The GT World Challenge Asia Esports Endurance Series gets underway this Saturday (October 30) when Assetto Corsa Competizione’s faithful recreation of Monza hosts the first of three long-distance sim races.
The three-hour season opener is followed by the Bathurst 6 Hours on November 13 before the rescheduled Suzuka 10 Hours – originally postponed due to a global server issue – rounds out the campaign on November 27.
Saturday sees 15 teams take on Italy’s Temple Of Speed where, unlike the virtual championship’s longer events, two drivers share each car. Stint lengths lasting a maximum of 65 minutes ensure crews will make at least two pitstops, while no single driver may exceed 135 minutes behind the wheel.
VRS Coanda Simsport and Dayne Warren dominated this year’s Sprint Series but are absent from the Endurance competition. Instead, a cast of familiar names and teams will be attempting to replicate the feat of Andrew Laurenson and Laundry House who became the only other combination to taste Sprint victory two weeks ago.
And with just three Endurance rounds to contend, a top result at Monza is essential to winning a share of the championship’s €15,000 prize fund.
USUAL SUSPECTS EYEING FAST START
VRS Coanda might be missing but the rest of Monza’s entry reads like a who’s who of Asia Esports regulars.
Chief among them is Legion of Racers’ Andika Rama Maulana and Dillan Tan, a formidable partnership that finished second and third in this year’s Sprint standings. However, that was at the wheel of Ferraris, which have been traded in for a Mercedes-AMG. Maulana won 2020’s drivers’ title using the same equipment, but will that previous form translate to the long-distance arena?
Tan shared third in the Sprint standings with Suzuka winner Andrew Laurenson who’s joined at Laundry House this Saturday by another of the championship’s fastest drivers: Philippa Boquida. Neither campaigned the Mercedes-AMG this year but, just like Legion of Racers, make the switch in time for the enduros.
Both of JMX Phantom’s drivers, Fadhli Rachmat and Avila Bahar, finished in the top-10 of this year’s Sprint standings and are paired together in the latter’s favoured GT3 car: the McLaren 720S. That might come as a surprise given Rachmat finished as the second-best Bentley driver in fifth overall behind the all-conquering Dayne Warren.
But there is still four Continental GT3s on the entry, two of which are entered by The Academy whose driver roster includes Asia Esports race winner Mia Rose.
Kelvin Chen’s speed wasn’t always rewarded with Sprint points this season but he returns with Full Pace Racing who are Ferrari’s sole representative on home soil at Monza. Co-driver KuiSheng Huang has raced the 488 GT3 throughout 2021.
Surprisingly, there’s also just one Porsche, which has been entered by Japanese outfit SACCESS eSports. Like Chen, Yuki Shirakawa’s Sprint points don’t match his undoubted potential.
There are also two Hondas, one of which is overseen by HPD’s official sim racing squad.
Live coverage of the virtual Monza 3 Hours begins this Saturday at 18:00 HKT / 12:00 CEST / 10:00 GMT on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel and Twitch before the race starts 10 minutes later.
ASIA ESPORTS ENDURANCE SERIES
At Monza entries must comprise two drivers each of whose total drive-time across the three-hour race cannot exceed 135 minutes.
The maximum stint length is 65 minutes but drivers may complete as many successive stints as the team wishes provided their total drive-time is not exceeded.
A 30-minute practice session and 15-minute qualifying session immediately precede the race. Grid positions are determined by each crew’s fastest individual lap rather than a cumulative or average time.
Points are awarded to the top-10 finishers on the basis of:
1st 25 - 2nd 18 - 3rd 15 - 4th 12 - 5th 10 - 6th 8 - 7th 6 - 8th 4 - 9th 2 - 10th 1
The top-five teams at the end of the season will each win a share of the €15,000 prize fund.
MONZA 3 HOURS TIMETABLE
08:30 GMT / 16:30 HKT: Free Practice (30mins)
09:15 GMT / 17:15 HKT: Qualifying (15mins)
10:10 GMT / 18:10 HKT: Race