GT World Challenge esports wins for Warren, Baldwin and Simard | FOS Future Lab
The GT World Challenge Esports Sprint Series returned this week with action in all three continents, and very different results.
It was the Asia series that was up first, with an unusual night race at Misano, but the race result went to form. For the first time this season, Dayne Warren wasn’t on pole position, but qualified in third just 0.026 seconds behind Dillan Tan with Philippa Boquida in second. However, that lasted all of three corners before the status quo was restored. Boquida ran out wide exiting turn two, and in returning to the circuit just tagged the rear end of Tan’s Ferrari approaching the right-handed turn three. Warren was able to slip past both in the melee, and although Boquida escaped largely unscathed she did pick up a drive-through penalty for the incident.
That was essentially the last anyone saw of Warren except his Bentley’s tail lights. Once again, the Australian driver simply drove away from the chasing pack, and even an error hitting his marks in the mandatory pit stop didn’t affect the outcome as he won by a clear 16 seconds.
The first lap chaos also took Fadhli Rachmat out of contention – the first time the Bentley driver has failed to finish on the podium this season – while defending champion Andika Rama Maulana initially got himself up into third before a post-race penalty dropped him down the order. Nonetheless, they retain third and second in the points standings, more than 40 points behind Warren after three of the five races.
There was a slightly more unexpected result in the Europe bracket, which has so far been dominated by Ferrari’s David Tonizza and Josh Rogers of Porsche. However neither could get on the podium in the sprint race at Zandvoort, which saw James Baldwin of McLaren secure a lights-to-flag win.
Baldwin only just secured pole position, ahead of Kevin Siggy and Jeremy Bouteloup, but made the best start of the three to control the pace at the front. Rogers made a good start to get up into fourth, after Tobias Pfeffer ran wide in another McLaren, but he’d later lose out to Eamonn Murphy, also driving a McLaren.
Despite the race-long attention from Siggy, Baldwin was able to win by just under four seconds, with Bouteloup only a couple of tenths further back. The result sees the British driver jump up into second in the championship ahead of Rogers, who’s now tied for third with Siggy. After finishing outside the top two for the first time this season, championship leader Tonizza has seen his lead trimmed to 36 points at the halfway point of the season.
Unlike the other two contests, the Americas series hadn’t seen a repeat winner yet. In fact only championship leader Michael Kundakcioglu had finished on the podium more than once, and the third race of the season, at Spa Francorchamps, did nothing to change that.
Neither of this season’s race winners, Kundakcioglu and Cody Pryde, could qualify even inside the top five for the race, which was perhaps surprisingly taken by Philippe Simard in the BMW M6 and by a large, half-second margin from Killian Ryan-Meenan.
While Ryan-Meenan in the Aston Martin was able to keep in close contact at the front, Simard was never truly troubled throughout the 25-lap race, and would ultimately win by a comfortable nine-second margin.
Chris Severt, who’d started the race in third both on the grid and in the championship, managed to bring his Aston home on the podium after initially losing out to Jake Langevin, after passing the Bentley in the pits. Langevin would later crash at Raidillon while trying to fight back, but did finish fifth for his first points of the season, behind Josh Staffin.
The championship leaders were having a torrid race though. After qualifying 10th and 11th, Kundakcioglu and Pryde found themselves fighting for the same patches of track. Despite gaining some places, notably after a collision between Michael Fritz and William Hendrickson, only Kundakcioglu was able to finish in the points in a lowly eighth place. Pryde limped home 12th after a last-lap solo crash at Raidillon.
With two races of the season left, Kundakcioglu still leads on 47 points, only four ahead of Severt, with Simard four further back in third.
Team Redline claimed the iRacing 24 Hours of Spa with a 1-2 finish for its two BMW squads. It was Maximilian Benecke – who also won in this car in the GTD class at Watkins Glen last month – Patrik Holzmann and Jonas Wallmeier who took the win in the Team Redline Red entry, ahead of their Blue team-mates Enzo Bonito, Lorenzo Colombo, and Chris Lulham.
The race was particularly notable for the presence of F1 driver Max Verstappen, also driving for Team Redline, but in the Porsche24 squad with Jeff Giassi and Gianni Vecchio. Despite a disconnection issue, Verstappen himself was able to take the chequered flag in fifth, as the lead non-BMW.
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