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McLaren and Bentley score esports wins | FOS Future Lab

12th September 2021
Andrew Evans

It was a British double in this week’s GT World Challenge Esports Europe races, as McLaren’s James Baldwin won the sprint race at Misano before the Bentley of Racing Line Motorsport took an unlikely win in a chaotic Nürburgring 6 Hours endurance race.

Misano hosted the first action of the week, and it was Baldwin immediately on the front foot after winning last time out at Zandvoort. The British driver outqualified Eamonn Murphy, also in a McLaren 720S GT3, by just over 0.07 seconds in a field, with championship leader David Tonizza third in the Ferrari 488, with the top 32 drivers separated by less than a second.

Despite the tight qualifying though, the race was all Baldwin’s. From the moment the lights turned green, the British driver was in command, holding the lead from Murphy through turn one. The two McLarens were close throughout the race, but Murphy was never in a position to take the lead as the two stretched the gap to Tonizza in third.

The gaps widened after the pit stops, with Baldwin two seconds clear of Murphy, and Tonizza five seconds further back. That would be how the front three would finish, along with Daire McCormack in a relatively lonely fourth after a spotless race, holding off a third McLaren of Kevin Siggy.

It’s enough for Tonizza to retain the championship lead, though the gap to Baldwin in second is now less than a race win at 24 points, with four rounds remaining. Losing out this week were Josh Rogers, who didn’t race and falls to fourth behind Siggy, and Giovanni de Salvo and Tobias Pfeffer who disconnected – while Jeremy Bouteloup and Nils Naujoks weren’t able to score at Misano.

The six-hour endurance race at the Nürburgring was much more eventful, dominated by penalties and controversy which would eventually see the podium decided in the stewards’ office after the race.

As the penultimate race of the season and a potential championship decider, it was sure to be an interesting race even before qualifying obliterated the established order. Only the two leading teams, FDA Ferrari and VRS Coanda Simsport, had won races so far this season, but neither even made the top five on the grid. Instead it was the Audi R8 of R8G on pole ahead of the Racing Line Bentley, with BMW Sim Racing G2 in third. Then came two McLarens of Team Rocket and JOTA, before the FDA Ferrari 488.

That order lasted precisely one corner as, in wet conditions, Arthur Kammerer in the BMW M6 pitched Marek Shinz’s Bentley into a spin, which then tagged the McLaren of Baldwin – who got away with it – before collecting Tonizza’s Ferrari as he tried to avoid the crash around the outside. Pfeffer emerged unscathed with a handy lead over Robbie Stapleford, while drive-through penalties for Kammerer and for Baldwin for a later contact with Kammerer through turn four further upset the order. That would have been music to the ears of the VRS Coanda cars, who were still battling in the mid-pack but ahead of every rival on the road.

Further chaos eventually promoted one VRS machine to the lead. Tobias Gronewald sent his Unicorns of Love Mercedes past the R8G Audi, now driven by Giorgio Simonini, for the lead, but the stewards determined that the turn one pass wasn’t entirely fair and gave the UOL car a five-second penalty. However it proved academic; Gronewald had already pulled away by at least that distance when Simonini suffered a disconnection and the R8G car was eliminated from the race.

If that weren’t enough, UOL made the inexplicable decision to switch to slicks on a wet track, resulting in Lars Kisser plummeting down the order, and gifting the lead to Martin Kronke in the #88 VRS Coanda Porsche.

After almost an hour in the lead, the #88 car was disqualified, along with the sister, championship contender, #18 car. That came as a result of technical issues for one driver in each car – Bouteloup and Zac Campbell – preventing them from taking part and the other drivers therefore exceeding stint limits. Improbably, that promoted the #191 Racing Line Bentley into the lead, just over three hours after it had been punted off the track in the opening corner. Having got all of its bad luck out of the way early on, the Racing Line team never surrendered its position again and drove a controlled second half of the race to win.

However even more drama was to come further back. After chasing down fellow McLaren driver Jaroslav Honzik for the final half hour, Baldwin made the pass through the turn 10/11 chicane to take second, only for the two to come into contact through the final chicane and spinning Baldwin about. Honzik took second but was given a time penalty which dropped the YAS Heat car to fourth, while Unicorns of Love grabbed second from Team Rocket with Leon Otocki having passed the recovering  Baldwin in the final turn.

The result takes the championship into the final race of the season, with four of the top five teams all failing to score. Racing Line leaps up into second overall on 68 points, 12 behind FDA Ferrari and 8 ahead of the #18 VRS Coanda squad, with all three able to win the title still.

  • Esports

  • FOS Future Lab

  • Misano

  • Nurburgring

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