Esports Preview: 2021 campaign reaches halfway mark at Brands Hatch
Brands Hatch welcomes the British GT Esports Championship on Easter Sunday (April 4), marking the halfway point in this year’s virtual campaign.
World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin (Team Rocket RJN, McLaren) tops the GT3 standings but carries the maximum 30kg of Success Ballast after winning at Snetterton last weekend, while Nils Naujoks (BMW Motorsport SIM G2 Esports) and Jack McIntyre (Zansho Rocket Simsport, Porsche) are tied at the top of GT4.
Both classes will again compete simultaneously around the nine-turn, 2.433-mile GP layout, which was faithfully recreated for the original Assetto Corsa Competizione release. Real-world teams and drivers battle for overall honours in GT3 while 10 of this week’s fastest hot lap qualifiers join Snetterton’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: CAN SUCCESS BALLAST STOP BALDWIN?
James Baldwin made amends for his Oulton Park faux pas by claiming a comprehensive victory last weekend at Snetterton to establish a 14-point lead over Angus Fender who salvaged points after an opening lap incident with Sandy Mitchell.
That prevented Century’s Round 1-winning BMW from seriously challenging the McLaren, which instead romped to a 23s victory over Team Rocket RJN colleague Michael O’Brien whose race was compromised by damage. Both will require fault-free performances on Sunday if they’re to capitalise on Baldwin’s maximum Success Ballast.
Ben Green, driving another Century BMW, sits two points behind team-mate Fender but carries an extra 10kg handicap for completing Snetterton’s podium, while another consistent performance from Jody Fannin leaves JMW’s Ferrari two points further adrift.
Morgan Short should also once again feature in Rollcentre’s Mosler-themed McLaren after another promising performance last week. However, the son of team owner and real-world British GT race winner, Martin, faces stiff opposition from fellow top-five protagonists Sam Neary (Team ABBA, Mercedes-AMG), reigning champion Sandy Mitchell (Barwell, Lamborghini) and Andrew Watson (Garage 59, Aston Martin).
Further back, Team Brit’s Bobby Trundley is the only driver outside of the top-five to score points in both races thus far. However, his total of just four points actually represents a meagre return for strong performances that have been blighted by bad luck.
GT4: TOP-THREE CARRY WEIGHT OF EXPECTATION
Snetterton served up an incredibly competitive race that resulted in drivers representing nine of a possible 10 manufacturers automatically advancing to Round 3.
Those with a guaranteed entry include Nils Naujoks and Jack McIntyre who share top spot in the Drivers’ standings after two races, although both still await their first victories.
Instead, Naujoks’ two third place finishes tally with McIntyre’s fourth and second – the latter at Snetterton earning Zansho Rocket Simsport’s Porsche 15kg of Success Ballast on Sunday. His BMW Motorsport SIM G2 Esports rival, meanwhile, has 10kg after the pair swapped podium positions on the final lap.
The full 30kg handicap is reserved for Snetterton’s winner, George Boothby, who heads to Brands five points behind the championship leaders. How that impacts his Aston Martin’s performance remains to be seen after Robbie Stapleford qualified his Vantage third fastest overall in this week’s Hot Lap competition.
Quickest of all was the Porsche driven by Tariq Gamil who denied championship contender Luka Berk by just 0.066s. The privateer will now be hoping to draw inspiration from his qualifying rival who claimed pole position and victory first time out after topping Oulton’s Hot Lap competition.
But there were no such issues for Huncfot Racing’s Maciej Malinowski – currently 12 points adrift of the championship lead – who joins fellow Alpine entrant and automatic invitee Michael Kundakcioglu (SideMax Motorworks) on the Brands Hatch entry. Two points separate them in the standings.
Both Audis finished in the top-10 at Snetterton, which ensures Rennwelten Pro Team duo Chris Hoeke – tied on 16 points with Kundakcioglu – and Samir Ibraimi also feature this weekend.
Doerr Esports’ Moritz Loehner will also represent McLaren for the third round running alongside debutant Philipp Engmann who owes his participation to Gamil opting to race the Cayman instead of the 570S, which he also qualified fastest in section.
A tiebreak decided who joined Jean Alesi Esports Academy’s Ivan Shermetinskii at Mercedes-AMG after its top-two qualifiers set identical times. G Ligue’s Fabien Jeanblanc advanced by dint of recording his lap before Hubert Szymanski.
Ginetta were the only manufacturer to have two spaces available through Hot Lap Qualifying. David Michel and Josh Hislop represent the British manufacturer at Brands Hatch.
Elsewhere, r/WEC Racing’s Alexander Dorricott joins Chris McDade (Team ACR) in the Chevrolet camp, Manuel Rodriguez (Team Redline) is on KTM duty with LADA Sport ROSNEFT’s Egor Ogorodnikov, and Gregor Schill fills BMW’s remaining entry.