The race on Saturday was the fifth of the one-hour virtual sprint racing series that ran parallel to the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Series. Not only do real drivers compete against each other in the digital area, there are also points for the overall standings of the GT World Challenge Europe team championships
Emil Frey Racing had already clinched the Pro Team title with a win last time at the NÃ¼rburgring, but in the Silver class there was still a lot to gain with one of the three best teams – Rinaldi Racing, Team WRT and Madpanda Recording of the eSports title.
In fact, with the South African David Perel, Rinaldi brought out his greatest possible weapon for the Barcelona race. A household name in virtual racing before he became a racing driver, his Coach Dave Academy actually provides vehicle setups for the Assetto Corsa Competizione simulator used for the Fanatec GT Esports Pro Series.
However, it was the series debutant, Juuso Puhakka for Madpanda, who dealt the first blow by taking the Mercedes not only in qualifying but also to pole positionNS (sixth grade).
A mistake by qualifier Nicklas Nielsen from the front row for Iron Lynx resulted in the team missing from the starting grid, effectively allowing Puhakka to take the first corner without pressure. After that, the Finn pulled away from pro driver Dries Vanthoor (Team WRT) relatively easily.
Meanwhile, Perel was walking backwards. In a hand-to-hand fight at Turn 10, Tomita sent one in from Raffaele Marciello (AKKA), which resulted in Perel being twirled around on the outside – and falling behind rival Tomita.
Puhakka drove a controlled race at the front. After dragging Vanthoor for more than two seconds before his late mandatory pit stop, the Madpanda rider emerged four seconds ahead, but more importantly, with three other Silver riders between him and Tomita. With Puhakka ready to win, only Perel or Tomita Madpanda could refuse the title, but they were busy arguing behind Marciello. But while he was negotiating the battered Lamborghini from Dennis Lind (Sainteloc), Perel was given a drive-through penalty due to an ambitious change through the ninth corner and threw him out of the race.
In the end, it was Madpandas Puhakka who took a comfortable win in the Pro class Vanthoor, with silver driver Marvin Dienst (Toksport) in third place in class and Alex Aka (Attempto) in third place in class in fifth Place landed.
That gave Madpanda the three points it took to outperform both Team WRT and Rinaldi Racing and win the Esports Series silver class by eight points, with Rinaldi finishing second with seven points and WRT third with six points.
Although the champion of the pro class had already been determined, the second was still to be won. Vanthore’s second place would get him the maximum three points for the WRT, but a cool drive from David Pittard resulted in him finishing fourth on the road and second in class for Walkenhorst’s third consecutive podium. That gave the BMW team the two points it took to stay second in seven places in the class, with WRT moving up to third and finishing third in both championships, ahead of AKKA, who took the last point for Marciello in eighth , third in class, done.
The points for the Fanatec GT Esports Pro Series have had an impact on the overall table of the GT World Challenge Europe, at least in the Silver class. With Madpanda scooping eight points throughout the esports season, the team ended up scooping 121.5 points with Attempto Racing, who scored only one – courtesy of Alex Aka in the final race. As a result, Madpanda’s victory at the Spa 24 Hours was considered a tie-break and Ezekiel Companc’s team ranked fifth in the overall standings ahead of Attempto.
After the success of the 2021 season, Fanatec and SRO have confirmed that the virtual series will return for 2022.