Supporting the Paul Ricard 1000km race, the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series was back for its second round of five. Neil Verhagen dominated affairs last time out at Imola with a large retirement count giving some of the less experienced sim drivers the opportunity to score. Would it be much of the same this time around?
Tommaso Mosca of AKKODIS ASP endured a miserable first outing at Imola, having his Silver class podium battle go from thrilling to nightmare fuel. Penalty piled upon penalty before he was disqualified from the race outright.
Things got off on a better footing here with the Italian taking the first outright Silver pole position of the season ahead of Attempto’s Alex Aka, who won in class a month ago. Vincenzo Sospiri’s Yuki Nemoto featured on the same podium as Aka and would start third in class here, fifth overall.
Arthur Rougier didn’t exactly have a great time in Imola either but the 2021 season’s most successful driver demonstrated inherent pace yet again to top the Pro class drivers in third position overall. Directly behind the Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini was Team WRT’s Kelvin van der Linde, while in sixth lay the Iron Lynx Ferrari of Niklas Nielsen – third of the Pro drivers.
After looking insurmountable previously, Verhagen was lumbered with 30kg of success ballast. Eleventh on the grid was as good as he could manage this time around.
It was not to be an early bath for Rougier but trouble found the Frenchman yet again as the hour-long race got underway. No sooner had the leaders hit Verrerie before Lamborghini exchanged paint with Aka’s Audi.
Aka was forced into the runoff unscathed but Rougier wouldn’t be so lucky. A tap from behind, courtesy of Nemoto, sent him into the wildness too. The rejoin was rightfully trepidatious and saw him lose eight places total.
Verhagen, on the other hand, had flown up the order. Through the chaos he had gained four places overall, carefully navigating himself past the likes of Luca Ghiotto who sadly hit the inside Signes wall hard and became the first retirement of the race. Van der Linde was up into third and leading his class having led Nielsen through the melee into fourth overall.
Verhagen and Rougier were running very different race paces on lap two and the pair switched places once more down the Mistral Straight.
Next on the Frenchman’s list was Lorenzo Patrese, dispatched with ease into the first turn just corners on from his overtake on the American. The battle for first in Pro class and the overall podium was also heating up nicely, Nielsen punishing a van der Linde mistake to take third.
Contact between Nemoto and the Mercedes-AMG of Raffaele Marciello would ultimately split most of the top ten into two distinct groups of Pro and Silver. Rougier’s climb back up the order would cement this, passing the seventh-placed Japanese pilot and joining the battle for the Pro class lead.
Van der Linde’s retaking of this important position was short-lived, as just a lap on he was mugged by both Nielsen and Marciello.
The racing for the next two laps was truly exhilarating as Aka piled the pressure on Mosca and the Pro class behind an escaping Marciello weaved and dodged and stabbed for every spec of road. Unfortunately, it would all end in tears as van der Linde lost his nerve during a three-wide situation into Verrerie with fourty minutes left to run.
Both Rougier and Nielsen were left to lick their wounds, the Dane retiring on the spot. The South African would continue to remain under scrutiny following a bizarre spin off Nemoto on the Mistral Straight.
Juuso Puhakka would stick with the NRT Audi and overtake it just before becoming the first of the front runners to pit. It was a good thing he did too. Van der Linde’s tumultuous evening rumbled on with yet another unnecessary contact with the faster Rougier.
A drive-through penalty and a stop-go double whammy were inevitable. From messy combat to spot on strategy, Marciello would gain yet another place in the race thanks to an overcut on Aka. Not that this changed the points scenario of course.
From here on out affairs were much less rowdy. Mosca cruised home to comfortably take the overall win with Marciello seconds behind picking up the Pro class victory; an AKKODIS 1-2.
Aka, despite taking his first overall podium of the season – after just missing out in Imola – would surely be wondering how his pitstop call missed the mark. Remarkably, despite all his punishment served, van der Linde still managed to pick up the final Pro class point.
Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series Round 2 PRO CLASS Results
- Raffaele Marciello – AKKODIS ASP Team/Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020
- Juuso Puhakka – Attempto Racing/Audi R8 LMS Evo II
- Arthur Rougier- Emil Frey Racing/Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo
- Nicki Thiim – Beechdean AMR/Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3
- Kelvin van der Linde – Team WRT/Audi R8 LMS Evo II
Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series Round 2 SILVER CLASS Results
- Tommaso Mosca – AKKODIS ASP Team/Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020
- Alex Aka – Attempto Racing/Audi R8 LMS Evo II
- Jannes Fitje – Haupt Racing Team/Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020
- Stuart White – Emil Frey Racing/Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo
- Nicolas Baert – Sainteloc Racing/Audi R8 LMS Evo II
Podium images courtesy of SRO Esports