Luke Whitehead wins GT World Challenge America Esports title | FOS Future Lab
Britain’s Luke Whitehead has won the GT World Challenge America title with a second race win of the season in the Laguna Seca finale.
Having built a commanding 20-point lead over nearest rival Igor Rodrigues, with William Hendrickson an outside bet at a 32-point deficit, Whitehead only needed to place sixth or better to secure the title. However, Whitehead wasn’t going to settle for the minimum and put his Porsche on pole ahead of Silver-class drivers Angel Inostroza and Chris Harteveld. Defending champion Michael Kundakcioglu was the nearest Pro driver in fourth – meaning that Porsches occupied all four places in the front two rows – with Hendrickson down in 11th and Rodrigues only 18th on the grid.
In dark and wet conditions it seemed inevitable that there’d be first corner chaos, but the field came through almost entirely unharmed. Kundakcioglu found himself shuffled down to fourth in class as Gregor Schill and Tobias Pfeffer – both race winners this season – sneaked past through the hairpin. Rodrigues was going backwards though, falling down to 24th before opting for a very early pit stop with 15 minutes gone. That meant that Whitehead could afford a DNF and still win the title, but he was still running in first and pulling away from Inostroza and Harteveld behind. Pfeffer, Schill, and Kundakcioglu scrapped over second place in the Pro class – Pfeffer picked up a five-second penalty for forcing Schill wide.
The leading trio all opted to pit towards the end of the window, with Whitehead re-emerging in the lead and stretching his advantage over Inostroza. He proved uncatchable, and took the win by just over six seconds, chased home by two Silver drivers. Schill was a further four seconds behind, but a fourth-placed finish was enough to see him jump to second in the standings, a massive 43 points behind new champion Whitehead – who placed on the podium in every round this season. Rodrigues recovered to 18th overall but 8th in the Pro class to claim third, just ahead of Hendrickson.
Inostroza’s second Silver class win of the season was enough to vault him into third, but it was Chris Harteveld – Whitehead’s team-mate at R8G – who took the category championship having shadowed Inostroza throughout the race. Harteveld’s two wins and two seconds this season saw him finish 25 points clear of Luke Southall.
A virtual motorsport Ashes event between Motorsport UK and Motorsport Australia has seen the Australian team walk away with victory.
The invitational event saw ten selected Esports racers from each nation taking part in two races at Mount Panorama and Brands Hatch. All 20 drivers drove the same McLaren 720S GT3, decorated in special UK and Australia liveries for the event.
Fielding a very strong team, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the Australian squad locked out the front three spots in qualifying for the Mount Panorama race. Philippa Boquida took pole position ahead of compatriots Andrew Laurenson and Andrew O’Hara, with Harry Phillips the only UK driver even in the top ten qualifying fourth.
Phillips was then immediately in hot water, hitting the back of Laurenson even before braking for the first turn, sending the Australian across into his team-mate O’Hara. Laurenson would, somehow, recover and retain second, but O’Hara ended up down the order and a further incident later in the lap saw him drop to last – with Phillips earning a five-second penalty.
Boquida though had checked out, and strolled to the chequered flag by more than five seconds ahead of Laurenson. Although Phillips crossed the line in third, the penalty dropped him to sixth, just ahead of fellow Brit Kieran Prendergast as Australia took the first five spots.
Despite the home advantage at Brands Hatch, qualifying for the second race was much the same story as Boquida claimed pole from O’Hara. This time it was Zachary Smith in third and Phillips again the lead UK driver in fourth, though Prendergast and Chris Hack also managed top ten starts for the UK.
This time the race start was clean, and Phillips managed to sneak past Smith at Surtees to take third. The British driver then kept up with Boquida and O’Hara for a while as they built a gap to Smith, but it wasn’t long until the raw pace of the Australians – race winners in the GT World Challenge and Lamborghini Real Race events – proved too much.
O’Hara set the fastest lap, but finished almost two seconds behind the peerless Boquida, while Phillips took the only podium for Motorsport UK some five seconds further back as Australia again took five of the top six spots to win the event.
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