The play-off venue remained a mystery until the weekend before the event. With a public vote being cast to decide where they would be racing. The winning track to host the play-off race was Imola, taking 50% of the public votes. Whilst Misano came in second with 27% and Valencia at the rear with only 23%.
33 teams fought for the final three spots to the final phase of the championship, and it took the entirety of the two hours of racing at Imola to determine who would go through.
The actual race was fast, frantic and fun. A last-lap double overtake defined the final spot on the grid for the SimGrid x VCO Grand Finals. The GT4 Play-Off race was the last pre-season event of the competition.
What Is The SimGrid x VCO Grand Finals?
Following the success of the World Cup editions, SimGrid and VCO joined forces once again to create the Grand Finals. The invite-based championship had a huge success, but it started to feel like it was time to change something as more and more teams are becoming competitive on the esport scene.
Instead of inviting teams just for their past achievements, SimGrid and VCO decided to hand out invitations solely to teams who win them by participating in championships held by ten of the best SimGrid communities.
Drivers challenged each other through the summer for a total of 58 spots available. 33 in GT3, given to the top 3 teams from each community competition, and 22 awarded to P4 and P5 from each championship. P6, P7 and P8 met on Saturday 28th October in a massive Play-Off race held at Imola: 33 GT4 cars fighting it out for the final 3 spots in the GT4 class.
Apex One And Absolute Motorsport Acelith Easily Secure A Spot
Judging by the qualifying results, Apex One and Absolute Motorsport Acelith seemed to have a different pace compared to everyone else, with a 5 tenths gap to P3. But in sim racing nothing is written in stone and both teams still had to bring the cars in one piece at the chequered flag and that’s exactly what they did.
A clean start gave Zampedri (Absolute Motorsport) and Szpanski (Apex One) the chance to get away from the group. With Szpanski looking faster in the early stages of the race, Zampedri was smart enough to avoid over-defending his position, knowing that P2 was enough.
With Szpanski completing the overtake at Villeneuve chicane, the two racers managed to stay out of trouble before handing the cars to their teammates Chris Warner, who took the chequered flag in first for Apex One, and Simone Iezzi, who secured the second spot for Absolute Motorsport Acelith.
Re-watch all the action:
A Back-And-Forth Fight For P3
With the first two teams disappearing into the distance, there was only one spot left to fight for. Low Fuel Motorsport #255 went third fastest in qualifying, but Steinbrenner did not have the pace to pull away from Simone Verna (201) and Simone Seminara (563). Steinbrenner did a great job to keep at bay the cars chasing him, until Verna found the perfect occasion to make a move down the inside of turn 1. The two banged tires, lost momentum and gave P3 to Seminara. But it did not last long. On that same lap, Seminara lost the rear in the downhill section heading towards Acque Minerali, handing back the spots to Steinbrenner and Verna.
Verna handed the car to Cinotti, while Filippi came in for Seminara. They both rejoined the track way ahead of Tippach, who took over the Alpine GT4 #255 after a longer stop: in fact the stewards handed a 5-seconds time penalty to Low Fuel Motorsport for the turn 1 contact between Steinbrenner and Verna. All the drama happening between these three teams helped Reinders, driving the Alpine #199, to find himself in P3 after taking over from Florenz.
Low Fuel Motorsport Snatch Last Slot Available On The Final Lap
With still one hour to go, there was still plenty of racing action left in this GT4 Play-Off. Filippi (Ballas Esports) quickly got rid of Cinotti (SPQR) and started to chase down Reinders. With just 13 minutes left, Filippi was able to claim P3 when Reinders made a costly mistake coming out of the final corner.
Reinders desperately tried to regain the position, but made another mistake. Coming into the penultimate corner he could not stop the car in time, hitting Filippi in the back and receiving a Drive Through penalty as a consequence.
Somehow Filippi managed to regain the track right behind Cinotti, who silently climbed the standings to claim P3 once again. On the final lap, with nothing left to lose, Filippi went for an optimistic move at Villeneuve. This time it was him hitting Cinotti in the back. As a result, both Cinotti and Filippi spun, allowing Tippach to regain that third position, which interestingly enough was the starting position for Low Fuel Motorsport. An incredible ending that gave the last ticket to the Grand Finals to the LFM team.
Next Up: Round 1!
With so much action in the Play-Off race, we honestly cannot imagine what is going to happen on the 11th of November. On which track will round 1 be run? We don’t know it yet.
In fact, the track list for the SimGrid x VCO Grand Finals will be decided by a public track vote and announced on the Wednesday prior to the race.
Regardless of the final decision on the racetrack, the first 3 hours of the championships will be broadcasted on the SimGrid YouTube channel. 58 cars, split in two classes, are ready to leave it all on the track.