Verstappen wins Bathurst, Rosenqvist wins Indycar Pro Challenge | FOS Future Lab

14th February 2022
Andrew Evans

Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist has won the IndyCar Pro Challenge, a special one-off esports event for IndyCar’s professional drivers. A high-quality grid of IndyCar’s current drivers attended the event – with four series championships between them – including the clean sweep of recognised 2021 winners: reigning champion Alex Palou, Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves, 2021 Rookie of the Year Scott McLaughlin, and McLaren’s Pato O’Ward.

The three-race event at the virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway GP Road Course consisted of a 10-minute sprint with a randomly drawn grid, followed by a reverse-grid ten-minute sprint. Points accumulated over the two races would determine the grid for the final 20-minute, winner-takes-all  race – with the overall winner taking $10,000 (£7,400) for their nominated charity from a $25,500 (£19,000) prize fund

Although Castroneves got the luck of the draw to start on pole, alongside rookie Kyle Kirkwood, it was esports advocate Romain Grosjean who had the best start from row two to sweep into a lead through the first turn he’d not surrender.  British rookie Callum Ilott also sneaked past the four-time Indy 500 champion to take second. While he wasn’t able to catch Grosjean at the front, Ilott was never threatened during the race either, dragging out a huge ten-second gap to the field behind him.

All the action came in the battle for third, with an entertaining four-car scrap between Jack Harvey, Devlin DeFrancesco, Christian Lundgaard, and Rinus VeeKay. DeFrancesco fell first, clashing with Harvey before spinning into the British driver, allowing Lundgaard and VeeKay past. However Lundgaard span at turn 12 on the penultimate lap, gifting VeeKay the podium.

The reversed grid put David Malukas on pole from Conor Daly, with Tatiana Calderon and Palou on the behind them, and again that second-row looked like the sweet spot as Palou took the lead in turn one. Lundgaard followed him through and overtook before the lap finished, and Sage Karam made it a fourth change for the lead in a lap and a half when Lundgaard wobbled through turn four. Further back, Calderon very firmly collected Grosjean, with both spinning into Castroneves and Ilott.

Malukas soon passed Lundgaard, and the Danish driver’s race fell to pieces. Another mistake at turn 12 saw him fall further down, before he ended his race in the outside wall at turn seven. That allowed Rosenqvist into a vital third, with Karam winning from Malukas.

Karam would start on pole for the final, ahead of Rosenqvist, with Grosjean and Ilott on row two, and Malukas and Simon Pagenaud on the third row. This time the pole-sitter was able to keep the lead, as Karam fended off Grosjean, but Grosjean would lose out to Rosenqvist again mid-way through the lap.

The French driver was then involved in a series of incidents, first clipping Malukas before an off-track excursion brought him back onto the track into the side of Ilott, who span, allowing Lundgaard up into fourth. Then Grosjean tagged the back of the Danish driver and sent him off too.

Rosenqvist and Malukas reeled Karam in at the front, allowing Rosenqvist the chance to use his push-to-pass to take the lead with nine minutes remaining. Malukas was able to follow suit two laps later, but couldn’t catch Rosenqvist at the front. Ultimately Rosenqvist took the win by four seconds, taking $10,000 for his chosen charity, Conquer Paralysis Now, with Malukas and Karam securing $8,000 and $5,000 respectively.

Max Verstappen has started his own preparations for defending his 2021 F1 World Driver’s Championship by defending the iRacing Bathurst 12 Hours, along with team-mate Luke Bennett.

Verstappen was representing his Team Redline esports outfit, but rather unusually driving a McLaren MP4-12C for the GT3 race, which starts before dawn at the famous Mount Panorama circuit. 

They didn’t have the best of qualifying sessions, starting the race in fifth behind two fellow Redline squads – Christopher Dambietz and Alexander Thiebe on pole, and Maximilian Benecke and Patrik Holzmann in fourth – as well as the VRS Coanda Porsche of PESC champion Joshua Rogers and Mitchell DeJong.

Carnage ensued on lap one, with Enzo Bonito – who partnered Verstappen in the 2021 win –  one of four drivers to come to grief against the close walls of Bathurst.

Rogers took the lead from Thiebe on lap one, but Verstappen was soon on his rear wing and overtook the Australian at The Cutting. Verstappen couldn’t shake Rogers, but as the Porsche drew alongside at The Chase, the F1 champion left him no room. A trip through the grass dropped Rogers back to fourth.

That would be effectively the last time anyone but another Team Redline car would be close enough to the Verstappen/Bennett McLaren all race, and with the Benecke/Holzmann car in second, Redline would score a 1-2. Phillippe Denes and Rainer Talvar were third for BS+Competition.

  • esports

  • FOS Future Lab

  • IndyCar

  • Max Verstappen

  • Bathurst

  • Felix Rosenqvist

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