We’re only two races into the 2022 IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship but that marks the halfway point of the inaugural season. Across the virtual country from the last battle at Road Atlanta a week prior, the results at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca were fairly similar at the top.
After 108 laps in the two hour, 40 minute battle, the #98 Apex Racing Team duo of Kevin Ellis Jr and Alejandro Sanchez were able to score a second straight GTD class and overall victory, holding off their teammates in the Apex Racing Team #97 of Yohann Harth and Jamie Fluke.
In the Touring Cars class, the results were flipped from Road Atlanta. While the #176 SimRC Hyundai took the first checkers a week ago, this time the #108 R8G Esports Honda bested them to take top honors.
After the first two safety car sessions of the season were put on the board during the event, some of the field were split on strategies in the proceeding runs of the race. While there are 44 teams of two drivers, split across two classifications, many of the same players from Road Atlanta were in play at Laguna Seca.
GTD: APEX GOES TWO-FOR-TWO, GETS TOP 2 SWEEP
Coming off of an opening round victory at Road Atlanta, the #98 Apex Racing Team followed that up with a third place qualifying effort for Laguna Seca.
The Ellis Jr / Sanchez duo would start their quest for back-to-back wins behind their teammates in the #97, qualified on pole by Yohann Harth and Jamie Fluke, and the Team Redline #70 BMW driven by Gianni Vecchio and Diogo Pinto, who would be filling in Joker-style for Josh Thompson.
It didn’t take long into the event for the first safety car to come out as the #78 Maniti Racing Lamborghini driven by Gonzalo Vergara spun into the final corner just before the 15th minute was completed. An unsafe rejoin into the pack created an unsafe environment which prompted the caution period.
After the caution, things continued onward with the #97 leading the #98. That changed just after the 40th minute, with just under two hours to go. The #98 was back in front and stayed there through the first round of pit stops. During the stops, however, the #70 BMW was able to take the point with strategy.
Not too much longer after that, just past halfway, the second and final safety car period was put out on the course. With just over 75 minutes to go, the #18 Arnage Competition McLaren driven by Diogo Solipa was stuck in the corkscrew, hit by oncoming traffic which broke the car. The #18 couldn’t tow until a caution by the rules, and as such, race control had no other choice as the machine was meatballed.
The caution unfortunately caused an extended period under safety car conditions as race control worked to sort out the proper running order. Finally, with 45 minutes to go, the race restarted with the #7 KOVA BMW taking an alternate strategy to take the lead. The fuel didn’t last however, and with just over eight minutes to go, the #7 team pitted and relinquished the lead.
That handed things back to the #98 Porsche, where Sanchez was able to cruise home to a second straight victory. They were joined by their teammates in the #97 for post-race celebratory burnouts.
“The second safety car period was a bit confusing and we weren’t entirely sure whether we should stop for more fuel or not,” Ellis Jr said. “We decided to do that as things took longer, and that paid off in the end.”
“Kevin handed the car over to me in a very good position,” Sanchez continued. “I just had to make it safely through the traffic and wait until the others pitted for fuel. That worked very well. I am very pleased with our second win in two races.”
LAGUNA SECA – TOP 10 GTD CLASS RESULTS
|Apex Racing Team
|Kevin Ellis Jr | Alejandro Sanchez
|Apex Racing Team
|Yohann Harth | Jamie Fluke
|Diogo Pinto* | Gianni Vecchio
|Phil Denes | Rainer Talvar
|Luca Kita | Alexey Nesov
|BMW Team Redline
|Maximilian Benecke | Patrik Holzmann
|Antti Ahola | Matti Sipila
|Team75 by SimRC
|Bram van Putten | Marvin Strehl*
|Biela Racing Euronics
|Sven Haase | Patrick Heinrich
|Hardpoint by DeltaSport
|Christophe Herbigneaux | Carl Modoff*
TC: R8G BESTS SIMRC THIS TIME AROUND
The caution periods would also affect the Touring Car classifications by the end of things. However, it would be the same two players from Road Atlanta in the mix for the win when it came down to the final flag. With the added stresses of being the slower class, the TC had no shortage of action throughout.
Last week, SimRC put their #176 Hyundai up front when a late race wreck nearly cost them the win over R8G Esports’ #108 Honda. The SimRC duo of Felix Luding and Corentin Guinez managed to follow up last week’s team victory with a pole position at Laguna Seca. The #108 would start in third.
Before the first caution, the #108, at the time driven by Lebigre, was running third before they were moved off the racing surface. Falling back to sixth, the #176 of Luding had a comfortable lead erased by the early safety car.
Holding their own over the #199 Apex Racing Team Hyundai, the #176 continued to lead through the first hour, giving way to the #199 just about an hour and five minutes into the race. Meanwhile, the #108 had managed to charge back to third as pit stops began.
Right before the second safety car period, the #116 PureSims Esports Honda duo of Ross Macfarlane and Steen Ledger made their way to the top as the caution reset the running order. After the 30 minute yellow, the running order saw the #199 back on top with the #108 in third, the #176 in seventh.
The #199 would not be completely safe on fuel, however, as with just over 22 minutes to go, the final swap for the lead took place as the #108, driven by Mandernach, took the lead using a passing GTD car as the pick to get by. The #176 was also safe to make it, but they were much further back.
Time ran out and it was the #108 in victory lane this time around. “I gave it everything after the safety car and tried to take the lead, Mandernach said. “I saw my chance when the car in front of us was overtaken by a GTD car, and used that moment.”
“For our class, it is unbelievably difficult to deal with GTD cars that are so much faster on a tight track like Laguna Seca,” Lebigre added. “We have two spotters to help us when being lapped. Nonetheless, it’s still really stressful and I am pleased that we got through it this time.”
LAGUNA SECA – TOP 5 TC CLASS RESULTS
|Florian Lebigre | Valentin Mandernach
|Felix Luding* | Corentin Guinez
|Jaroslaw Cebula | Wojtek Swirydowicz*
|Ross Macfarlane | Steen Ledger
|Apex Racing Team
|Gael Valero | Nicol Foggie
The IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship will take the next weekend off, but returns the following on 6th November with a date at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The broadcast starts around 1:45 p.m. ET for a 2:00 p.m. ET start.
As always, 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. Points will be finalized before the next race, but it is expected that the #98 will be leading the GTD while the #176 should have a slim advantage over the #108 in the Touring Cars.
The officially-sanctioned IMSA series competes using the iRacing platform. The series is produced in conjunction with the Virtual Competition Organisation (VCO), which has provided media assets for the series, including the pictures in this recap. The official broadcast can be found 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