24 May 2022
Whitehead, Porsche Strike First for Sprint Esports Championship at Zolder
- GTWR R8G Teammates Sweep Class Wins with Whitehead in Pro and Harteveld in Silver
- Next Round: Silverstone on May 28th, 2022
- RACE RESULTS | STANDINGS
Luke Whitehead scored a dominant pole-to-checkers victory in the season-opening round of the Mobileye GT World Challenge America Esports Sprint Series at Zolder, leading home a 1-2 finish for the GTWR R8G Academy team.
Whitehead and his teammate Chris Harteveld swept the front row for the team in qualifying with Harteveld the highest-placed Silver class entry in the session. The pair, both in Porsche 911 GT3 R machinery, had a clean getaway at the drop of the green flag and neither were troubled in pursuit of the first class wins of the new campaign.
Speaking after the race, Whitehead said it was a perfect start to the season for the team but added that he expects fierce competition for the rest of the season. “I think everyone at the front is extremely close,” he said. “You can't count anyone out.
“You've obviously got the really strong Yas Heat team who are ultra-strong in their own right, you've got Williams Esports up at the front, you've got so many strong heavy-hitters. I think what won it for us today was working with the team.
“We came into it working on a setup with about four or five of us working on it and we were relentless trying to find that edge. The team element really helped, having Chris at the front was awesome.
“Regardless of who was P1 or P2 in that moment I think the goal would have been the same: to back up the guy who's leading and make sure we get a 1-2.
“It worked completely as it should have done, as we wanted it to. Going into the next round, it's a long-old season, there's a lot of different circuits, and there are so many really hard hitters.
“I would not count anyone out, it's not going to be an easy ride, but we've put ourselves in good position.”
Behind the top pair the fight was fierce with YAS HEAT driver George Boothby constantly fending off challenges, first from BMW Team BS+Turner Motorsport driver Gregor Schill and later from the Williams Esports Bentley Continental GT3 of Igor Rodrigues.
The Porsche driver never cracked and held on to third overall and second in the Pro class with Rodrigues completing the Pro class podium in third. A faulty pit strategy for Schill, precipitated by a wild entry to the pit lane done possibly to avoid contact with Boothby while battling for second in class, dropped the BMW driver down the order. He ultimately settled for fourth in class and sixth on the road. Gabriel Felipe turned in a strong drive to fifth overall and second in Silver while Felix Ruppert held on to the final podium position in Silver, placing 11th overall.
It was a trying day for many of the series veterans including two-time and reigning champion Michael Kundakcioglu. The Canadian qualified well down the order but had raced his way up to 11th overall just past the halfway mark. Misfortune of some kind cost him eight positions in one lap but the FFS Racing driver did manage to recover to eighth in Pro and score two points.
Less fortunate was 2021 series runner-up Philippe Simard who picked up damage in the first 10 minutes of the race, drastically impacting the pace of the No. 42 Mobileye x FFS Racing BMW M4 GT3. Simard soldiered on but ultimately finished a lap down and well out of the points.
If Zolder was any indication of how this seasons’ Mobileye GT World Challenge America Esports championship will be, it will certainly be entertaining and a new challenge for 2022. Up next for the Sprint championship is a date at Silverstone on May 28th.