The penultimate round of the British GT Esports Championship for 2021 took a trip to the home of British motorsport, Silverstone.
Real-world racing would result in a smaller than usual GT3 grid and a number of drivers not on the grid, including podium finisher Michael O’Brien and importantly Championship contender Jody Fannin.
With tight battles in the championship, the hour-long sprint race had the potential to crown champions in both categories, however, for the first time in the competition weather would play a part with drivers having to navigate a typically wet Northamptonshire venue.
BRITISH GT ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP, GT3, ROUND 4
Locking out the front row, it was Team Rocket RJN driver James Baldwin who had the inside line into turn one and managed to stamp his authority on the race and lead exiting Copse corner. Championship protagonist Angus Fender also wasted no time making ground, diving up the inside of Alex Buncombe splitting qualifying’s top McLaren’s.
Further back in the field, a snap of oversteer for Morgan Short left Jack Lemmer and Gus Burton spinning, with the GT4s swerving in avoidance.
After three laps Baldwin had already pulled out a three-second advantage courtesy of Buncombe attacking the BMW of Fender, the intense battle costing them crucial time. But the battle would not last for long, with Buncombe running wide at Club letting the Lamborghini of Sandy Mitchell and also the Aston Martin of Bobby Trundley through, leaving more hard work to regain the positions.
It was not until the pitstops when the podium positions would change once more, as a better pitstop for Buncombe enabled him to pull off a brilliant undercut on Fender, making it a McLaren one-two once more – albeit with a 17-second deficit to the leader Baldwin.
Ultimately, Buncombe had no answer for the pace of Baldwin with the winning margin being over 20 seconds. This third, and dominant, win for Baldwin secures the championship with one round to go, while one of his main rivals Angus Fender managed to hold onto third behind Buncombe with a steady drive.
The Lamborghini of Sandy Mitchell had a brilliant first stint by running in the top five at points, but a drive-through penalty for causing a collision with the GT4 Audi of Samir Ibraimi meant a seventh-placed finish. The Aston Martin Vantage proved a strong package in the wet for Tom Canning and Trundley with fourth and fifth respectively after a great battle together for the last 15 minutes.
- James Baldwin McLaren 720S GT3 Team Rocket RJN 1:01:14.671
- Alex Buncombe McLaren 720S GT3 Team Rocket RJN +22.535
- Angus Fender BMW M6 GT3 Century Motorsport +35.347
- Tom Canning Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 TF Sport +44.317
- Bobby Trundley Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 Team BRIT +51.926
- Ben Green BMW M6 GT3 Century Motorsport +52.676
- Sandy Mitchell Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo Barwell Motorsport +1:14.808
- Liam McNeilly McLaren 720S GT3 Fox Motorsport +3:45.490
- Morgan Short McLaren 720S GT3 Rollcentre Racing DNF
- Jack Lemmer Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo Barwell Motorsport DNF
- Gus Burton BMW M6 GT3 Century Motorsport DNF
BRITISH GT ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP, GT4, ROUND 4
With another championship on the line, it was Nils Naujoks who was frustrated starting down in ninth position, while his closest challenger, Jack McIntyre, was on pole alongside Tariq Gamil in another Porsche 718 Clubsport.
Stray and spinning GT3 cars would cause chaos for the GT4 field as they rushed round turn one with a number of cars taking to the slippery grass in avoidance or being collected by others. Amazingly McIntyre got through intact, but many of the 15 car grid sustained damaged, including Naujoks, whose front end damage would cost him approx. 1.5 seconds to the leader per lap.
Despite the time loss, Naujoks would hustle the BMW up to seventh before the pitstops behind another turn one victim Tariq Gamil. But it was Jack McIntyre with all the advantage, out front and away from battles the gap to second place Florian Hasse was over six seconds as he came into the pitlane. After two disastrous stops previously, McIntyre would have been relieved for a perfect stop and was rewarded with the lead after all the pitstops had cycled through.
Series debutants Nils Koch and Pierre-Olivier Cloutier put on a great show in the second stint fighting for the final podium position, that was until a 30 stop-go penalty was given to Koch for seemingly speeding in the pitlane putting an end to a brilliant battle.
All was not lost, however, as the last 15 minutes of the race was dominated by amazing action between Tariq Gamil and Florian Hasse. A quicker looking Gamil seemed lost for passing ideas behind Hasse, the McLaren driver ensuring he placed the 570S GT4 in all the right defending areas. The epic battle lasted for multiple laps before a messy encounter at Village brought it to an end when Hasse made side contact with Gamil, bounced over the kerbs while recovering and tipped into a spin.
The incident left Gamil to follow home a dominant McIntyre at the flag, the winning margin a whopping 24 seconds and doing all he can to reduce the championship gap heading into the final round. Cloutier made it onto the podium on his debut and locking in another appearance in the championship, while a superb second half of the race for Naujoks avoiding incident and penalty resulted in a fourth-place on what was a race of damage limitation.
Hasse would also have more back luck post-race as it was confirmed he did not take on the mandatory one litre of fuel at the pitstop resulting in a 130-second penalty and dropping to eighth in class.
The damage sustained for Michael Kundakcioglu would prove too much as he elected to pit outside the window, ultimately taking him out of the fight.
- Jack McIntyre Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Zansho Rocket Simsport 1:02:09.034
- Tariq Gamil Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Private +24.717
- Pierre-Olivier Cloutier KTM X-Bow GT4 EGT Motorsports +30.974
- Nils Naujoks BMW M4 GT4 BMW Motorsport SIM G2 +40.515
- Samir Ibraimi Audi R8 LMS GT4 Rennwelten Pro Team +59.628
- Andreas Schwerin Chevrolet Camaro GT4R ThePitCrew Works Racing +34.691
- Michael Kundakcioglu Alpine A110 GT4 SideMax Motorworks +1:00.008
- Florian Hasse McLaren 570S GT4 Dörr Esports +1:00.787
- Nils Koch Chevrolet Camaro GT4R BS+ COMPETITION +2:41.929
- Chris Hoeke Audi R8 LMS GT4 Rennwelten Pro Team +1 Lap
- Joe Brown Ginetta G55 GT4 Private +1 Lap
- Robbie Stapleford Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4 Profile Racing +1 Lap
- Gabriel Lafrenaye Ginetta G55 GT4 EGT Motorsports +1 Lap
- Deagen Fairclough Mercedes-AMG GT4 Private DNF
- Moritz Löhner McLaren 570S GT4 Dörr Esports DNF
- Ivan Shermetinskii Mercedes-AMG GT4 Jean Alesi Esports Academy DNS
With the GT3 championship decided and Baldwin confirming he will not contest the final round, all eyes will be on the battle for second and third in the standings and also the GT4 category title fight. The ‘Donington Decider’ will be on 25th April with the open GT4 qualifiers going live at 8 am on Monday 12th April. You can register now.
Images from the British GT media portal.