Esports Preview: Sim racers ready for Round 2 at Snetterton this Sunday
Following an action-packed season opener, the British GT Esports Championship returns on Sunday (March 28) with another 60-minute multi-class race at Snetterton where Oulton Park winners Angus Fender (GT3) and Luka Berk (GT4) are bidding to extend their early points’ advantage.
The two classes will again compete simultaneously around the 12-turn, 2.9-mile ‘300’ layout, which features in Assetto Corsa Competizione’s recent British GT DLC. Real-world teams and drivers battle for overall honours in GT3 while 10 of this week’s fastest hot lap qualifiers join Oulton’s points-scorers on the GT4 entry.
Leading print publication, Motorsport News, will underline the real-world industry’s increasing support for sim racing by including weekly British GT Esports race reports and sponsoring the GT3 Drivers’ Championship trophy. The GT4 champion will win a Fanatec prize bundle worth approximately €2,000 and a VIP Intelligent Money British GT Championship experience, while both class title winners also receive automatic entry into the GT World Challenge Europe Esports Championship.
Watch live coverage hosted by David Addison and Paul Jeffrey on SRO’s Youtube and Twitch channels, as well as British GT’s Facebook page, from 20:00 BST this Sunday.
GT3: FENDER VS BALDWIN, ROUND 2?
The championship’s top-two go head-to-head for a second time in as many weeks at Snetterton where James Baldwin will be eager to strike back after losing his Oulton ‘victory’ in the stewards office. Instead, a 30s post-race penalty for making avoidable contact with Angus Fender helped Century’s BMW add victory to pole position and fastest lap.
Indeed, Fender kept The World’s Fastest Gamer at bay during the opening stint before succumbing to a wonderful move up Clay Hill once the pitstop cycle had played out. It was also his attempted fightback that forced Baldwin into the defensive error that ultimately cost Team Rocket RJN’s McLaren first place.
Nevertheless, Baldwin can be content with his second place and solid points haul at a circuit that wasn’t expected to suit the 720S GT3. Seven points separate him and Fender before lights-out on Sunday evening.
Behind, Jody Fannin’s methodical approach aboard the JMW Ferrari helped 2012’s GT4 champion bag a top-three finish at the expense of Ben Green (Century, BMW) and Sam Neary (Team ABBA, Mercedes-AMG), either of whom could have featured on the podium. The same can be said of Team Rocket RJN’s second McLaren driven by Michael O’Brien whose chances were compromised by an excursion that led to a multi-car pile-up. Expect all of the above to be in the mix once again.
Morgan Short, like Fannin, also underlined the importance of consistency by stealthily moving Rollcentre’s McLaren from 14th to sixth by the chequered flag.
Snetterton’s entry features several changes to Oulton where Jenson Button’s chances ended almost before they began following contact with Ben Green at Old Hall. The 2009 Formula 1 World Champion’s Sky Sports F1 commitments will prevent him from making amends on Sunday, but Team Rocket RJN have another ace up their sleeve in the form of real-world British GT3 race winner and former GT World Challenge Europe champion Alex Buncombe.
Leo Machitski also joins Barwell’s expanded Lamborghini line-up, which again features reigning GT3 champion Sandy Mitchell and the son of team owner Mark Lemmer, Jack.
2015 GT4 champion Ross Gunn replaces fellow Aston Martin factory driver Jonny Adam at Beechdean AMR, while Fox Motorsport make their first start with another team owner’s son in the hot seat: 14-year-old Liam McNeilly.
GT4: HOT LAP QUALIFIERS JOIN OULTON POINTS SCORERS
Some of the world’s best sim racing drivers highlighted their mastery of Assetto Corsa Competizione at Oulton Park where Zansho Rocket Simsport’s Luka Berk topped a podium also featuring Maciej Malinowski (Huncfot Racing, Alpine) and Nils Naujoks (BMW Motorsport SIM G2 Esports).
What’s more, a top-10 featuring six different manufacturers and a qualifying session covered by 0.8s underlined how competitive GT4’s opening round really was. And with only the 10 points-scorers receiving automatic invites for Snetterton, some big names have been forced to qualify via this week’s hot lap competition.
Not so Berk who was content to shadow his Porsche team-mate Jack McIntyre during the opening stint last weekend before emerging from the pitstops out front. Naujoks progressed from ninth on the grid to join Malinowski on the podium while McIntyre slipped to fourth.
His cause was helped by several star names suffering setbacks, not least Doerr Esports duo Florian Hasse and Moritz Loehner whose McLarens failed to finish. Both will be eager to show what they can do after safely navigating qualifying.
Admin issues prevented Jesus Sicilia from competing at Oulton but his privately entered KTM gets a second chance this weekend after topping the manufacturer’s leaderboard. Egor Ogorodnikov (LADA Sport ROSNEFT) is also back for the Austrian brand after qualifying second.
Neither Aston Martin finished inside Oulton’s top-10, which left two places up for grabs in Hot Lap Qualifying. SideMax Motorworks’ George Boothby set the competition’s fastest time of all – 1m54.342s – to book his place alongside Arnaud Lacombe who progressed by virtue of Jordan Sherratt’s high ping rate. Expect both Vantages to be in contention on Sunday.
Prior commitments for two of Oulton’s top-10 finishers left both Ginetta entries up for grabs. Manuel Rodriguez (Team Redline) also topped BMW’s leaderboard but has opted for the G55 after beating fellow qualifier Lee King-Magee (AKM Racing UK) by almost six tenths.
Rodriguez’s decision has also gifted Michael Tauscher BMW’s sole Hot Lap Qualifying slot, while Sam Holloway (Phase Sim Racing) earned Mercedes-AMG’s vacant space by just 0.042s. Ivan Shermetinskii (Jean Alesi Esports Academy) had already progressed by virtue of finishing seventh at Oulton.
Chevrolet’s entries were taken by Chris McDade (Team ACR), who also raced the Camaro in Round 1, and Alexander Dorricott (r/WEC Racing).
Both Audis – driven by Rennwelten Pro Team duo Samir Ibraimi and Chris Hoeke – plus the two Alpines of Malinowski and Michael Kundakcioglu (SideMax Motorworks) booked their places by scoring points last week.