Bentley boys win GT World Challenge Europe opener | FOS Future Lab

11th April 2022
Andrew Evans

Daire McCormack and Dominik Blajer have taken class wins in the first race of this season’s GT World Challenge Europe Esports series, at Misano, with McCormack taking his first overall race win in the series.

The race was the first in the new 2022 format, which will see three separate five-round continental sprint championships and a five-race intercontinental endurance series. Each race will see 24 “Pro” and 24 “Silver” class cars taking part, with the same field of 48 drivers across each championship.

For this curtain-raiser it was actually Ferrari’s factory driver, and 2021 Endurance Series champion, David Tonizza who took pole position in a tight qualifying session that saw the top 30 cars covered by half a second, with McCormack’s Bentley alongside him on the front row. Top silver driver was Blajer in another Bentley, in eighth overall.

It was McCormack who hit the front when the green flag dropped, beating Tonizza around the outside of turn one to take the inside line for the second turn. Despite the closeness of the cars in qualifying, that was the last overtake in the podium spots in the hour-long race.

With the straight-line advantage of the Bentley, McCormack was able to keep control at the head of the field, pulling away steady rate of a tenth of a second per lap and eventually winning by five and a half seconds. Tonizza, himself a model of consistency, couldn’t keep up but would take second by more than 14 seconds from Tobias Gronewald, who just pipped Nils Naujoks for the final podium place.

There was plenty of action further down the field though, including an intense battle for sixth. Following the mandatory pit stop it was Luca Losio in the BMW who held the position, keeping a train of pro cars behind him for close to 15 minutes.

His resolve was finally broken by reigning champion James Baldwin, who’d crept up from a poor 18th in qualifying with a number of neat moves – one of which bizarrely drew a five-second penalty from the stewards.

The Italian driver then found himself facing the wrong way as a mob of cars including Arthur Kammerer, Tinko van der Velde, and Kamil Pawlowski fought to be next in line. Ferrari Esports champion Pawlowski tagged the BMW, taking a post-race penalty which dropped him to 17th.

Silver class leader Blajer had a similarly routine race, eventually coming home seventh on the road having somehow coming through the Pro melee unscathed. While Robbie Stapleford was able to close in after the stops, he found himself held up by pro driver Kevin Siclari, with silver rival Egor Ogorodnikov snapping at his heels.

Dayne Warren saw a return to his early season form in Porsche Esports Supercup, taking an unusual pole position and feature race double.

The Australian driver took the first pole position of the season back in February, and followed that up with the first race win in the subsequent sprint event, but he’s struggled with a run of bad luck recently.

It wasn’t a huge surprise when he set the fastest qualifying time at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, beating Kevin Ellis Jr. by just over one hundredth of a second, with recent in-form driver Sebastian Job half a tenth back in third.

So far this season, every pole-sitter has won the sprint race that follows, but Warren broke that streak. After surviving the first few corners, Warren appeared to make a mistake under braking and missed turn six, re-joining down the field in ninth.

That gave the lead to Ellis, but it was Zac Campbell who’d eventually take his second sprint race win of the season with a bold overtaking move on the last lap that ran from the hairpin to the final chicane. Job would round out the podium.

Good luck finally fell Warren’s way though, as Alejandro Sanchez seemed to have an accident all by himself three laps from the end. That promoted Warren into eighth, and the feature race reversed-grid pole.

This time Warren didn’t make any mistakes. After holding off Salva Talens at the start, the Australian driver ran a controlled 20-lap race to take a well-earned victory.

Crucially for the championship, Diogo Pinto took third, ahead of Redline teammate Maximilian Benecke, with Ellis fifth from Campbell and Job. That means Pinto still holds the overall lead, but Ellis leapfrogs Job into second and cuts the gap to the Portuguese driver.

Ellis remains ahead of Job and Carroll after the latest round of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Esports at Silverstone International. The Apex Racing driver took pole position from his nearest rival, Red Bull’s Carroll, by less than two hundredths of a second, with Job two thousandths further back.

After a controlled lights-to-flag win in race one, Ellis could only take fourth in the reversed-grid second race. However, his team-mate Peter Berryman saw a return to form to take the win from Job.

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