Sunday saw the first round of the official British GT Esports Championship, broadcast live from the iconic Cheshire venue, Oulton Park.
For the first time in an SRO esports competition, there was multi-class racing, with the top-class GT3 cars pedalled by real-world drivers including some familiar British GT names such as Jonny Adam, Sam Neary and reigning BGT Champion Sandy Mitchell. The GT4 class was made up of familiar sim-racing specialists who secured their grid position after competing in the online qualification process.
The race itself was a fraught affair with plenty of incidents throughout the 40-car field and a number of penalties awarded to competitors. Would this race be a sign of the action and driving standards to come in the remaining 2 races in the Championship or was it drivers simply getting up to speed in a multi-class environment? We will have to see…
British GT Esports Championship, GT3, Round 1
The action got underway straight away with a busy first corner. 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button was the first casualty, getting tapped from the rear and spinning into the barriers while others were also having their own moments behind.
It was James Baldwin however who managed to make it count and make an outrageous move on Angus Fender round the outside of Old Hall Corner and taking the early lead. But, it would be a lead he wouldn’t hold for very long though with Angus fought back on the same lap and resumed P1 – a position he would keep until after the pit-stops.
It was only 15 minutes into the race before the leading GT3 started to negotiate slower GT4 traffic. This would prove a real test to the competitors; even with their real-word experience, Oulton Park was like a car park at times with the sheer number of cars on track.
Shortly before the pitstop window was when one of the pre-event favourites, Michael O’Brien’s, race came to the end when a small bumper kiss from behind by Ben Green coming out of the first corner sent him spinning and into the path of three more cars. O’Brien called it a day and retiring to the pits.
After the short pitstop window, it was still Fender who was out front, but real-life British GT race winner Baldwin had his head down and the McLaren looked fast. The few seconds advantage was soon whittled away and with just over 20 minutes to go Baldwin pulled the pin and made a spectacular move rising over Clay Hill with two wheels on the grass. The lead was his.
The ultimately race-defining move came just under 15 minutes from the end. With Angus closing in and with a run into Hislop’s, a slight move under braking for O’Brien resulted in a touch and sent Angus sliding out of control across the grass. They both managed to re-join, albeit messily, and although Baldwin took the flag ahead of Angus on track, a post-race 30-second penalty for that incident promoted Angus to the top step.
Unassuming and mainly incident free races for the Aston Martins left Andrew Watson, Tom Canning and Bobby Trundley all in the points positions, while awesome pace from Jody Fannin, Sam Neary and Ben Green kept them all in the top five despite getting caught up in incidents during the race.
- Angus Fender – BMW M6 GT3 Century Motorsport – 1:00:25.835 25
- James Baldwin – McLaren 720S GT3 Team Rocket RJN – +22.292 18
- Jody Fannin – Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo JMW Motorsport – +43.298 15
- Ben Green – BMW M6 GT3 Century Motorsport – +1:27.147 12
- Sam Neary – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Team ABBA Racing – +1:29.155 10
- Morgan Short – McLaren 720S GT3 Rollcentre Racing – +1 Lap
- Andrew Watson – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 Garage 59 – +1 Lap
- Tom Canning – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 TF Sport – +1 Lap
- Bobby Trundley – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 Team BRIT – +1 Lap
- Jonny Adam – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 Beechdean AMR – +1 Lap
British GT Esports Championship, GT4, Round 1
The race in GT4 was unexpectedly settled, but the lower incident count didn’t mean a lack of racing as there were plenty of battles throughout the field, and perhaps the greater platform experience for the sim-racers gave them a slight edge being able to push cleanly.
Prolific sim-racer Samir Ibraimi’s race ended before it really began, being one of the cars caught up at the start mele, but a great recovery drive did pay off, finishing in the top 10 points-paying positions.
At the sharp end of the field, it was the Team Zansho Rocket Simport Porsches stealing the show, Jack McIntyre snatching the lead from his teammate Luka Berk on the first lap before pulling a healthy lead ahead of the pitstops.
Sim-racing ace Nils Naujoks was of course for a strong result in his trademark BMW, but even with the power from the M4 GT4, he had no answer for Florian Hasse in the McLaren. Nils took the opportunity to dive into the pits at the earliest opportunity, and a fantastic second stint on fresh tyres secured a podium position.
Strangely after the pitstops had cycled through, it was McIntyre who was the big loser. After spending only two more seconds than his competitors on pit-road, he exited in fifth, and would only gain one more position before the chequered.
All of this left Luka Berk with relatively-fresh air out front and would continue lapping at a great pace, taking the win by over eight seconds.
The top three finishers from each race will now carry success ballast going into the next round at Snetterton next Sunday (28th March 2021). The wide and flat tarmac may prove easier for traffic management, but there is no guarantee the same drivers will race again with the public hot lap qualifying now live to determine 10 GT4 positions, while the top 10 gain an automatic entry to the next round. Further details can be found on the British GT website.
- Luka Berk – Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Zansho Rocket Simsport – 1:00:43.203
- Maciej Malinowski – Alpine A110 GT4 Huncfot Racing – +8.551
- Nils Naujoks – BMW M4 GT4 BMW Motorsport SIM G2 – +8.702
- Jack McIntyre – Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Zansho Rocket Simsport – +12.528
- Chris Hoeke – Audi R8 LMS GT4 Rennwelten Pro Team – +13.611
- Maxime Batifoulier – Ginetta G55 GT4 École pilotage virtuelle – +1 Lap
- Ivan Shermetinskii – Mercedes-AMG GT4 Jean Alesi Esports Academy – +1 Lap
- Michael Kundakcioglu – Alpine A110 GT4 SideMax Motorworks – +1 Lap
- Samir Ibraimi – Audi R8 LMS GT4 Rennwelten Pro Team – +1 Lap
- Eamonn Murphy – Ginetta G55 GT4 YAS HEAT – +1 Lap