FDA Esports has clinched the inaugural GT World Challenge Europe Esports Endurance Series title thanks to a measured second-place finish in today's season finale Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
But the Ferrari squad was made to sweat as the rival Racing Line Motorsport team won the three-hour contest, staged on Assetto Corsa Competizione, in dominant fashion. Maintaining the momentum that began with their victory last time out at the Nürburgring, the #191 Bentley crew bagged pole for the finale to set up a deciding showdown at the Spanish track.
The #51 Ferrari took fourth on the grid, but the same result would not be enough to secure the championship if Racing Line could convert pole into victory. And with three hours of frantic sim racing ahead, nothing could be taken for granted.
While the Bentley got a textbook start and maintained its lead the Ferrari was in the thick of the early action as Giovanni De Salvo made contact with third-place starter Mikhail Statsenko (#147 YAS HEAT McLaren). The latter speared off to the left, causing chaos as the pack charged in, while De Salvo was able to continue unharmed.
There were tense moments for the FDA Esports squad as the stewards considered whether further action was required, but ultimately the Italian crew could breathe a sigh of relief as the incident went unpunished. The race soon settled down, with Marek Schinz pulling away comfortably at the wheel of the dominant #191 Bentley.
At this stage the Racing Line squad was doing everything it needed – but so was De Salvo in the FDA Esports Ferrari. On the 40-minute mark he cooly passed the #38 JOTA McLaren for second place, further strengthening his team's title bid. Schinz remained at the wheel of the #191 car for the second hour, while David Tonizza took over the Ferrari. There was no change in the dynamic of the race, though, as the Bentley still had the pace to stretch its advantage at the front.
Kevin Siclari took over the leading car for the final hour, while De Salvo climbed back aboard the Ferrari, and the Bentley pulled away yet again. Indeed, this was a perfect performance from the Racing Line squad, but with the FDA machine holding P2 and under no pressure from behind it was not quite enough to snatch the championship.
Siclari crossed the line more than 30 seconds clear of De Salvo, earning a dominant win for his team. But, once the #51 Ferrari had taken the chequered flag in second spot the championship was beyond doubt: FDA Esports could celebrate clinching the crown by just five points.
Behind them, the #62 BMW SIM G2 Esports car completed the podium thanks to Arthur Kammerer and Gregor Schill. Kammerer moved into third position by passing the #38 JOTA McLaren on the one-hour mark, reacting quickly when a lapped car almost came to a stop on the run to turn 1. He then fought with Robbie Stapleford for several corners before completing the pass, ultimately pulling well clear to secure his team's second podium of the campaign.
The #38 McLaren crossed the line in fourth, but a 15-second penalty for a Zoom camera violation dropped the Stapleford/McGregor car back to sixth in the final classification. This promoted the #4 Haupt Racing Team Schindler Mercedes-AMG into fourth position, giving the Müller/Hitz-driven car a best finish of the 2021 Endurance Series season, while GPX Racing by Rennwelten (Ibraimi/Hoeke) was the top Porsche in fifth.
The penalised McLaren was next in P6, while the #157 Sainteloc By R8G entry of Simonini/Houben scored the best result of the season for an Audi by taking seventh. The #14 Unicorns of Love Mercedes-AMG (Richter/Kisser) was eighth, followed by the #34 Predator Simracing By R8G – which made its first appearance in the points this season thanks to Harteveld/Nerbi – and finally the #121 Odox Motorsport Audi shared by Spanish drivers Gerard Martínez and Nicholas Albaladejo Camins.
Today's race brought the curtain down on the five-race Endurance Series, with each event running one week after the real-world Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup. FDA Esports secured four podiums across the campaign, only missing out at the Nürburgring. The Italian squad is without doubt a worthy champion, though Racing Line Motorsport proved to be the class of the field at the final two rounds, earning back-to-back triumphs at the Nürburgring and Barcelona.
Though the Endurance Series is complete two rounds still remain in the GT World Challenge Europe Esports Sprint Series, while there is also further action to come from the continental championships in Asia and America. Each category forms part of an expanding esports presence organised by SRO Motorsports Group in partnership with Fanatec, Kunos Simulazioni, AK Esports, Pirelli and The Sim Grid. They are complemented by the groundbreaking Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series, in which professional GT drivers score points towards the real-world Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS teams' championship.