Assetto Corsa Competizione and GT machinery go hand-in-hand. So it is to the surprise of no one that plenty of the leagues and series available in 2023 lean heavily towards this combination.
The Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports America Sprint Series (which we will hereby abbreviate to GTWCEA for all of our sakes) is one such example – joined by regional variants across Europe and Asia.
The first round of 2023 would be located at the demanding Laguna Seca Raceway; a tight and twisty circuit infamous for the legendary Corkscrew chicane and high difficulties on the overtaking front.
A new season brings with it new faces, teams and – if we’re lucky – cars to gaze at. Williams Esports were sure to be very happy with the efforts of Igor de Oliveira Rodrigues and Fidel Moreira as the pair locked out the front row. With the former on pole position, he would be responsible for giving his stablemate the room to fend off Jyeed Hutchinson and Nicolas Alvarado.
One of Argentina’s finest was repping the Honda NSX which just so happened to be the only car to get two into the top five. Cardin Lu, his friend at HPD JAS Pro America, filled that final spot.
In spite of a high profile off for one of the season favourites, Michael Kundakcioglu, most of the field navigated the opening corners without incident. With many looking to put a solid performance in for their opening charge, it was no surprise that attempted overtakes were at a premium.
Lu was the furthest up the order to lose out early on; Angel Inostroza of Gran Turismo fame moving up to fifth. By ten minutes in, he’d fallen further to eighth as Silver class leader Mérick Lévêque and Renan Nigrini muscled by. Inostroza would go on to become the first of the front runners to pit with 35 minutes remaining.
Moreira followed suit a couple of laps on and would be joined by many others thereafter. The race leader, however, was enjoying plenty of free air and arrived in his pitbox almost on the dot of half distance – well after everyone else in contention had stopped. Lévêque was by far the biggest winner of the pitstop phase, jumping the hard-battling Inostroza and Alvarado.
On the other hand, Lu’s day went from underwhelming to really disappointing. A total of three more machines had chosen better strategy calls and with those positions lost, he had fallen to the bottom of the top ten in class.
In the dying embers of this encounter, Hutchinson began to turn up the wick on Moreira. After a relentless assault, a chink in the armour was finally discovered upon exit of Turn 4. A wiggle from the Brazilian was all the Canadian needed as he sent his Lamborghini down the inside of Turn 5. It was a barnstorming manoeuvre to cap off a fantastic duel.
Yet nobody could even touch Rodrigues on this occasion. From pole he had converted a race win in style; some ten seconds clear of his nearest rival. That said, Lévêque had outdone even this winning margin in the Silver class with an extraordinary effort. Fourth on the road and almost half a minute up on second – not bad for the first innings.
GTWCEA 2023 Round 1, Pro classification
- Igor de Oliveira Rodrigues – 1st – 1’00:58.268
- Jyeed Hutchinson – 2nd +10.682
- Fidel Moreira – 3rd +10.866
- Nicolas Alvarado – 5th +24.179
- Angel Inostroza – 6th +26.207
GTWCEA 2023 Round 1, Silver classification
- Mérick Lévêque – 4th – 1’01:16.942
- Estefano Barrera – 13th +22.462
- Joseph Kostovich – 14th +28.150
- Hamza Gulzar – 15th +30.810
- Marc-Antoine Landry – 17th +37.508
Images: Featured Williams Esports/SRO