Intercontinental GT Challenge Esports set for title showdown | FOS Future Lab

12th September 2022
Andrew Evans

The Unicorns of Love Mercedes team has taken victory in the penultimate round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, setting the stage for a final round decider at the re-staged 24 Hours of Spa.


Kyalami hosted the nine-hour race – originally the final championship round before the enforced calendar change – and it was a return to form for the Lamborghini team. Having won the series opener at Bathurst, Lamborghini had poor results at Indianapolis and Suzuka but seized pole position here in a typically tight qualifying where the top 35 cars were split by just a second. Somewhat unexpectedly, the Silver class Kramer Racing Team entry would line up alongside Lamborghini on the front row. Championship-leading McLaren Veloce could only place seventh, but that was ten spots ahead of its nearest challenger, BS+Competition.

Despite a relatively cagey opening for most of the field, Jordan Sherratt (Lamborghini) quickly got away from the chasing field to build up an advantage of over three seconds from Marco Bischoff

(Kramer) by the time the first pit stops took place around the hour mark. With the Pro pack able to clear the Silver class Kramer Porsche after the stops, it wasn’t long until Tobias Pfeffer (UOL) made a move up into second past Maxime Batifoulier (MKers) in the sister Mercedes, to set off after the lead Lamborghini – now driven by Giorgio Simonini. 

The move for the lead came before the two-hour mark, as Pfeffer sent the Mercedes down the inside at Leeukop and held firm down the Mineshaft to hit the front. That proved to be the decisive pass in terms of the overall win, as UOL consistently built up the gap across the stints and drivers – Tobias Gronewald and Michael Tauscher – over the following hours. It was Gronewald who took the chequered flag first, just under 12 seconds ahead of Sherratt. The HRT Mercedes team took third, having started third in class, after the MKers Mercedes retired due to damage five hours in.

Championship leader McLaren Veloce crossed the line in fifth, after a steady race which saw the team stay out of trouble, with main rival BS+Competition fighting through the field to seventh place – although some 30 seconds further back. That gives Veloce a 15-point lead heading into the final round, meaning a fourth-place finish or better will secure the title.

In Silver class it was the Kramer car that would take the win, after its class pole position, but the team didn’t have things all its own way. After keeping a gaggle of Pro cars behind for an hour, second stint driver Noah Eder fell back into the clutches of Valentin Barrier (Virtualdrivers by TX3), setting fastest laps in the Aston. However, a penalty for the TX3 car saw it drop behind again just before half distance, before Maximilien Vedy lost out to Joe MacAuley (FFS Racing) after a mistake at Cheetah corner. With the class-leading AJA Simracing car only able to finish fifth, FFS Racing now takes an eight-point advantage into Spa in another two-way fight for the title.

Lohan Blanc has taken his fourth eSports WRC title in six years, in controversial circumstances at the grand final in Athens. After demolishing the field in the first half of the event to make the final four, 2020 champion and regular season points leader Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle crashed early in the first of the four final stages. This was due to what appeared to be a technical fault with the driving rig, affecting throttle and steering, and left him a minute behind his rivals.

With the issue fixed, Abi Nakhle won all three of the remaining stages, serving notice of what might have been, but had to settle for fourth overall. Having won that first stage, Blanc finished second in the others to claim the title and €25,000 prize, ahead of his Race Clutch team-mate John Bebnowicz-Harris. Marco Botinelli would just hold onto third in his debut eSports WRC finals appearance.

Andika Rama Maulana will head into the Lamborghini Real Race finals as Asia-Pacific (APAC) region group champion after coming out on top with four wins across the eight group stage races.

Maulana entered the second weekend of the group stage finals with a narrow lead over Andrew O’Hara. Having qualified comfortably on pole position for the Nürburgring sprint race ahead of Lukas Birss, the 2020 GT World Challenge winner took a lights-to-flag win despite late attention from Birss.

Despite his experience, the Indonesian driver then picked up a 30-second stop-go penalty in the feature race for a pitlane infringement, but would come back to take a double victory in the final two races at Zolder to top the points standings.

Maulana, O’Hara, and Birss made up the APAC podium, with the top 15 drivers in the region joining last weekend’s 15 EMEA qualifiers in the finals in October – with the Americas region final this coming weekend.

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