eSports: Japspeed Racing’s May and Mitchell dominate TORA opener at VIR
The opening round of this year’s TORA British GT eSports Championship at Virginia International Raceway marked a step change in the series with record-breaking GT and race entry numbers. Indeed, more than 160 eSports racers took part last Sunday across an unprecedented nine lobbies.
In qualifying VIR proved itself to be a circuit that benefited the German marques with three of the top four slots being filled by Mercedes, while third place went to the returning Le Mans Rennsport driver David Hoch. However, it was Japspeed Racing's Ross May who secured pole with a blistering 1m45.278s to lap two tenths clear of the #790 FTR Mercedes.
In GT4 it was a debut pole position for the new Audi R8 in the hands of Gary Mitchell. The Japspeed driver produced a time a quarter of a second faster than the rest of the field (1m52.820s). Japspeed stablemate Chris Farkas concluded a JSR front row lockout in his updated Nissan 370Z.
Despite the lap time advantage of the pole sitter the balance of the GT4 field was clear to see with six different cars qualifying inside the top six.
Ross May held position from the start but the two Porsches of Hoch and Foster struggled with the former losing out to Ben Smith's Mercedes at Turn 1 and the latter losing traction in the braking area for Turn 3 and running off circuit.
The racing remained close in what looked like being an all-Mercedes affair at the front of the pack. May broke early and seemed to gap the rest of the SLS gaggle. The main benefactor from the tense battle behind May was Ben Smith whose initial move forward set him up nicely for a post-pitstops surge to take second ahead of a slightly frustrated Hoch.
Foster, who recovered well to challenge Ross May before his own late stop, would finish fifth behind a very compact group fighting for the remaining podium places.
In GT4 the order off the line remained Audi, Nissan and AMG, and would remain so for the majority of the race. The main disappointment of the opening encounter was the loss of Invictus Games Racing’s Jaguar mid-race with technical difficulties, which would thankfully be rectified before Race 2.
Once again Ross May grabbed the advantage off the line closely followed by Smith and Hoch. behind them a concertina of Porsches into the tight Turn 3-4 complex resulted in contact between one of the FTR Mercedes and Callum Rogers' AMS Porsche spitting the RSR onto the grass but just avoiding the tyre wall.
Soon after it was the Porsche of Foster in the wars with a Mercedes, this time the FTR car of Adam Has. The Porsche would make contact with the Armco at South Bend but continued seemingly undamaged.
Hoch maintained second place in the early stages under extreme pressure from Smith's Mercedes but a mistake at South Bend allowed the Mercedes past and put him under pressure from Has who remained a threat until the pitstops.
The conclusion of the race saw a titanic battle from fourth to seventh which would go the way of the FTR UK Mercedes. Ross May took a second dominant win ahead of a distant Ben Smith for TUS and Adam Has in third on his British GT debut.
Following the technical issues that curtailed the arrival of the Invictus Jaguar, Eric Diaz drove well to finish just off the GT4 podium after a stellar race. The GT4 win would go once again to Gary Mitchell for JSR with Chris Farkas second and Hayden Thompson third.
Up next is the first one-hour endurance event of the year from Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 6.
Meanwhile, both VIR races can be watched again in full via YMTV here: https://youtu.be/_m_gqBJmmls
Equally, entries remain open for the rest of this season’s TORA British GT eSports Championship. So, if you fancy testing yourself against the best GT drivers on Forza Motorsport in an officially recognised series then head to www.theonlineracingassociation.com for more details.