Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series goes down to the wire | FOS Future Lab
Akkodis drivers Daniel Juncadella and Tommaso Mosca took the Pro and Silver class victories respectively at the fourth round of the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series, with both championships now heading to a final round decider next month.
Suzuka hosted the hour-long race, despite not appearing on the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Series calendar. That’s because Hockenheim, hosting the real-world championship over the weekend, isn’t in the Assetto Corsa Competizione sim used for the series, and the Japanese track won a fan vote to replace it.
There was another twist to the series too, as runaway Pro class leader Beechdean withdrew from the real Endurance Series, ending its eligibility for the virtual event. Nicki Thiim had been the only driver to score points – which also contribute to the overall GT World Challenge Europe series points table – in all three rounds thus far.
With that all out of the way though, it was Silver class driver Mosca who took overall pole position at Suzuka, by a margin of 0.2 seconds over Pro class team-mate Juncadella as Akkodis locked out the front row. Defending champions made up the second row, with Emil Frey Racing’s Arthur Rougier ahead of 2021 Silver class winner Madpanda and Ezekiel Perez Companc, just in front of Silver class leader Alex Aka. Aka was looking for a class podium finish to secure this season’s title for Attempto.
Despite a number of first-lap incidents this season, and Suzuka’s notoriously difficult, tightening radius turns one and two, the drivers came through mostly unscathed. One notable exception was Aka, who seemed to lose a spot in every braking zone. Luca Ghiotto (Audi Sport Tresor) overtook Aka in the first turn, Kelvin van der Linde (WRT) in the Degners, and Niklas Nielsen (Iron Lynx) at the Casio Triangle. Crucially though, all were Pro drivers, keeping Aka in that important class podium spot. However, Brendon Leitch (Leipert) was soon onto Aka’s tail, but a rather robust defence from the Audi driver saw Leitch spinning off on the exit of the final turn – despite what looked to be a clean and respectful overtake from the Lamborghini. This would have consequences for both race and championship in the later stages.
At the front though, Mosca and Juncadella had pace to spare. Though the two were running nose to tail, the gap to third – now occupied by Ghiotto after overtaking Rougier – was close to seven seconds by the time the pit window opened. Pro driver Juncadella opted for an early stop, aiming for the undercut and coming out with clear track in the chasm between Nielsen and Aka. Mosca went for the traditional ACC Esports technique of the latest stop possible, but found himself looking at his team-mate’s rear wing as he emerged from the pits in second. Rougier and Ghiotto also swapped positions in the stops as they fought over second in Pro, but Ghiotto took the spot back again with a bold pass into the hairpin with ten minutes remaining.
The major talking point of the race came with just over six minutes remaining. Following the earlier incident between the two, Leitch had again caught up with Aka again, and Aka again was pushing the limits of fair defence. As the cars approached Spoon Curve, both cars went to the left and tangled again. This time though it was Aka facing the wrong way, as Leitch pitched the Audi into a spin – and Leitch picked up a drive-through penalty as a consequence. Jannes Fittje (HRT) was the major beneficiary, moving up third in class.
Juncadella claimed the overall and Pro class win by some seven seconds from his Silver class team-mate, with Ghiotto and van der Linde rounding out the Pro podium – the latter out-sprinting Rougier from the final turn to relegate last year’s champion to fourth by 0.07 seconds. Companc took second in Silver, coming home seventh, with Fittje on the final podium step. The results mean Beechdean, despite no longer participating, still leads Pro by one point from Akkodis, with Rowe, Attempto, WRT, and Audi Sport Tresor all potentially able to take the title at Barcelona next month. In Silver it’s now a straight two-car fight. Attempto will take the crown if it fails to score while Akkodis takes victory at Catalunya.
British driver Luke Whitehead, recently crowned GT World Challenge Americas champion, has won the group stage of Lamborghini’s “The Real Race” for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.
Whitehead topped the standings after taking three race wins out of four – sprints at both Hungaroring and Misano and the Misano feature race – in the second round of Group Stage races over the weekend, putting him ahead of Niklas Houben as the two drivers finished comfortably ahead of the rest.
The top 15 drivers in the region will now head to the finals in October, with a place on the official Lamborghini Esports team for the winner.
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