- Rogers/Gkergkis/Østgaard conquer Endurance Series contest in emphatic style
- FDA Esports Ferrari and BMW Motorsport G2 Esports complete all-star podium
- Race Result | Qualifying Result | Standings
VRS Coanda Simsport took a crushing win in today's six-hour GT World Challenge Europe Esports race at Circuit Paul Ricard thanks to a faultless performance from the #18 Porsche crew of Josh Rogers, Paschalis Gkergkis and Tommy Østgaard.
Staged on Assetto Corsa Competizione, the Endurance Series event was run in changing light conditions as the in-game clock ran from 18:00 through to midnight. This added to the competitive challenge, but it did nothing to slow the charge of the VRS Coanda Simsport squad. The trio of Rogers/Gkergkis/Østgaard were in a class of their own, delivering metronomic consistency to triumph by almost 50 seconds.
There were ominous signs for the remainder of the 35-car grid when Rogers put the #18 machine on pole by 0.270s. With all four Porsche entries among the top-10 on the grid it was clear that the 911 GT3-R was the car to beat at Circuit Paul Ricard, just as it was in last weekend's real-world Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS event.
The race confirmed the Porsche's winning pedigree in emphatic terms. Pole-sitter Rogers controlled the first stint, pulling away gradually during the opening 31 laps before handing over to Gkergkis with a lead of 13 seconds. The Greek racer picked up the baton and continued Rogers' good work, extending the #18 Porsche's advantage further during the second hour.
The closest contender was the #51 FDA Esports Ferrari, which started from third on the grid in the hands of David Tonizza and rose to second spot within the first five minutes when the Italian passed the #62 BMW Motorsport G2 Esports machine. Tonizza handed over to Giovanni De Salvo, before Brendon Leigh took over for the third hour.
It was during this period that the race was effectively settled. VRS Coanda swapped Rogers back into the cockpit for the next stint, a change that would pay off handsomely. The Aussie set a pace that Leigh simply could not live with and the Porsche rapidly dropped the Ferrari. Indeed, at half distance its lead was more than 40 seconds.
With such a significant cushion it was now a case of managing the gap and negotiating traffic cleanly. Østgaard took over at the third round of stops and, while his advantage over Tonizza was not as dramatic, the #18 still eked out a few more seconds. Gkergkis took the wheel for the fifth hour, stopping with 55 minutes on the clock to hand over to Rogers for the final push to the chequered flag.
The FDA Esports Ferrari ran deep into the final hour, with De Salvo eventually stopping and handing back to Tonizza with just 40 minutes left on the clock. Rogers had no need to over extend himself, but the #18 Porsche still maintained its strong pace while cutting through lapped traffic. After six hours of racing the VRS Coanda squad sealed victory by a dominant 48 seconds and having lapped all bar the second-place car.
The #51 FDA Esports Ferrari took runner-up spot at the chequered flag having occupied the position since the very early stages. While the crew of Tonizza/De Salvo/Leigh finished almost 50 seconds down on the winning Porsche, they enjoyed an even greater advantage over the third-placed car and will have every reason to celebrate their performance and the final result.
There was late drama for the third-place finishers. The #62 BMW Motorsport G2 Esports entry was P3 for much of the race after Nils Naujoks and Gregor Schill alternated during the first four stints, before Arthur Kammerer pulled a double shift on his way to the chequered flag. The BMW had looked set for a comfortable podium spot, only for Kammerer to receive a drive-through penalty for track limits violations with less than half an hour left on the clock.
But, thanks to an advantage of more than 30 seconds over his closest rival, Kammerer was able to narrowly maintain his position and, to his team's great relief, secure a hard-fought top-three finish. The #22 GPX Racing by Rennwelten Porsche (Hoeke/Ibraimi/Michel) was fourth, chased home by the #191 Racing Line Motorsport Bentley (Siclari/Schinz/Ratz). The latter charged through the field from 18th on the grid and made a crucial pass on the #88 VRS Coanda Simsport Porsche with just 30 minutes to run, capping a fine day's work.
The #149 YAS HEAT McLaren (Honzik/Capoccia/Statsenko) finished sixth, though this could very conceivably have been a podium. The car was running fourth during the latter stages when Statsenko was handed a penalty for track limits, dropping the McLaren to P6. Without the loss of time, it is likely that the #149 crew would have snuck ahead of the Naujoks/Schill/Kammerer BMW at the finish.
Seventh place went to the #27 Jean Alesi Esports Academy Ferrari (Pawlowski/Santoro/Losio) which had looked to be in contention for a podium earlier in the contest, followed by the #38 JOTA McLaren (McGregor/Stapleford/Munro). The #88 VRS Coanda Simsport Porsche (Kroenke/Bouteloup/Williams) slipped to ninth after showing well during the middle phase of the race, while the #23 Team Rocket RJN McLaren (Berk/McIntyre/Handover) completed the top-10 at the chequered flag.
With a win each from the opening pair of races, VRS Coanda Simsport and FDA Esports Team share the GT World Challenge Europe Esports Endurance Series lead with 43 points apiece. The next long-distance event will be the biggest of all: a 24-hour race at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps (7-8 August).
The Sprint Series resumes next Friday (11 June) when Circuit Paul Ricard will stage a one-hour Assetto Corsa Competizione race. Along with similar categories in Asia and America, GT World Challenge Europe Esports is organised by SRO Motorsports Group in partnership with Fanatec, Kunos Simulazioni, AK Esports, Pirelli and The Sim Grid.