Logitech and McLaren have enjoyed plenty of the spotlight in the sim racing scene over the past few years. Across the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023, this status quo would remain with the Grand Finals of the G Challenge offering $100,000 across four distinct regions.
Each set of drivers would be asked to compete across three races in three different McLaren machines. Upon the conclusion of these mini-championships, a winner could be determined by points with $10,000 going to those who were victorious.
Heading into the broadcasted action, two champions had already been found in APAC (Asia-Pacific region) and LATAM (Latin American region). Dillan Tan fended off one of Indonesia’s highest-profile pilots, Andika Rama Maulana, to claim the spoils in Asia. Gran Turismo ace Angel Inostroza, meanwhile, hit gold in Latin America.
But who would join them from the ultra-competitive EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and NA (North America) grids?
Europe, Middle East and Africa – Race 1
First up for the evening was EMEA; heading to Misano World Circuit in the McLaren 570S GT4. Dáire McCormack lined up on pole position ahead of Chris Harteveld and Luke Whitehead. Marco Jonkers and Dominik Blajer rounded out the top five.
McCormack held off early looks from Harteveld off the rolling start although behind Jonkers was less successful. Blajer was on the charge early and used the double right-hander at Rio to great effect. He was up to fourth. In fact, it was Harteveld who would lose position next following a gutsy duel with Whitehead.
Jonkers continued to fall down the order and, of those who passed him, it was Tinko van der Velde who managed to join the leading group. The vibe was rather conservative for the second half of the contest. McCormack strolled away and no moves seemed viable in the four-car train behind him. That was until an error through Rio on the final lap for Blajer who received a hefty wack by way of a sly move through Quercia for van der Velde.
Fourth wasn’t to be Tinko’s for long as further contact on the exit of Tramonto saw Dominik back through. Not that any of this affected the winning car, with McCormack comfortably cruising home to a maximum of twenty points.
Europe, Middle East and Africa – Race 2
Next on the docket was the Grand Prix course at Brands Hatch in the GT3 650S. McCormack scored a second pole position of the evening as Harteveld locked in a perfect replicant of the Misano front row. Whitehead would line up third once again whilst Blajer managed one better for himself to complete the second row. Van der Velde started from a far better vantage point in fifth as, sadly, Jonkers could only drive a lap good enough for eleventh.
It was almost rather eerie to witness the fifth-placed driver lose position early on again but that was exactly what happened. Van der Velde desperately needed a podium to keep touch with the top three but lost out early to Leonardo D’Alcamo of Ferrari Esports Series fame.
His campaign to retake position from D’Alcamo suffered a hiccup with a slight miscommunication down Paddock Hill halfway through the race. Jonathan Seville gratefully embraced fifth for himself. On the following lap, however, a far more assured Dutchman went down the inside of the same corner with positive results.
Despite a thrilling battle for the podium, no exchanges materialised although it only served to exaggerate McCormack’s dominance. With a second win in the pocket, all he needed was a solid performance in the third race.
Europe, Middle East and Africa – Race 3
To the surprise of no one, a second change of car and scenery did nothing to upset McCormack’s groove in qualifying. Now helming the McLaren 720S GT3, the Irishman completed his sweep of pole positions at the Hungaroring – but would have been even more delighted by the scenes behind him.
Harteveld could only manage seventh on the grid while Whitehead was marooned in eleventh. Instead, Robbie Stapleford and van der Velde would be the champion-elect’s closest competition. That being said, ‘closest’ was certainly a subjective word given McCormack’s imperious drive to come.
Once again, a two-second wall was erected between first and second which seemed impossible to break down. Van der Velde, given the rather mixed up grid, had a good opportunity nonetheless to get in on the top three prize pool. Stapleford fell by the wayside nine minutes in.
His efforts would not be enough for top three in the standings, losing out to Whitehead on podium countback, but his Williams stablemate could not have enjoyed a better day. There was no denying Dáire McCormack with a perfect evening almost achieved but for the lone fastest lap missing from Misano – a consolation prize for Dominik Blajer.
North America – Race 1
North America’s Grand Finals were predicted to be much closer in scope. The early signs in Misano qualifying were good as Michael Kundakcioglu, runner-up last year, stole pole position away from reigning champion Philippe Simard at the death. Ar Muhammad Aleef (the 2019 APAC champion) and Ryan Woodrow would line up on the second row, Merick Leveque rounding out the top five.
Woodrow was the early benefactor of the lead group, overtaking Aleef almost immediately before surviving a scary moment as Leveque dove desperately into Turn 5. The Singaporean was a little overzealous in trying to reverse this scenario and paid for a late lunge through Tramonto. Leveque now occupied fourth.
That would be that for moves within the top five, not for the want of anyone trying! Simard closed down the race leader with gusto but could not deny Kundakcioglu first blood. Woodrow, meanwhile, held onto third with a marvellous defensive drive.
North America – Race 2
A crucial second pole position came the way of Kundakcioglu who would find small relief in seeing Aleef wedged between himself and Simard. Leveque found himself starting Race 2 where he finished Race 1. Woodrow had work to do from seventh.
Work he did indeed put in, finding one position early on before almost overtaking Leveque for fifth late in the day. Merick himself had lost out to Michael Moening along the way but aside from that the leading drivers remained wholly static in both positions and gaps.
This, of course, meant that Kundakcioglu triumphed once more. With Simard unable to lay a finger on Aleef, fortune was certainly in Michael’s favour.
North America – Race 3
That was until rain fell in Race 3’s qualifying session. Kundakcioglu’s last-gasp pole laps made no return on this occasion; Simard started at the front of the queue for this final contest. This would truly be a two-horse race barring the absurd given Aleef’s lowly sixth-place slot on the starting grid.
The wet conditions persisted as the green lights got everyone underway. Aleef’s opening hand was extremely impressive, so much so that by the start of the second lap he had passed everyone in front of him. Simard had lost one position therefore but Kundakcioglu was in real trouble.
As he navigated Turn 1 for the second time, Aleef, Ryan Yee and Josh McKean had relegated him to fifth.
Another lap passed. The rain eased off but the stress was only mounting for the points leader. It seemed that, in choosing dry tyres alongside Simard, he had left his fate in the hands of the weather. Kundakcioglu would drop as low as ninth meaning that, with Aleef leading by a country mile, he would lose the championship at the proverbial eleventh hour should he lose one more place.
Mercifully, from his perspective, Michael Moening could not keep pace into the final five minutes despite qualifying third. Thus, after a script nobody could have predicted, Kundakcioglu just about held onto his G Challenge title thanks to win countback.