Warren seals GT World Challenge Esports Asia title | FOS Future Lab

26th September 2021
Andrew Evans

Australia’s Dayne Warren has maintained his 100 per cent winning record in the GT World Challenge Esports Asia to secure the title with a round to spare.

Warren started this week’s sprint race at Spa from pole position, putting his Bentley two-tenths ahead of Dillan Tan’s Ferrari – his third pole from the four races so far.

It didn’t take long for Warren to stamp his authority on the race and drag away from Tan behind – despite Tan not really being under any pressure himself. Third-place starter Philippa Boquida saw her race end on lap three as the McLaren 720S swapped ends through Eau Rouge, in one of several early race incidents that impacted a chunk of the field. However Warren remained unaffected and stretched his advantage to nine seconds by the mid-race pit stop window. Tan stayed out, taking the lead in the process, but his late stop made no impression on Warren’s lead.

Thanks to incidents and penalties, defending champion Andika Rama Maulana became the only driver who could stop Warren from taking the title, but rather than closing the gap he fell victim to Ryan Duong in the Lexus RC F to slip to fourth after the pit stops.

With four wins from four, Warren takes the championship title without even needing to race in the final round at Suzuka next month. Maulana remains second overall, with Tan in third – separated by 15 points, though more than 50 behind Warren.

By contrast, the European championship looks set to go down to the wire, after Nils Naujoks took his first win of the season in the seventh round at Nürburgring.

Naujoks had qualified on the second row alongside James Baldwin, who’d won the last two successive races to establish a firm challenge to David Tonizza’s championship lead. However on the run down to turn one, Naujoks was able to send the big BMW M6 past both of the front-row Aston Martins – Bastian Richter and Tobias Gronewald – to take the lead.

Tonizza meanwhile had a torrid first turn, just as he had in the endurance round last time out. The Italian driver ended up being blocked by slow-running cars, dropping him outside of the top ten, and a further contact on the following lap saw him fall back into a lowly 30th.

Naujoks couldn’t pull away from Richter, or Baldwin just behind, though the top three were gapping Niklas Houben in the Audi R8 until the start of the pit window. Richter blinked first, with the rest of the top six all waiting until the very last seconds to dive down pit road. The undercut was enough to allow Baldwin and Houben past, and Richter had to scrap with Mateusz Tyszkiewicz to even keep fourth.

Despite never being more than half a second behind, Baldwin simply wasn’t able to find a way past Naujoks, with the BMW’s long legs pulling away on anything even close to a straight. That meant the British driver had to settle for second, leaving him six points behind the non-scoring Tonizza in the championship, 114 to 108. Houben scored a debut podium, barely six-tenths behind the lead duo.

There’s three rounds remaining in this year’s series, and it looks to be going to either Baldwin or Tonizza, with neither Kevin Siggy (DNF) or Josh Rogers (did not take part) scoring this time round.

The HPD JAS Pro America team of Nicolas Hillebrand, Josh Staffin, and Karl Wittmer won the first round of the GT World Challenge Americas Endurance Series, the Bathurst 12 Hours, having started fourth on the grid.

Qualifying saw a remarkable result, with the three PPR Esports cars taking the top three positions and two of them – the Blue car qualified by Luke Whitehead and the Purple car of Harry Spiers – setting identical laps of 2m 0.411s to share the front row.

That was however just about all the team had to be happy about. Spiers and Marco Macri swapped spots during lap one and then, on only lap two of the race, race leader Whitehead lost the back end all by himself on the exit of McPhillamy Park.

With nowhere to go, Macri ploughed right into the side of the stricken Mercedes, allowing Hillebrand – who’d passed Spiers into Quarry – to slip his NSX into the lead. Spiers also ended up sideswiping his team-mates and had to take to the escape road at Skyline, allowing Tinko van der Velde past in the McLaren.

Despite how early the incident was, it essentially decided the race. The HPD team never relinquished the lead, and the SideMax x Blackhawk McLaren of van der Velde, Sam Cairns, and Chris Severt would come home in second, half a minute back. The PPR Blue team would eventually finish on the lead lap, but in fourth place, behind the Crowdstrike Mercedes, and the last car to do so.

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