A simply sensational recovery drive from early strife ensured that McLaren Veloce opened their Intercontinental GT Challenge title defence with gusto. It truly was an extraordinary victory only possible in the realm of endurance racing with the official Ferrari and Lamborghini outfits both outwitted and outpaced.
Round 2 was to be a shorter affair – the 9 Hours of Kyalami to be precise. Incredibly, the field size had grown since Bathurst, albeit only by one entry. 191 drivers were about to continue the hunt for the biggest slice of a €58,000 prize pool.
The task ahead for the championship leaders was arguably as large as one month ago. Not a McLaren was in sight of the top 15 in qualifying, Veloce themselves were all the way down in 30th.
Instead, Audis dominated at the sharp end. Wippermann Racing was set to start from pole position with Jakob Ostermann at the helm. Williams Esports and ITB Sainteloc Racing formed the second row with Dáire McCormack slotting into second position, his Mercedes-Williams cutting an isolated AMG-shaped figure but for the iconic white and blue paint decor shared by stablemate Tinko van der Velde.
The pro class looked competitive, though Silver also held plenty of intrigue. The top three qualified back-to-back-to-back; Absolute ahead of BMW Romania ahead of the Asetek Ferrari. How each of these runners started would be critical to their prospects ahead.
Sadly, Kyalami’s opening lap would not be graced with fantastic overtakes but rather one of the biggest incidents in recent memory. Well over a third of the grid would be involved in a pile-up out of Barbeque including, most notably, the Ferrari of Jordan Sherratt. His second place in the championship standings was now under very real threat.
Ahead of the carnage, the leaders of the Silver class had to deal with their immediate surroundings. Michele Parrella had dropped two places to BMW Romania’s Marco Jonkers and Team Racing Point’s Amedeo Castorino. Worse for the Absolute pilot was the fast rise of Asetek’s Ferrari entry under the control of Aidan Walsingham. He was now directly behind the class pole sitter in 10th overall.
With one hour down came the first set of pitstops and plenty of positions were exchanged during this period. Crucially, Wippermann suffered a mighty setback falling from the lead to fifth once all was said and done. In their place now lay the Williams of Vojtech Fiala who had, in the process, jumped McCormack. BS+COMPETITION also benefited with Nils Naujoks running third upon replacing Arthur Kammerer.
McCormack would seize on a slight mistake some 20 minutes later to take the lead from their sister car. Behind the two Williams, a few penalties were being accrued by several teams including Wippermann, who tangled too enthusiastically with its ITB Sainteloc rivals. All of this would give the pair enough breathing space to eventually switch places again roughly three hours in.
This time, the exchange was cordial in manner. Van der Velde was flying and following Dominik Blajer’s gesture opened up a four-second gap out front. So concerning was the drop-off in pace for the #555 that both Wippermann and BS+COMPETITION jumped the Mercedes through the succeeding pitstop phase.
In the meantime, the Silver class had witnessed an incredibly engaging, four-way fight for the lead with multiple pack trailblazers. The first to truly fall out of contention would be BMW Romania as Sebastian Apostol picked up a drivethrough penalty for track limits. With half the race left to run, Absolute was back on top.
Rain arrived just shy of the five-hour mark heralding a mad dash for condition-ready tyres. Wippermann stayed out longer and paid for it, falling behind the Williams-Mercedes and ITB Sainteloc yet again. William Pisano, meanwhile, gambled even more only to lose out more so. From wrestling back class lead, they had fallen back down to third after common sense prevailed.
The rain eased off. Night-time emerged. With less visibility also arrived a sense of rhythm for those out front. It was during the final few hours that McCormack found his footing, continually closing the gap on Gregor Schill in the BS+COMPETITION that now occupied second. The move eventually arrived but it was poorly executed. The Irishman was through albeit at the cost of a ten-second penalty.
That would be all she wrote in the Pro class. With the rain returning in force, Tinko van der Velde crossed the finishing line a country mile ahead of anyone else. Schill would be promoted back to third courtesy of McCormack’s misgivings. In Silver, Team Racing Point capitalised on others’ misfortunes to storm into a 22-second advantage.
Intercontinental GT Challenge Esports Round 2 Pro results
- Williams Esports – T. van der Velde/I. De Oliveira Rodrigues/V. Fiala/C. Crossland
- BMW M Team BS+COMPETITION – N. Naujoks/G. Schill/A. Kammerer/P. Boquida
- Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports – D. Schöniger/D. McCormack/D. Blajer
- G2 Esports – R. Stapleford/I. Price/E. Murphy
- Wippermann Racing – J. Ostermann/J. Petritchenko/L. Roters/JM. Dietriech
Intercontinental GT Challenge Esports Round 2 Silver results
- Team Racing Point – D. Pertile/A. Castorino/L. Matěja/M. Zampedri
- Asetek SimSports Visceral Ferrari – J. Richie/A. Walsingham/R. Negrini/N. Babin
- GetCloserRacing – F. Arndt/M. Popp/S. Hettich/T. Gorka
- Absolute RES-TECH by Acelith – M. Romagnoli/M. Perrella/S. Iezzi/W. Pisano
- RennWelten eSports Blue – O. Rätz/J. Naumann/J. Fawkes/M. Birtzer
Featured image courtesy of Williams Esports