Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS travels to Hockenheim this weekend for its penultimate Endurance Cup round of the season. However, although the Fanatec Arena will also be in the German paddock, it’s at a virtual Suzuka where real-world Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series points can be won on Saturday night.
Hockenheim isn’t currently available in Assetto Corsa Competizione so a different venue is required for Round 4 of SRO’s sim racing series. And following a recent social media vote it’s Japan’s iconic figure-of-eight venue that has narrowly beaten Bathurst to a spot on the calendar.
The 5.8-kilometre, 18-turn grand prix circuit owes its place in ACC to both Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia. It has made several appearances in SRO Esports’ online championships, the most recent of which came last weekend when Veloce’s McLaren won the Suzuka 10 Hours.
That particular crew included James Baldwin whose real-world TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa entry allowed The World’s Fastest Gamer to contest and win the corresponding Fanatec Esports race with Garage 59. However, neither he nor Pro points leader Nicki Thiim appear on this weekend’s entry list, which features 27 drivers from the real-world championship’s Pro and Silver classes.
BEECHDEAN’S ABSENCE PRESENTS OPPORTUNITY FOR OTHERS
Thiim’s class win and second place overall at Spa took his esports tally to 11 points from a possible 15 for the season so far. But with Beechdean AMR opting to sit out the remaining two real-world rounds, attention in the Pro category switches elsewhere.
The question is ‘where?’ The Dane wasn’t always the fastest but he is the only driver to score points in all three races held so far.
ROWE’s BMW looked unstoppable at Imola but has added just two points to its tally since the opening round, while Attempto is tied second despite non-scoring in Belgium. Then there’s Akkodis ASP whose real-world title ambitions were bolstered by virtual class victory at Paul Ricard. It, like Iron Lynx, has five Fanatec points on the board.
Then there’s Team WRT whose combination of Dries Vanthoor and Kelvin van der Linde has been consistent but unspectacular. Both have won at Suzuka for real but will that experience help the latter on Saturday night?
Elsewhere, Arthur Rougier remains something of an esports enigma this year. After dominating 2021’s Pro Cup the Frenchman has accrued just three points and one podium so far this season to sit level with Audi Sport Team Tresor whose R8 carries Success Ballast on Saturday as a result of Luca Ghiotto's podium at Spa.
ATTEMPTO ON THE CUSP OF SILVER CUP CROWN
The last two rounds have been won outright by Silver Cup drivers: Tommaso Mosca and Baldwin. However, it’s 2022’s standout performer – Alex Aka – who heads to Suzuka, via Hockenheim, as perhaps the favourite for victory. The German has racked up 13 esports points and three class podiums for Attempto despite being saddled with Success Ballast, and now has another chance to add an overall win to his impressive campaign.
His eight-point lead means Attempto will likely win the esports Silver Cup crown regardless of where its nearest rivals finish on Saturday. But those 13 points, and however many more Aka can score over the final two events, are also keeping the team in real-world championship contention. Indeed, WRT would already have one hand on the title without them.
Back in the virtual world Attempto will be guaranteed the Silver championship if Aka finishes no lower than third on Saturday, although points may not be required at all depending on how well Akkodis ASP, Haupt Racing and Garage 59 perform. All three are eight points behind the dominant Audi with a maximum of 10 available for winning at Suzuka and Barcelona.
Madpanda, VSR, Tresor and Emil Frey also retain a mathematical chance, although that’s dependent on each winning the final two races and relying on other results going their way.
The Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series race at Suzuka gets underway at 18:45 CEST this Saturday with live coverage on GT World and SRO’s Twitch channel starting 15 minutes earlier.
FANATEC ESPORTS GT PRO SERIES FORMAT
One driver per Pro and Silver Cup team contesting this weekend’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe round at Hockenheim will also enter the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series qualifying session and 60-minute race.
Each of the 27 entries have been assigned a Fanatec rig for the entire season, which they can either set up using data provided by official SRO Esports partner, Coach Dave Academy, or according to their own preferences. They must also use the same manufacturer as their team has entered in real life.
Each driver must make one mandatory pitstop between minutes 25 and 35. Changing tyres is optional but at least one litre of fuel must be added. Success ballast in the order of 30kg, 15kg and 10kg will be applied to both classes’ top three finishers from the previous round.
SRO Esports’ official technical partner, AK Informatica, will review incidents and administer penalties if necessary, as well as publish all official results and points post-race.
The top-five Pro and Silver class finishers score points in the order of 5-4-3-2-1 towards their respective real-world Overall Teams’ Championship total, meaning as many as 25 points are available across 2022’s five 60-minute races. There’s a genuine possibility, therefore, that virtual results will decide the outcome of a real-world international championship.
SUZUKA SUCCESS BALLAST
30kg – N/A
15kg – Nicklas Nielsen, Iron Lynx
10kg – Luca Ghiotto, Audi Sport Team Tresor
30kg – N/A
15kg – Alex Aka, Attempto Racing
10kg – Lorenzo Patrese, Tresor by Car Collection