Josh Rogers continued his winning form with a measured lights-to-flag victory in tonight's GT World Challenge Europe Esports race at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Staged on Assetto Corsa Competizione, the second Sprint Series event of the season saw competitors back at the French circuit following last weekend's Endurance Series round. Having led VRS Coanda Simsport's charge to a dominant triumph last time out, the #92 Porsche driver won from pole to go level with David Tonizza (#95 FDA Esports Team Ferrari) at the top of the standings.
This was a commanding performance from the Aussie. Indeed, his biggest test came in qualifying where Rogers and Tobias Pfeffer (#324 R8G eSports) fought hard over pole. The Porsche driver narrowly edged the contest, beating the teenager by just 0.018s.
Rogers made a good start and was clearly in front by the time the pack steamed into turn one. Pfeffer also made it through without a problem, but there was contact between third-place starter Tonizza and Tommy Ostgaard (#58 VRS Coanda Simsport Porsche), who had made a good getaway from fifth, causing the latter to slither off the circuit.
Rogers eased away at the front and was never really troubled for the remainder of the 60-minute race, navigating his pit stop without problems. His lead was more than four seconds by half distance and continued to build as the clock ticked down.
But while Rogers had the race under control, a fantastic battle was developing for runner-up spot. Pfeffer had run in P2 from the start and looked comfortable during the first stint, but fell into the clutches of Tonizza and Baldwin with 20 minutes left to run.
The McLaren man put up a remarkable defence as the experienced Tonizza launched repeated attacks. His resolve was finally broken with 12 minutes left when the Ferrari carried the momentum he needed on to the Mistral Straight and flew past the McLaren into Signes.
Tonizza was on his way, though there was no realistic hope of catching leader Rogers, who had established a lead of almost 10 seconds by this stage. The question now was whether Pfeffer could hold off fellow McLaren driver James Baldwin, who had been shadowing Tonizza from the very start.
But the British ace could not follow the Italian past Pfeffer, who maintained his position until the flag to complete the podium. With Rogers winning from Tonizza, the top two from the opening Sprint Series round at Monza was reversed in the second contest. As such, the pair share the championship lead heading into round three.
Baldwin was fourth, followed by Nils Naujoks (#62 BMW Motorsport SIM Racing G2 Esports), who once again made the best of his car to bag solid points. Luca Losio (#3 Jean Alesi Esports Academy) and Kevin Siggy (#11 Team Redline) confirmed McLaren's pace by taking sixth and seventh respectively, while Giovanni De Salvo (#4 FDA Esports Team Ferrari), Arthur Kammerer (#747 BMW Motorsport SIM Racing G2 Esports) and the best-placed Lamborghini of Dominik Blajer (#10 DV1 TRITON Racing) completed the top-10.
The Sprint Series will be back in action on 25 June with another 60-minute Assetto Corsa Competizione race at the Hungaroing. Along with similar Sprint and Endurance 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.