a 2-2 draw after James Baldwin spun in the final race. That means Aston Martin will face BMW in the grand final, with McLaren racing Redline for third place.