MSI eSports win hectic 6H COTA and extend championship lead
The all-Spanish duo of Cristian Lamela and Dani Elgarbay showed the field how it’s done by winning with a 28 second margin after qualifying down in 14th place. Lamela took the start and methodically worked his way through the early traffic. One by one his competitors found trouble, either self-inflicted or as an innocent party, and the remainder were handily dispatched of by the Spaniard. By the end of Lamela’s opening double stint, the blue Porsche 911 GT3 R was in the lead and never gave it up.
The second and third steps on the podium were filled by a pair of BMW M4 GT3s: the #98 Apex Racing Academy of Maxime Brient and Racim Fezoui, and the #45 Biela Racing Team EURONICS of Lukas Jestädt and Stefan Hofbauer. In doing so, both of these teams scored their best result of the season so far, with the #98 scoring a breakthrough podium after finishing 15th and 11th in the opening races so far. The top three finishers were among only a handful of GT3s to remain free of the ire of the stewards, the only other GT3 to steer clear of causing trouble being the #55 Williams Esports BenQ Porsche, which came home in fifth place. Aside from the Apex Racing Academy BMW scoring their season best result so far, the BMW of BMW Team BS+TURNER did the same with a fourth place finish after struggling in the opening two races of the season.
MSI eSports’ victory here makes it their second of the year, and with a second place finish at Sebring they have scored 58 points from a maximum 60 available so far. Suffice it to say they hold the lead in the GT3 standings, 17 points clear of the #55 Williams BenQ team. Both Biela Racing Team EURONICS entries follow suit, #46 leading from #45 on 39 and 36 points each. Missing from the COTA race – and for the remainder of the season – is the #7 cowana Gaming Porsche, who were in second place in the standings after Sebring. They still hold fifth place in the standings after COTA with a second and a fourth place finish so far, but they will not be competing in the remainder of the season and will be dropping down the standings.
In the 992 class, it was the usual suspects at the front of the field, but with a few interlopers early on. It was ATRS eSports’ Kane Halliburton who took pole position, the Jamaican beating URANO eSports HEINEKINGMEDIA’s Sam Kuitert and Team75 Bernhard by SimRC’s Jürgen Frank to the punch by just 0.083s and 0.084s respectively. Sabelt ESPORTS with Mateusz Luczak also had a strong qualifying in fourth place. ATRS and Sabelt would challenge the front runners of URANO, SimRC, Asetek Simsports Visceral and Apex Racing Academy for a good portion of the race, but ultimately had to give in and settle for the lower places.
In the final lap, it came down to the wire between Marvin Strehl in the #975 Team Bernhard by SimRC and Michael Janney in the #998 Apex Racing Academy. Janney had been closing down class leader Strehl in the final stint, and only in the very last lap of the race was within range to mount a challenge. A good exit out of T11 onto the long back straight created an opportunity into the braking zone for T12, and it looked like job done for Janney as Strehl ran wide and lost the position. Strehl had other thoughts however, and somehow found a gap to fit his blue, red and black Porsche 911 GT3 Cup into on the side of T13. The two touched through T14, Janney cut through the grass, and somehow they entered T15 side by side still. Then, on corner exit, the two came together and Janney’s white, green and grey Porsche was hooked to drivers’ right and into the Armco barriers, ending the American’s challenge. The #975 would collect a 20 second penalty for the sequence of incidents, but a track limits penalty for the #998 meant that the German team still won the race.
The whole sequence of events could end up having major consequences in the final championship standings. After the COTA race, the four teams of Team75 Bernhard by SimRC, Asetek Simsports Visceral, URANO eSports HEINEKINGMEDIA, and Apex Racing Academy, are separated by just eight points. Had the finishing order been reversed between the #975 and the #998, the difference would have been just four points between the top four in the standings. Behind the top four, Sabelt ESPORTS round out the top five, 14 points behind and only two ahead of Williams Esports.
In the GT4 class, for the third race in a row, the Mercedes-AMG Team URANO eSports of Dylan B Scrivens and Yoep de Ligt performed a dominant display to take victory and extend their perfect streak one more race. The Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of SimRC looked like they could have been a threat being the only team to manage one fewer pit stops throughout the race, but the pace of the URANO Mercedes AMG GT4 was too strong, with SimRC coming home in second ahead, 25 seconds in arrears and 10 seconds ahead of third placed SRC Mivano Corse. URANO’s race was not as perfect as the previous two races however, as they did collect a penalty for hitting Matthew Turnbull in the #416 of Puresims Esports in T1 early in the race. Turnbull had been in the early lead after an extremely close qualifying sessions saw Matthew Turnbull take pole by just 0.006s from Martin Kadlečík for CSRA by Entropiq.
A third victory for the #490 Mercedes-AMG Team URANO eSports means they have now scored 60/60 points, putting them firmly in the lead of the standings in the GT4 class. A massive 21 points behind are SRC Mivano Corse in second place, a difficult race in Sebring hampering their total points tally. Sabelt ESPORTS sit in third, with the lead Aston Martin of SimRC in fourth place after their podium finish at COTA. Fiercely Forward round out the top five, 10 points behind SRC Mivano Corse in second. The big question in this class really is if anyone can beat the URANO team, who look almost comfortable in the way they have collected three victories so far.
In the TCR class, it was Puresims Esports v SimRc once again, with the two Honda Civic Type R’s being the class of the field just like at Sebring. This time however, it was the yellow and black one beating the blue and white one, as Corentin Guinez and Nathan Amess drove away from Ross Macfarlane and Steen Ledger by 35 seconds over the course of the 6 hours. Behind the two Honda’s, the first Hyundai Veloster N TC across the line was that of Zennith Esports. It could have been the first podium for the Spanish team, but an admin error sees them excluded from the result. That promotes fellow Spaniards MSI eSports up to third place for a double podium for the team.
In the TCR standings, SimRC close the gap slightly with this victory, but it remains Puresims Esports who lead with eight points difference. Only two further points back from SimRC are MSI eSports, and two further still are Team Heusinkveld, which means the top four in the standings are still separated by just 12 points. With how the races have gone so far in the TCR class, that means its all to play for still as one bad result will see any championship lead evaporate in an instant.
Reactions of the winners:
Dani Elgarbay (#14 MSI eSports): “The race was really hard from the start. Cristian got off tracks on his laps so we had to start last on the grid, but we knew our car was good on race pace. We always have better race pace than qualy pace, and it was no different here. We knew that we had to nurse the tyres in the first stint to get the advantage over the BMWs with the 45kgs of ballast on the Porsche. Our race was really calm, we didn’t really have any big incidents, besides the contact with the Altus car in the first stint. It was just pushing the car to the limit but being careful with the off tracks.
At Spa it was easy to be fast but stay within track limits, but here you have to be right on the edge of the track on every exit of the corners to be fast. That makes it really easy to get one, or sometimes up to three off tracks in one lap, like I did sometimes. It was just managing the off tracks until the end of the race, I think we had three left by the end. I told Cristian to slow down a bit because we didn’t have to push any more to take it easy on the off tracks.
With 55kgs I don’t think we could have won today. A lot of the BMWs had problems, Biela got hit and received many penalties, BS+TURNER was fast but also got penalties, Apex Academy was really fast too. I had to really nurse my tyres on the first stint because I knew I could not be faster than the BMWs, so I was flying on the second stint. But the BMWs were slower on the second stint because I think they pushed more than me on the first stint. The pace the BMW lacks is in tyre life, not the ballast.
I told Cristian he had to do the maximum four hours, because I had a really bad tooth ache these last few days and I slept only two hours. So he did the qualy – not so good, but neither did I at Spa – and he did an amazing first two hours. He went from last on the grid to the lead with an amazing pace. He did use the tyres a lot more than me, but he was faster so I can’t say anything there. He did a giga job, he prepared a lot more than me so thanks to him that the setup was really good.”
Jurgen Frank (#975 Team75 Bernhard by SimRC): “Marvin had a busy day today, with a handball match as well and a team mate who wasn’t completely fit today, so he did a mega job. For myself I can say I had a really good first three stints and the car was flying. Qualy was not so good but it was still P3 and I managed to get the lead at the start, so for me it went really well today.
I can’t say that much about that last lap for now. In my opinion, Marvin stayed right and the Apex Academy car closed the gap, but it’s a close one. I don’t really know. Marvin said he made his car as wide as he could, and when the final contact happened he had the wheel straight, so for him it’s a racing incident.”
Dylan Scrivens (#490 Mercedes-AMG Team Urano eSports): “It definitely did feel like we had control of the race today. I mucked up in qualifying and then a boneheaded move from myself got us a 15s penalty, but we persevered and stuck with it and our strategy and it worked out fine in the end. As with all races in the 24H SERIES ESPORTS, you have to use your brain when navigating the traffic and help out and cooperate with the other classes as much as possible. If you’re predictable and you’re not trying to block people, usually it should be all good.
We’re feeling pretty confident so far in the URANO camp. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out. I’m looking forward to the Nordschleife in particular, the other two maybe not so much.”
Nathan Amess (#176 SimRC): “We really wanted to win both previous rounds, and especially losing the last round by two seconds didn’t feel great. So just happy to be back where we want to be, and not let Puresims get that one hand on the championship already. In the TCR field the pack really stays together and you have to stop yourself from sending it up the inside like you would in a normal TCR sprint race. You really have to pace yourself in the first half of the race, which Corentin did really well. We just sat behind the leader and saved fuel, which really helped us. It a patience game and when the group is that close for that long, the race doesn’t really start until a few hours in.
Corentin did great today, also on the track limits. I think he only got 14 off tracks in the first half of the race. In the end we ended on 40, which doesn’t make me look any good, but there were there to be used. Corentin really helped with me getting into the car, knowing that I could push. If you’re not using up all 50, then you’re leaving time on the table, but I’m glad we didn’t have to worry about going over the limit towards the end of the race.
The tyres are a bit strange on the TCR at the moment. The quickest way to approach the race is to double stint them, because with the warmup phase it’s really so much faster to just do another stint rather than get four new tyres each time if you can keep the tyres alive.
Going into the second half of the season now we know what to do, especially with the final race being double points. We really need to put ourselves in the best possible position going into the last round, and if we win that one, that would be the ideal situation for us.”
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
Want to watch the race back? Find the full broadcast provided by RacespotTCV here: Race Replay
Liking these pictures? VCO took way more! Find them all here: VCO Content Database
Looking for the full race results? Find them here: Race Results
And what about the championship standings? You can find those here: Standings
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