The first race of the new IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship four race series is officially in the books. 44 teams of two drivers, split across two classifications, took to the track to determine the first winners of the budding series on iRacing in conjunction with both VCO and IMSA.
After two hours and 40 minutes of multi-class action on Sunday (16th October 2022) at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the #98 Apex Racing Team Porsche, driven by Kevin Ellis Jr and Alejandro Sanchez, stood victorious atop the overall and GTD class standings after completing 122 laps.
In the Touring Car class, the race was much closer. Kieran Harrison and Corentin Guinez, driving the #176 SimRC Hyundai, pulled out the TC class victory by just over four seconds back to the R8G Esports #108 Honda.
GTD: APEX DOMINATES FROM THE START
IMSA’s GT Daytona (GTD) classification of cars include 30 teams, six different manufacturers and five team per all racing in a host of different iRacing GT3 cars.
The front row was locked out by a pair of Mercedes-AMG cars with URANO Esports DataGroup’s #90 and the Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports #55 up front. Starting in third was the Porsche 911 GT3 R of the #98 Apex Racing Team entry with Alejandro Sanchez behind the wheel.
Just after five minutes into the event as the GTD class started to lap the slower Touring Cars, the #98 took advantage of the situation, taking control from the #91 in the final corners of the lap, pulling away to an enormous lead after 15 minutes.
“I don’t know what exactly happened in the first 15 minutes to allow me to pull clear so quickly,” Sanchez said post-race. “I was luckier than those behind me during the first phase of lapping slower cars, which again allowed me to extend my lead. From then on, it was just a case of not taking any risks and getting through the race without any drama.”
Sanchez shared the ride with his teammate Kevin Ellis Jr, both drivers familiar with iRacing’s Porsche from the 2022 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup series earlier this season. With 56 minutes to go in the battle, Ellis Jr popped into the car to ride out the remainder of the event. By that point, the #98 already had a substantial lead.
“Alejandro did a super job in the first part of the race and opened a big lead for me, Ellis Jr said. “That obviously made it easier for me. Despite that, the traffic was sometimes brutal on the narrow track, particularly with the slower touring cars. I had to stay fully focussed.”
The pole sitters in the #90 URANO Esports Datagroup Mercedes-AMG, split between Vlad Khimichev and Niclas Laubisch, would end up falling to fourth by the end of the event. Their teammates in the #90, the Mercedes-AMG URANO entry of Luca Kita and Alexey Nesov, moved from eighth starting spot to finish second overall.
Likewise with the outside pole sitters at Williams Esports, their teammates in the #5 Williams Esports Razer entry, driven by both Daniel Lafuente and Carl Jansson, finished in third overall after starting 10th. The outside pole-starting #55 team wound up down the order finishing in 12th.
ROAD ATLANTA – TOP 10 GTD CLASS RESULTS
|1||3||98||Apex Racing Team||Kevin Ellis Jr | Alejandro Sanchez||Porsche||122 LAPS|
|2||8||90||Mercedes-AMG Urano||Luca Kita | Alexey Nesov||Mercedes-AMG||+29.634|
|3||10||5||Williams Esports Razer||Daniel Lafuente | Carl Jansson||Mercedes-AMG||+37.979|
|4||1||91||Urano Esports Datagroup||Vlad Khimichev | Niclas Laubisch||Mercedes-AMG||+38.873|
|5||15||14||MSi eSports||Alejandro Avín Ruisánchez | Salva Talens||Porsche||+42.860|
|6||4||96||BS+ Turner||Phil Denes | Rainer Talvar||BMW||+43.758|
|7||14||88||Monaco Esports||Aaron Vazquezz | Arturo Melgar||Ferrari||+59.173|
|8||12||77||KOVA||Tuomas Tähtelä | Oskari Rinne||Ferrari||+1:00.492|
|9||20||75||Team75 by SimRC||Bram van Putten | Jamie Moone||Porsche||+1:04.839|
|10||13||70||Team Redline||Josh Thompson | Gianni Vecchio||BMW||+1:14.565|
TC: SIMRC SURVIVES LATE RACE DRAMA TO WIN CLASS
IMSA’s other class of cars in the field, the Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic Touring Cars, had their own drama to deal with through the show on Sunday. 14 TC cars and team were in the field for the event, and proved to have their own critical battles play out at a much slower pace than the GTD field.
That would come into consideration late in the going. While the GTD lead was changed while lapping a slower TC early on, the TC lead was almost changed after an incident with a GTD car.
SimRC’s #176 Hyundai, driven by Kieran Harrison to start and end the event, was able to take control early as the pole sitters at Puresims Esports served a registration penalty within the first few laps. The R8G Esports #188 Honda, which was driven at the start by Maarten van Loozenoord, was able to stick with and eventually pass for the lead not too much longer after that.
For the first 25 minutes, it looked as though the R8G machine was beginning to pull away. However, a late dive by a faster GTD forced van Loozenoord wide, allowing Harrison and the #176 team back to the front. About an hour into the race, Corentin Guinez took over the reigns of the #176 as they continued to lead.
“For me, it took a bit of an adjustment to start with the Hyundai here, but I dealt with it well,” Guinez said about his mid-race stint. “We saw quite clearly that the key to success in this series will be how well you cope with the traffic. I am sure that will also be the case in the coming races.”
With 50 minutes to go, Guinez handed control back to Harrison with a big advantage. More than 20 seconds ahead of the pack, it looked to be smooth sailing for SimRC… until it wasn’t. With under 20 minutes to go, Harrison was collected into an incident with the GTD #97 Apex Racing Team car which was driven by Jamie Fluke at the time.
The advantage began to decrease as the #176 now had significant damage. Harrison held on, taking the win over the #108 R8G Esports Honda duo of Florian Lebigre and Valentin Mandernach by just under four-and-a-half seconds. The #199 Apex Racing Team Hyundai TC, with Gael Valero and Nicol Foggie, wound up third.
“We had the race totally under control until the late crash, and it would have been incredibly disappointing to miss out in that manner,” Harrison said. “As such, I was extremely relieved when I realized that I was able to continue, despite the damage. I gave it everything to hold onto the lead through to the finish.”
ROAD ATLANTA – TOP 5 TC CLASS RESULTS
|1||3||176||SimRC||Kieran Harrison | Corentin Guinez||Hyundai||LEADER|
|2||6||108||R8G Esports||Florian Lebigre | Valentin Mandernach||Honda||+4.414 secs|
|3||14||199||Apex Racing Team||Gael Valero | Nicol Foggie||Hyundai||+9.227 secs|
|4||2||188||R8G Esports||Ole Steinbraten | Maarten van Loozenoord||Honda||+10.631 secs|
|5||8||122||Impulse Racing||Marcel Jochheim | Chris Shorter||Hyundai||+12.941 secs|
The IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship continues into next weekend with a date at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on 23rd October. This particular race is two hours earlier than the rest of the races on the calendar, with the broadcast starting around 11:45 a.m. ET for a noon ET start.
Again, the race will take two hours and 40 minutes to complete and will feature the 44 teams split across two classes. A share of the $25,000 purse is up for grabs.
The Virtual Competition Organisation (VCO) has provided media assets for the series, including the pictures in this recap as well as the broadcast that takes place on both iRacing and VCO social channels.
IMSA ESPORTS MICHELIN GLOBAL CHAMPIONSHIP 2022 SCHEDULE
Sunday, 16th October: Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta – 1:45 p.m. ET
- Sunday, 23rd October: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – 11:45 a.m. ET
- Sunday, 6th November: Indianapolis Motor Speedway – 1:45 p.m. ET
- Sunday, 20th November: Daytona International Speedway – 1:45 p.m. ET
All images courtesy of VCO Esports