You could say that things were feeling very ‘Yes’ in a ‘Roundabout’ kinda way for URANO Esports and its DATAGROUP sister entry.
Both duos were well clear of their closest rival in Matt Farrow although both had suffered a no-score across the past two events giving the other a ray of hope with four rounds left to run.
Putting that rather gratuitous JoJo’s reference to bed, the continuation of this story brought the BMW M SIM Cup field to Fuji Speedway. A hallmark of many an endurance calendar, the issue of lapping traffic for the GTP field was predicted to become a little less hazardous. With many sharp turns came plenty of obvious passing zones.
The task for those leading both championships was the same as always, however. Get as many points as you can, for the end of the season is closer than one would think.
For Drago Racing, a maiden pole position only resulted in a lucky third spot come the end of a tough day at the Spa-Francorchamps office. Their strategy had been poor, yet the underlying speed was on display yet again in Japan. Arturo Melgar would start in the leading spot ahead of joint-points leader Dominik Hofmann.
Josh Lad preceded Farrow in the Williams Esports MAHLE machine order and had plenty of responsibility launching their efforts from third. Jaden Munoz for HydroRace Geodesic slotted into fourth ahead of Vlad Khimichev; a man looking to bounce back from a desperately unfortunate, race-win-denying disconnect last time out.
The GT3 story was very unlikely to deviate from a #20 Redline championship success. Miles clear of everyone else, even a third-place start from Diogo Pinto wasn’t too worrisome. Ahead of the Portuguese would be Florian Lebigre as an ineligible, independent, entry and Apex’s Alejandro Sánchez.
Both classes could not witness more different scenes into Turn 1. Whilst the GTPs respectively gave each other room, massive contact in the GT3 midfield sent almost everybody off track in some manner. Lebrigre went from pole down to ninth, Sánchez from second down to tenth. Pinto came off even worse; rejoining the circuit plum last whilst their sister car skipped away with first place.
Calmer moves were on the horizon. Munoz had made his way around Lad for third overall whilst the #70 Redline of Tom Burns claimed second in the GT3s ahead of Niclas Laubisch in the URANO Heinekingmedia. Lad would recover nicely in his duel, retaking the final podium slot just a couple of minutes on from losing it. Melgar meanwhile was putting distance between himself and everyone else.
Sánchez was not taking no for an answer as he stormed back up the order. His stablemate in the #2, Jimmy Antunes, looked to make life difficult for the Redline monopoly. After working his way past the URANOs, he pounced on a chance to pip Burns for second.
It had barely been a lap of Hofmann reeling in the leader before Melgar darted for pit road. Nobody was blinking imminently at what was certainly a two-stop strategy, although Luca Kita did flash his lights in grief after contact between himself and Antunes who had fallen to third in class yet again.
The hour mark would spell the moment where most of the grid came in for their first and likely only stop. Upon completion, Melgar’s lead over Daniel Alves Lourenco in the URANO was just shy of thirty seconds.
Williams MAHLE’s pit phase was sluggish, seeing Farrow dropped multiple places. Thanks to his outstanding recovery drive, Sánchez had offered Salva Talens a shot at second in GT3 which he soon grasped. Maxence Godiinho – in place of Antunes – was the biggest loser falling to fourth. There he would remain as the #70 Redline was shuffled back to fifth.
Once both Drago and HydroRace Geodesic had made their second stops for the mandatory driver swap, URANO were sitting pretty on a 1-2-3 in GTP. The Huawei car was the third and final of this trio which soon came under attack from an understandably frustrated Farrow. Once past there was no looking back. Yoep de Ligt became fast under pressure to hold second and cracked with a scary spin out of Coca-Cola.
No such drama for Lourenco and URANO who cruised home to a second-consecutive victory ahead of Williams MAHLE and the URANO DATAGROUP car. For Drago, it was another day where strategy got the better of them.
In GT3, Redline as an organisation extended their winning streak to six. That said, the retirement of the #20 would raise some eyebrows moving forward into the final stretch of the season.
BMW M SIM CUP Round 7, Fuji 2023, GTP Results
- Dominik Hofmann/Daniel Alves Lourenco – URANO eSports – LEADER
- Josh Lad/Matt Farrow – Williams Esports MAHLE – +15.733
- Vlad Khimichev/Jonas Wallmeier – URANO eSports DATAGROUP – +15.886
- Yoep de Ligt/Dylan Scrivens – URANO eSports Huawei – +19.282
- Przemyslaw Marek Lemanek/Arturo Melgar – Drago Racing – +21.197
BMW M SIM CUP Round 7, Fuji 2023, GT3 Results
- Gianni Vecchio/Ole Steinbråten – Team Redline – LEADER
- Alejandro Sánchez/Salva Talens – Apex Racing Team – +0.635
- Luca Kita/Alexey Nesov – URANO eSports HP – +6.936
- Jimmy Antunes/Maxence Godiinho – Apex Racing Team – +7.976
- Tom Burns/Josh Thompson – Team Redline – +12.200