After months of preliminary championships involving some of the best SimGrid communities and three final races, we have our winners of the SimGrid x VCO Grand Finals. With two victories in the first two races and a third place in the final round, it was Veloce VEXT claiming the title in GT3 – a well-deserved result for Dario Iemmulo, Grantas Kareckas and Luke Whitehead.
The new GT4 champions, Absolute Motorsport Acelith, reached even greater heights, winning all three races of the final phase with a crew formed by Michele Perrella, Michael Romagnoli and Mattia Zampedri.
Tomas Enge Sim Racing tries to steal the show
While it is often said that races are not won in the first corner, the Tomas Enge Sim Racing crew might now think differently. Although it was not a proper first-corner overtake, Jeffrey Richie took the lead of the race on lap one from third on the grid in GT3.
A 720s GT3 Evo trio headed by the team quickly formed at the front of the field, with Erik Del Fante (The Italian Job) and Elie Debons (SDL-Esports.com) closely following P1. Del Fante was desperately trying to get his lost lead back, but Richie was superb in denying him every possible overtaking opportunity. The Tomas Enge car made the best of the early move, never conceding the lead apart from during the pit stop phases.
Strategy was another important ingredient in their recipe for success, as Richie explained in the post-race interview. “We thought that overcutting was the faster option and that allowed us to create a little gap. Then P2 and P3 started to fight, forgetting about P1 – good for us because from there we could just manage our own pace”.
In fact, when Richie handed the car over to Mattia De Campo, the latter left the pits with a 5.5-second advantage over P2. Superior pace combined with that sizeable margin over everyone else meant that De Campo could comfortably hand over the wheel to Abe Santema, who took the chequered flag first.
Tomas Enge Sim Racing thus successfully broke Veloce VEXT’s winning streak, but the newly crowned champions, who rounded out the podium places, probably won’t be too bothered by the statistics.
A crucial podium fight for the championship battle
As Richie mentioned in his interview, for a vast part of the race P2 and P3 were constantly swapping positions. After trying incredibly hard to get back past the leading car, Del Fante lost his second spot following a close encounter with a GT4 which compromised his uphill run towards the Kemmel Straight. Debons and SDL-Esports immediately took advantage of the situation, completing the overtake for second under braking at Les Combes.
The continuous fight for position slowed down both teams, giving a chance to Veloce and Unicorns of Love to join the fight for the podium and life to a chaotic final 30 minutes of racing.
Despite the need to stay calm to bring the car home in one piece, Veloce looked to be the most fierce fighters with Grantas Kareckas on the charge. First, he overtook Jean-Pierre Arsenault in the SDL-Esports car and then he went for a move on Piperata who was at the helm of The Italian Job team, but the two made contact and the latter found himself facing the wrong way.
Piperata ended the race in P6, while Kareckas received a 10-second time penalty – a costly punishment because for the Veloce sim racer who managed to get back up into P2 before being demoted to P3. SDL benefited from Kareckas’ penalty, ending in second, while Unicorns of Love crossed the line just too far behind, having to settle for P4. Wipperman Racing #110 completed the top 5.
Absolute Motorsport Acelith take all – race and championship win
Three races, three GT4 wins. Absolute Motorsport Acelith kept a clean sheet in Spa-Francorchamps, but this time, their race was not as easy as one could think. Apex One, and in particular Adam Szpanski, had different ideas about who would finish on top coming into the third race. After missing out on pole position by less than one-tenth, Szpanski immediately started to chase Michael Romagnoli. The result was a fair and spectacular wheel-to-wheel fight in the second sector, with Szpanski coming out ahead of the poleman.
But Apex One’s win hopes ended in the second stint. Despite showing quick pace, Chris Warner could not quite contain Mattia Zampedri, who managed to catch up to him and take the class’ lead at Pouhon. The two banged tires, but it was the Absolute car gaining the lead to never leave it until the end of the race.
“What I think has made the difference is the fact that the three of us were consistent, fast and anyone did not make any kind of mistakes. I think that is what really got us here”. Michele Perrella explained to the broadcasting crew.
And just like that, the first edition of the SimGrid x VCO Grand Finals goes into the history books. It has been a long and exciting journey, involving tens of teams and communities creating one huge project of SimGrid-based cooperation. Missing the action already? Relive the final moments of the championship on the SimGrid YouTube channel!
Banner image credit: VCO Esports