The McLaren Veloce Esports team has taken the lead of the Intercontinental GT Challenge endurance series following a narrow win in the eight-hour race at Indianapolis.
Following the aborted Spa 24 Hour race last month, the Indianapolis Road Course hosted the second round of the series, replacing Laguna Seca.
Defending European endurance series champion Ferrari took pole position, with Triton Racing alongside them, and Unicorns of Love and McLaren Veloce on the second row all covered by under a tenth of a second. Championship leader Lamborghini could only qualify 35th on the 46-car grid.
With the long run down to the first turn, Kamil Pawlowski (Ferrari) was at a disadvantage to the Mercedes and Bentley behind him, but rather robustly held firm on the inside line, banging door handles with Dominik Blajer (Triton) in the Bentley. That drew a warning from the stewards, and promoted Tobias Pfeffer (UOL) and James Baldwin (McLaren) as Blajer recovered.
For the most part, the rest of the opening stages of the race were surprisingly good-mannered; unfamiliarity with the circuit, which was only added to the Assetto Corsa Competizione simulator on 30th June, likely played a role in that.
Baldwin was the first of the front-runners to take to the pitlane, opting to dive in after 40 minutes to attempt an undercut rather than continue tucked up under Pfeffer’s rear wing as the Ferrari built a five-second gap ahead. That left Pfeffer, Blajer and Nils Naujoks (BS+) all scrapping over second, while Baldwin was able to lap in clean air.
With the first stops ironed out Baldwin had jumped into second, only two seconds behind Danilo Santoro who’d taken control of the Ferrari. However it was Blajer setting the pace, clearing Baldwin first before demolishing the gap to Santoro at the front and taking the lead just before the two-hour mark.
This was how the race unfolded for the next couple of hours. McLaren stopped early and gained spots with the undercut, but then lost them later in the stint to cars on fresher tyres.
However Ferrari and Triton were duelling for first, with Tyszkiewicz first building a ten-second lead before Tonizza closed it back up again. Ferrari finally came out ahead as both cars pitted to swap drivers just after the five-hour mark, and Pawlowski built a healthy lead.
It looked like the race was in Ferrari’s pocket, but with just under two hours remaining Pawlowski made an unforced error and span on the banking of the final corner. While he was able to avoid damage from the wall, that excursion dropped him down to third.
Although Blajer inherited the lead, Baldwin was right on his tail and took the lead around the outside of turn one with just 70 minutes left on the clock. That proved the definitive move of the race, with Eamonn Murphy jumping into the McLaren at the final pit stop and dragging away from Tyskiewicz who’d taken the Bentley for the final stint. The win was cemented when Tyskiewicz dropped it at turn 12 as darkness fell over the virtual circuit.
BS+Competition, after an unorthodox strategy that saw them lead the race several times, took third, while Ferrari just held onto fourth ahead of the Williams-entered Bentley.
Ferrari did win Silver class though, courtesy of the Race Anywhere Simsport team taking an impressive seventh overall, ahead of SMP Simsport, with FFS Racing third.
That leaves McLaren Veloce top of the points table on 55, five ahead of BS+Competition. FFS Racing leads the Silver class, by a single point from Race Anywhere.
The GT World Challenge Asia series also ran this week, with its third round coming from Bathurst.
Dillan Tan took the overall pole position, ahead of his team-mate and joint-championship leader Andika Rama Maulana – although they were split by Silver class leader Philippa Boquida and Andrew O’Hara.
That was how the front four remained during the early exchanges, with Maulana finding his way past O’Hara on the second run up Mountain Straight. Indeed the only early incident of note at the front of the field involved Presley Martono and Kin Long Li. The two ran wide through The Chase and Li collected Ferris Stanley as he re-joined.
While Boquida set the fastest lap early on, she couldn’t keep up with Tan who quickly pulled out a three-second gap – with Boquida a similar distance ahead of Maulana. The situation remained after the mandatory stop too, with Tan eventually putting more than seven seconds on Boquida.
Tan would thus take his second win of the season, ahead of Maulana who finished fourth overall after being passed by Marco Wong after the pit stops, and establishing a narrow six-point championship lead. Sean Maddison took third in Pro, and sixth overall.
Boquida’s third straight class win gives her a 25-point lead over Wong, with O’Hara a distant third.
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