The BS+COMPETITION team finished their 24H SERIES ESPORTS campaign on a high by winning the season finale and jumping up to third in the standings courtesy of the double points awarded at the end of the race. The split-liveried #96 BMW M4 GT3 – one half Turner Motorsport, one half BS+COMPETITION – was driven to victory by Ruben Bonga, Phil Denes, and Joshua W Anderson, the latter crossing the line 26 seconds ahead of second-placed #55 Williams Esports BenQ. By finishing second, the esports outfit of the storied Formula 1 team takes the GT3 title for the second time in 24H SERIES ESPORTS history.
Williams’ main challengers for the title going into the race, #14 MSI eSports, finished just 12 seconds in arrears of the Williams Porsche to round out the race podium. Despite leading at the half way mark and outscoring the Williams team by four points after six hours, the Spanish team was unable to stay ahead of the British team for the full duration of the race and ultimately finished second in the GT3 standings. Both cars were under scrutiny from the stewards during the race, with the MSI team especially thinking of what could have been after receiving a total of 35 seconds worth of penalty for two separate incidents while finishing just 38 seconds down on the winning BMW Team BS+TURNER. A victory with Williams Esports BenQ in third would have tied the Spanish team on points with Williams, with the title going the way of MSI on countback courtesy of their second place in Sebring. But that’s not what happened, and instead the Williams duo of Atte Kauppinen and Vasilios Beletsiotis took home the title by twelve points.
It was an eventful opening lap in the GT3 class, with pole sitters #75 Team75 Bernhard by SimRC collecting damage on the sausage kerb at T8 and dropping back, while further down the field two separate incidents involving a total of 8 cars upset the running order just four corners into the 12 hour long race. Among the cars involved were the three newcomers to the grid, all making their first start in the longest race of the season and being dropped straight into the deep end. While none were at fault for either incident, all three had contact with other cars and faced an uphill battle from lap 1 onwards.
The best of the three debutants in qualifying was the Finnish #91 Pike From Beach Racing, who qualified an impressive eleventh ahead of former podium finishers #16 Puresims Esports. The other two new teams struggled more in qualifying, locking out the final two spots on the GT3 grid, but would end up beating the Finnish Porsche in the race. The yellow and black #10 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO of Leipert eSports – stalwarts of the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook with the Super Trofeo version of the same car – finished ninth on the road ahead of the black, grey, and teal #13 BMW M4 GT3 of the third debutants, Portuguese outfit Tempus SimSport, but a post race penalty would swap those positions to make the Tempus BMW the best debutant in the race.
In the 992 class, #975 Team75 Bernhard by SimRC came into the race as the championship leaders, but certainly not outright favourites. However as the race progressed, it became increasingly clear that Jürgen Frank and Marvin Strehl had set their sights on the title and would not let go of this goal easily. Qualifying on the front row alongside pole sitters #916 Puresims Esports, it took all but four corners before Frank had taken the lead, which the German duo only gave up during pit stop cycles. A flawless drive gave them their fourth victory of the season and the title in the 992 class, just one year on from taking the title in the GT4 class in similar dominant fashion.
The battle for the lower spots on the podium remained close throughout the race, with the #905 Phoenix Racing eSport, #911 URANO eSports HEINEKINGMEDIA, and #995 Williams Esports teams keeping each other under pressure until the very end of the race. Ultimately, it would finish in the listed order, with the Phoenix team – another team also competing in the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook – taking their second podium in just as many starts this season.
For the third title contender going into the race, #996 Asetek Simsports Visceral, it was a difficult race. Qualifying only in P13 in class, it became clear to the Canadian team early on that the pace just wasn’t quite there to compete at the front, and after being involved in several incidents they dropped further and further off the lead pace. A similarly difficult race for their closest challengers in the championship standings, #998 Apex Racing Academy, means that the Canadian team do hold on to third place in the standings, but it was not the season finale they had hoped to have based on previous performances this season.
The biggest upset of the race undoubtedly came just over an hour into the race, and it was in the GT4 class. Clear championship favourites Mercedes-AMG Team URANO eSports had put themselves on the back foot by taking the chequered flag twice in qualifying, earning them a twenty second penalty to serve at their first pit stop. After his first stint, Constantin Tscharf had parked his red and black #490 Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the penalty box, and as he was counting down the seconds, Dominique Cicou of SCK Racing cut across the pit lane to take their pit stop. Unfortunately, Cicou cut it too close to where Tscharf had parked his car in the penalty box, and made contact severe enough to damage the front left suspension on the URANO car and require extensive repairs. A lapse of concentration from the German driver which copped the #430 team a 90 second penalty, and completely derailed the URANO championship challenge. Tscharf, together with Dylan B Scrivens and Yoep de Ligt fought on valiantly, and throughout the race the team were able to recover six positions from last place, but ultimately it was not enough to convert their status of favourite into a title.
With the Mercedes-AMG Team URANO eSports out of the running for the title, the focus turned to the #476 SimRC Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Adam J Isaksson and Lukas Gabler, and the #439 SRC Mivano Corse Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Lorenzo Manfredotti, Sacha Gorlé, and Tommaso Carlà. The SRC Mivano team held the best cards going in, carrying an eleven point advantage over SimRC. However, for a long time it looked like the SimRC squad would snatch the title away from the SRC Mivano team, with Isaksson and Gabler holding a significant lead over the Italian team and – critically – with the #434 Fiercely Forward in second place splitting the two title contenders.
The SRC Mivano Corse team would need second place if SimRC was to win the race, and this would mean dealing with the Fiercely Forward team who were having their best race of the season so far and delivering a standout performance. SRC Mivano Corse would not be able to pass Fiercely Forward on pace alone, and so the strategists for the Italian team decided to instruct their drivers to eek out the fuel milage on the Mercedes-AMG GT4, which ultimately resulted in a 7 lap advantage during the final pit stop. This proved to be the right call, and where Manfredotti had seen the Fiercely Forward car head into the for the final time pits ahead of him, Carlà – who took over from Manfredotti for the final stint – left the pits 7 laps later with over 5 seconds advantage.
It was SRC Mivano Corse therefore who took the title in the GT4 class, two years after SRC Squadra Corse did the same prior to their merger with the Mivano team. They do so with just three points margin over SimRC, and just six over unlucky URANO who have to settle for third in the standings after taking four victories in the first four races of the season. With their strong performance in the season finale, Fiercely Forward jump up to sixth place in the standings from twelfth place.
The TCR title battle was thrown on its head in the first corner of the race, when Erwin Lucas Liszkowicz, starting the #190 Carbon Simsport Hyundai Veloster N TC, carried too much speed into T1 attempting to convert a strong qualifying performance into an even stronger race start. Liszkowicz, on the inside of Corentin Guinez in the #176 SimRC Honda Civic Type R, overshot the corner and collected Ross Macfarlane in the #116 Puresims Esports Honda, who speared across the track and back into the pack through T2. In the ensuing melee, the other two title challenges also became involved in the incident, with the Hyundais of MSI eSport and Team Heusinkveld taking contact. Fabian Siegmann in the #148 Team Heusinkveld took the worst of the hits, having to spend minutes in the pits repairing damage to the blue and silver Hyundai and never recovering their race from there. Somehow, both Macfarlane and Marc Perez for MSI came away from the incident relatively unscathed, and Guinez had miraculously stayed clear of any contact and steamed away into the distance ahead of Naveed Hussain for Wave Italy Racing Team who had also managed to avoid the incident altogether.
All of this placed the SimRC team in the ideal position to take the title, and with their competition for the title delayed by the T1 incident, Corentin Guinez and Nathan Amess settled into a rhythm that could not be matched by any of the other TCR teams. Ultimately, they established a gap of over one minute over Puresims to take home a second TCR title out of three attempts for SimRC, after not competing in the previous season. For the driver pairing of Corentin Guinez and Kieran Harrison it is back to back titles, having won last season for CoRe SimRacing and now repeating that feat for SimRC.
Reactions of the winners and champions:
Joshua W Anderson (#96 BMW Team BS+TURNER): “It’s a fantastic feeling! I’m a little tired after racing through the night here in Australia. I did get a little bit of shuteye, which is unusually good for these kinds of races. Ruben and Phil did a great job, they really set up the victory, and with how the time zones worked I was lucky enough to bring it home. It’s really good for the team, this is a really good result.”
Ruben Bonga (#96 BMW Team BS+TURNER): “The traffic was pretty hectic. You could definitely notice that the longer the race went on and as more cars retired, there was more space on the track, but for the start the traffic was pretty hectic out there.”
Phil Denes (#96 BMW Team BS+TURNER): “It was an early wake up call so I’m pretty tired, but I’m really happy to come away with this win. It was a tough race, every single car in the field had something going on at one point and for us to come out on top so strongly after everything we went through is great. I’m really happy with the result.”
Vasilios Beletsiotis (#55 Williams Esports BenQ): “It was an emotional rollercoaster today. The last hour was exhausting, we didn’t know what was going to happen and didn’t expect to finish in P2. But in the end, with our pace and without having pretty much any incidents in the race, we did a solid job which was the key to finishing P2 and winning the championship.”
Atte Kauppinen (#55 Williams Esports BenQ): “At the beginning we were struggling with the tyres so we were a bit worried. The other Porsches had better tyre wear so we had to adjust our strategy, but it worked out in the end. This change ultimately was the key to success today.”
Jürgen Frank (#975 Team75 Bernhard by SimRC): “We knew we had to win today, with 60 points being awarded we had to prepare really well. Marvin and myself had one of the best preparations ever. We knew we could win the race, we were prepared for everything with the tyres. In the end the weather meant that we could do a full stint of 41 laps every time and double stint the right side tyres every time with tyre saving, that was the key to win today.”
Marvin Strehl (#975 Team75 Bernhard by SimRC): “The final moments were insane. Last year we got the championship in GT4, and this year we had strong races and finished it off with a win.”
Adam Isaksson (#476 SimRC): “We were definitely not expecting to come this close to the championship. Coming into this round we had an outside chance, but it definitely wasn’t something we expected to be able to fight for the championship, so we just came into this round trying to do our best and to see how far it would get us. But unfortunately this time it wasn’t quite enough.”
Fraser Williamson (#439 SRC Mivano Corse): “No part of this should have ever happened! This was URANO’s just to bring home, they only needed a top 5 I think. But with what happened to them in the first hour, we just picked up the pieces. We didn’t really look backwards in the championship points, cause it was URANO ahead of us, then us, and then SimRC in something like fifth coming into today? Then I checked the points and realized: “Okay, we have to make sure that we’re on it here”. Thankfully the strategy paid off and we managed to get second, but it could have been quite sketchy in the end.”
Nathan Amess (#176 SimRC): “We were confident going into this round after winning the previous race. Obviously it was still win the race or risk losing the championship against Puresims. We knew what we had to do, and the drama started from lap 1. We got fortunate there and made the most of it.”
Corentin Guinez (#176 SimRC): “The only thing that could have gone better today was the GT4 also winning the title, they got really good results when they were able to finish the races this season. But overall it has been a really good season for the team. We got two titles so that’s really strong, and we can build on this for the other series we do as well.”
TFRLAB provide a Laptime Summary for each of the 24H SERIES ESPORTS races. If you want to have a closer look at the data from this race, check out their Laptime Summary here: TFRLAB | Laptime Summary
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