Suzuka delivered an action-packed race and a strong, almost-race-long battle for the overall win in Sunday’s SRO Motorsports GT Rivals Esports series race. The virtual Japanese circuit offered up a major challenge for drivers with its highly technical nature and unique corners. But, when the dust settled, Bryan Heitkotter had extended his reign, taking the win in a drama-filled series Round 5. The American’s fourth overall victory in five Assetto Corsa Competizione Esports races is a truly remarkable accomplishment.
Heitkotter stormed to the front on the opening lap after qualifying second behind pole sitter Branden Ouellet. The duo would run close together until a spin in 130R dropped Ouellet’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 out of the lead battle.
David Perel (Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3) managed to avoid collecting Ouellet, and slotted into second, immediately setting his sights on the leader, hunting him down and closing the gap each lap until his Ferrari was right on the Nissan’s rear bumper.
The strengths of each virtual machine were on display as the GT-R showed its straight-line speed and drive out of corners, with the Ferrari’s overall pace, braking, and mid-corner grip eating into the gap between the two cars.
Unfortunately, Perel attempted a late move into the Turn 11 hairpin which spoiled their duel, making contact with Heitkotter and spinning the leader. Perel made an effort to allow Heitkotter to regain the lead in an effort to avoid a penalty; but he was handed a drive-thru penalty for the contact that he served with minutes left in the race.
Just behind the battle for the lead, an equally entertaining race developed as BSPort Racing’s Kenton Koch outdueled sim racer Ouellet in the closing laps. Ending his string of bad luck, Koch would finish second with Ouellet, recovering from his first-lap miscue, taking the last step on the virtual podium.
Canadian Nelson Mason drove to his best finish, crossing the line fourth in the Lamborghini Huracan Evo. Mason encountered technical difficulties last week at Spa while running second but showed he is a a contender.
Champion Motorsports sim racer Andrew Worden earned a Top 5 finish, bringing home the Mercedes-AMG just ahead of a recovering Perel after serving his drive-thru penalty.
The series heads next to Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday, May 17, for Round 6 at Circuit de Catalunya. Follow the action on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, beginning at 3:00 p.m. EDT.