The maiden event for the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series got underway at Monza in the Fanatec Arena on Saturday evening, only hours after the same drivers finished their real-world pre-qualifying session on track.
The virtual series will take place across five races this year, held at the same race track with the same drivers at each weekend’s GT World Challenge Europe races. The drivers will be battling for esports championship glory, but GTWC Teams’ Championship points will also be awarded for top-three finishers.
The first virtual action proved that the tight racing and close battles from the real world would be replicated, if not amplified, with the front row in qualifying setting identical times and the top 20 separated by just over one second.
It was Daniel Juncadella (AKKA ASP) who would line up on pole alongside Arthur Rougier (Emil Frey Racing) after their qualifying joust, and ultimately it would be these two frontrunners who would fight for the overall honours. Juncadella, incidentally, qualifying within a tenth of his real-world qualifying time on the same weekend.
Charging into turn one on the first lap, it was Rougier who made the jump and managed to navigate the first chicane without incident, while Juncadella had to avoid an ambitious dive from Philip Ellis (Winward Racing) before getting turned around himself. This wasn’t the only incident on the first lap with spins aplenty and a number of races spoiled.
Other strong starters included Ryuichiro Tomita (Team WRT) who climbed to fourth from 15th after 10 minutes, and also the Ferrari of Nicklas Nielsen (Iron Lynx) running in third, climbing four spaces in the same time.
Ezequiel Companc (Madpanda Motorsport) was running in second briefly after a clean start, but it was not long before Juncadella got his head down, soon dispatched Companc and started the chase for the lead.
It wouldn’t be long before Juncadella was right with Rougier and stayed in the Lamborghini’s dirty air all the way until the pit window. Two minutes into the window and making the most of some traffic on the main straight, Juncadella was finally close enough and made a solid move into the Rettifilo and grabbed hold of the lead pre-pitstop.
As the two frontrunners emerged from the pits in the same formation, however, any hope the Mercedes-AMG would pull away was thwarted as, despite pushing, Juncadella couldn’t shake the Lamborghini from his rear-view mirror. It felt at times as if Rougier was biding his time, and with 17 minutes to go, the Emil Frey Racing driver exploited a great drive out of Parabolica and had made the pass for the lead before the braking zone into turn one.
Making the most of the clean air, it was Rougier who held on to P1 for the last few laps and crossed the finish line over three seconds ahead of Juncadella, chalking up the first points of the series. The final position on the podium was awarded to Nielsen after he managed to fend off a storming Tomita, who in turn was the first Silver class runner taking the full three points for his team.
Second in the Silver class went the way of Companc who maintained his position with a steady race, and the final point in the class went to Benjamin Hites (Rinaldi Racing) after climbing positions early on and crossing the line seventh overall.
It was a race of what could have been for a number of drivers including Thomas Drouet (AKKA ASP) who came in a favourite, but lap one damage meant limping home in 11th.
The majority of the race was a showcase of GT talent and was the perfect aperitif for the real-world action on Sunday, with brilliant racing and clean battles throughout the field, setting up a fantastic season ahead.
Paul Ricard will be the next stop for the Endurance circus on 29th May where once again the Fanatec Arena will host the virtual series ahead of the six hour real-world event on 30th May.
Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series Race One Results
- PRO Arthur Rougier – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo – Emil Frey Racing 1:00:40.233
- PRO Daniel Juncadella – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – AKKA ASP +3.214
- PRO Nicklas Nielsen – Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo – Iron Lynx +11.629
- SILVER Ryuichiro Tomita – Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo – Team WRT +13.457
- SILVER Ezequiel Companc – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Madpanda Motorsport +29.326
- PRO Matt Campbell – Porsche 991II GT3 R – GPX Racing +33.247
- SILVER Benjamin Hites – Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo – Rinaldi Racing +46.365
- PRO Kelvin Van Der Linde – Audi R8 LMS GT3 – Evo Team WRT +48.301
- PRO Mirko Bortolotti – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo – Orange 1 FFF Racing Team +1:13.268
- PRO David Pittard – BMW M6 GT3 – Walkenhorst Motorsport +1:32.5390
- SILVER Thomas Drouet – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – AKKA ASP +1:37.7380
- PRO Mattia Drudi – Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo – Attempto Racing +1:38.7680
- SILVER Philip Ellis – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Winward Racing +1:39.4530
- PRO Matteo Cairoli – Porsche 991II GT3 R – Dinamic Motorsport +2:16.4490
- SILVER Ricardo Sanchez – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Haupt Racing Team +1 lap
- SILVER Miklas Born – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – SPS Automotive Performance +1 lap
- SILVER Marvin Dienst – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – TokSport WRT +1 lap
- SILVER Tommaso Mosca – Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo – Attempto Racing +1 lap
- SILVER Kikko Galbiati – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo – GRT Grasser +1 lap
- SILVER Alex Fontana – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo – Emil Frey Racing +2 laps
- SILVER Valentin Hasse Clot – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 – Garage 59 +2 laps
- PRO Ben Barnicoat – McLaren 720S GT3 – JOTA +3 laps
- PRO Maro Engel – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Haupt Racing Team DNF
- PRO Adrien Tambay – Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo – Sainteloc Racing DSQ