Luke Whitehead wins the SRO Esports America title at Laguna Seca in Assetto Corsa Competizione

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SRO Esports America: Double Title Glory for GTWR at Laguna

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The usual Californian sunshine at Laguna Seca Raceway would be washed away into the distance, with rainfall hitting the 11-turn, 2.2-mile circuit for the GT World Challenge America Esports finale hard.

It was the GTWR R8G Academy duo of Luke Whitehead and Chris Harteveld who would respectively secure both the PRO and Silver classes at the final round, with the Porsche 911 GT3R being the best-suited car to this technical and undulating circuit, locking out the front two rows after qualifying.

The wet weather conditions would test everyone to the limit for the first ten minutes, until the rain would evaporate into obscurity. With just over 46 and half minutes to go, Renan Negrini in the #5 BagBlu Snow Schatten BMW would lunge up the inside of the #93 HPD JAS Pro America NSX of Karl Wittmer at the Corkscrew, collecting the #92 of Zach Patterson and the already stranded #71 BMW of Rennwelten’s Felix Ruppert.

This would cause some of the other traffic behind also getting caught out, as Ruppert was powerless whilst being shoved down the hill having been turned around by Pulse SimSport’s Johnathan Seville in the #97 McLaren. Terminal damage would end Ruppert’s race, whilst Seville would later be handed a drive-through penalty.

At this point, Whitehead had already pulled out a gap of 2.3 seconds in front of leading Silver driver, YAS HEAT’s Angel Inostroza, with Harteveld still in third.

Things would also heat up on track between Unicorns of Love’s Tobias Pfeffer and BMW Team BS+ Turner’s Gregor Schill, who were battling over fourth place heading into the first 20 minutes being completed, which also brought FFS Racing’s Michael Kundakcioglu into the fray. Pfeffer would make a switchback through turn five to reclaim fourth after a close exchange but ended up with a five second penalty, which would drop him to eighth after his pitstop.

Patterson would make a very costly error coming onto the Rahal Straight just past the 25-minute mark, with the #92 Honda NSX sideways on the exit of turn six, dumping him down outside of the top 20. This meant the #13 Mercedes of René Sievert had to take avoiding action around the outside to make his way up the Corskcrew.

The majority of the top 15 would leave it late for their sole mandatory pitstops, but Whitehead would protect his lead and further extend it to over seven seconds, with Inostroza and Harteveld still rounding out the top three.

Drama would hit the HPS JAS Pro USA team again, as Josh Staffin in the #23 would suffer a turn-around on the exit of turn three, putting him down from 14th to 17th. Along with that, there were some great moves in the latter stages from the #94 Honda NSX of Calvin Lu and the #285 Bentley of Race Anywhere Simsport’s Harry Spiers who both moved up to ninth and 11th respectively.

But Spiers would hit trouble a few moments later through turn four, as the back end of his car stepped out, before a slight touch from the #898 Porsche of Madhaus Racing’s Felix Tazvinzwa-Hacker on the rear sent Spiers into a 180-degree spin before hitting the inside wall.

But a dominant lights-to-flag performance from Whitehead ensured that he would be able to secure the crown with 148 points to his credit, 43 ahead of Schill, with Williams EsportsIgor Rodrigues making sure that he would take third in the standings, a further point behind.

Harteveld’s steady drive to third in the race overall would secure his Silver title with a total of 140 points, 25 ahead of DeltaSport’s Luke Southall, whilst Ryan Yee from Madhaus took third in the classification on 82 points.