Assetto Corsa Competizione race to feature leading esports teams and drivers
Live coverage on SRO YouTube and Twitch channels from 15:00 CEST on Saturday
The GT World Challenge Europe Esports Championship will undertake its biggest event yet this weekend (5 June) when the continent's leading sim racing squads tackle a six-hour Assetto Corsa Competizione contest at Circuit Paul Ricard.
The second of five long-distance Endurance Series events, Saturday's race will see a diverse field of 35 teams and 11 different GT3 models competing for glory at the French venue. The 5.8km track features a series of technical turns that require precise driving and a finely-honed set-up, while the flat-out Mistral Straight and high-speed Signes corner add a serious shot of adrenaline.
The event comes one week after Circuit Paul Ricard staged the real-world Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS and the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series. While Saturday's esports race will take place between 15:10 and 21:10 CEST, Assetto Corsa Competizione will simulate the same hours as its counterpart, with the in-game clock running from 18:00 through to midnight.
This added touch of realism will require competitors to tackle changing visibility and track conditions as the race evolves from day into night. The event will also see each crew expand to include three drivers, adding a greater strategic element and further depth to the field.
FDA Esports gunning for more glory after Monza masterclass
After a near-perfect start to the season, the question heading into this weekend's race is whether anyone can stop FDA Esports. The 2021 campaign began with a dominant display from the Ferrari squad, which swept to victory in a pair of very different contests at Monza.
The first – a one-hour Sprint Series race for single-driver entries – was won by David Tonizza. The following day, the Italian teamed up with fellow countryman Giovanni De Salvo to give FDA Esports and Ferrari a commanding win in the opening Endurance Series race. This weekend the Italian duo is bolstered by two-time F1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh, marking them out as favourites for more glory at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Porsche teams finished two-three-four at the Endurance Series opener, suggesting that the 911 GT3-R could be the machine to topple the all-conquering Ferrari. It should not go unnoticed that GPX Racing scored outright victory in last weekend's real-world race, providing extra optimism for the Porsche contingent.
VRS Coanda Simsport was the only team with two points-scoring cars at Monza and looked especially competitive with Josh Rogers at the wheel of its #18 entry. This weekend the Australian driver will be joined by Paschalis Gkergkis and Tommy Østgaard, while GPX Racing by Rennwelten and will look to emulate its real-world namesake by earning victory at Circuit Paul Ricard.
While only two brands finished among the top-five at Monza there was plenty of diversity behind them. Indeed, the next five positions featured as many different marques, with Mercedes-AMG, Bentley, McLaren, Lamborghini and BMW runners all finishing in the points.
Could one of these make the breakthrough to fight for victory at Circuit Paul Ricard? There are a number of strong line-ups hoping to do exactly that. After an impressive run in the opener Unicorns of Love will be hoping to put its pink Mercedes-AMG GT3 on top of the pile this weekend, while the YAS HEAT McLaren squad has bags of sim racing experience in its line-up of Honzik/Capoccia/Statsenko.
There are a quartet of strong Lamborghini squads, including two from Ratòn Racing by QLASH, while Racing Line Motorsport will represent Bentley with its crew of Siclari/Schinz/Ratz. The BMW runners will also hope to mount a challenge for victory this weekend, led by the #62 BMW Motorsport SIM Racing G2 Esports machine of Naujoks/Kammerer/Schill.
There were no points for the Audi entrants at Monza, but their chances of a revival this weekend look promising. There will be particular interest in the progress of the Saintéloc by R8G squad, which combines real-world team Saintéloc Racing and the esports programme of Romain Grosjean. Aston Martin's quartet of teams includes Williams Esports, while HPD JAS Pro Europe will lead the Honda charge with a pair of NSX GT3s.
The Lexus contingent includes a new arrival as Emil Frey ZH-Nord Racing joins the grid for the six-hour contest. The debuting team is affiliated with real-world squad Emil Frey Racing, which could be a good omen: the Swiss outfit won it first major international race at the 2018 Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km using the same RC F GT3 model that the esports crew will run this weekend.
Six-hour race set for live Saturday afternoon coverage
A 30-minute free practice for Saturday's race will run from 13:30 CEST. Drivers will then qualify at 14:15 and, while a six-hour race lies ahead, a place among the top-10 will be vital for those hoping to seal victory. Live coverage begins on the SRO YouTube and Twitch channels at 15:00, allowing for 10 minutes of build-up before the race gets underway at 15:10.
This weekend will represent the second of five GT World Challenge Europe Esports races scheduled to take place during 2021, each following one-week after the real-world Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup. The calendar also features the Total 24 Hours of Spa (7-8 August), a six-hour race at the Nürburgring (11 September) and a concluding three-hour contest at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (16 October).
The Endurance Series runs alongside a 10-round Sprint Series, while further continental GT World Challenge Esports Championships also run in Asia and America. Each programme is organised by SRO Motorsports Group in partnership with Fanatec, Kunos Simulazioni, AK Esports, Pirelli and The Sim Grid.