GT World Challenge Esports championships go to the wire | FOS Future Lab
Two of the three GT World Challenge Esports sprint series will see final race deciders next month with the penultimate races in both throwing up unexpected results.
It was GTWC Europe up first with a race from the Hungaroring, and all but one of the main title challengers were very firmly on the back foot after qualifying. In a tight qualifying session it was Jordan Grant-Smith who took pole position ahead of David Tonizza – second in the points table going into the race – by 12 thousandths of a second. Championship leader Daire McCormack could only qualify in 14th, albeit within a quarter of a second of pole, with defending champion James Baldwin one spot further back.
Just as it is in the real world though, Hungaroring’s first corner is an accident hotspot and this time it was a significant collision. Unsighted by moves ahead, Robbie Stapleford ploughed into the back of Michael Tauscher’s Porsche, which hit Tonizza hard enough to both spin the Ferrari and collect Nils Naujoks on the outside of the turn. A second huge pile up approaching turn two saw McCormack’s Bentley eliminated from the race altogether, along with Arthur Kammerer’s BMW, and Tonizza would retire soon after.
The big beneficiary of all of this was Baldwin. Somehow keeping the McLaren out of trouble, Baldwin sneaked through the carnage up into seventh – fifth in class – and looking at a big points haul while his rivals were sitting in the pits.
With an entire race’s worth of incidents in the first two turns, things began to settle down a little, with Grant-Smith and Amir Hosseini streaking away at the front. As a train formed behind Tauscher, some drivers opted for a very early-window stop to get out of the traffic, shaking the order up throughout the middle portion of the race.
A slow stop for Hosseini saw him lose three seconds to Grant-Smith as both cars pitted late, allowing Grant-Smith to coast to his first win of the season. Luca Losio ran a solid race to take third. Baldwin’s fourth place swings the championship back towards him. The defending champion is now just five points behind McCormack with only the final race at Monza next month to go. Gronewald and Tonizza are third and fourth and still in with a shot.
Silver class initially went to Stapleford, who used the early pit stop to the greatest effect to beat Kieran Prendergast by ten seconds. However he was found to be at fault for the first turn crash and given a 40-second penalty. That meant Prendergast would take the win from championship leader Dominik Blajer, with Egor Ogorodnikov in third. Blajer and Stapleford will battle it out for the title at Monza.
Elsewhere, GTWC America headed to the Donington Park circuit, with Tobias Pfeffer finally discovering some form this season. Pfeffer claimed pole position at Donington by a relatively vast 0.4s from William Hendrickson, with championship leader Luke Whitehead starting fourth alongside Philippe Simard.
A perfectly judged start from Pfeffer saw him leave the rest in his wake, and that pack was briefly headed by Whitehead who’d managed to clear Simard and get alongside Hendrickson. However Hendrickson had the inside line for the Old Hairpin and kept his second place. Further back in the Pro class Harry Spiers, winner at Kyalami, made a bold double-pass at Goddards to overtake Gregor Schill and Leon Otocki as they fought over sixth.
After a chaotic race last time out, the head of the field seemed to be behaving themselves, putting the emphasis back on pit strategy. Igor Rodrigues, Kyalami’s nearly-man, made the first stop to get out of the train of traffic just as he did in the previous race. Whitehead also made an early stop, emerging just ahead of Rodrigues. The overcut worked to Rodrigues’ advantage again, getting him past the late-stopping Simard – who later span at Goddards all by himself – but the front three remained as they had been at the end of lap one.
At the front though, Pfeffer was close to uncatchable, only losing the lead in the pit window as Spiers and Schill waited until the last possible lap to take their stop. Pfeffer would win by a comfortable seven seconds from Hendrickson, with Whitehead third from Rodrigues. Going into the final round at Laguna Seca, Whitehead has a 20-point advantage over Rodrigues, with Hendrickson – the only other driver able to take the title – another 12 points behind.
Chris Harteveld took Silver class pole position yet again, but he had to spend most of the race staring at the back of Luke Southall’s Bentley following a first-lap overtake - briefly slipping to third after Renan Negrini undercut him in the pits before Negrini picked up a track limits penalty. Angel Inostroza took his second podium in a row by passing Jonathan Seville on the final lap, but only Harteveld and Southall can win the category in next month’s finale.
Welcome to FOS Future Lab where we report on the latest visions of future technology. We'll be boldly covering flying cars, hoverboards, jetpacks and spaceships with plenty of down to earth topics in between.