Bryan Heitkotter claimed a dominant victory in Sunday’s SRO GT Rivals Esports Invitational season-opener at the virtual WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The former Nissan GT Academy North America champion took his No. 05 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 to a 31.102-second win over sim racer Thomas Lastre in the 60-minute race held on the official GT World Challenge sim Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Streamed live to thousands of viewers worldwide, Heitkotter led every lap of the race from pole and overcame a last-lap scare with an accident in front of him to take the win.
“That was an exciting last lap, certainly from my perspective,” Heitkotter said. “Fortunately I had a pretty large cushion so I could be extra careful.
“It was an interesting race, not how I expected it to go. I imagined something happened to guys like Kenton [Koch] and Tom O’Gorman on the first lap because I had a pretty easy time of managing my pace early on. I was very surprised by that.
“I think I had a little bit of a luxury in this race but a win is a win. I’ll take it.”
Lastre, driving for Champion Motorsports, came home as the best of the sim racers in second overall.
The No. 22 BMW M6 GT3 of Karl Wittmer completed the overall virtual podium in third, thanks to a late-race charge that saw the Pirelli GT4 America regular get by open-wheel rising star Dakota Dickerson for third with 20 minutes to go.
Dickerson settled for fourth, ahead of the No. 59 BSport Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Kenton Koch, who rebounded from two drive-through penalties.
Koch started from the outside of the front row but dropped to tenth due to avoidable contact before having to serve another drive-through penalty handed by the real-life stewards.
Jason Abel, Tom O’Gorman, JT Tami, Nikko Reger and Daniel Morad, meanwhile, completed the top-ten.
The virtual race, featuring a full field of GT3 machinery, saw a number of incidents including several Shelby Blackstock in the No. 81 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo, which took him out of the top-ten.
Blackstock came together with Guy Cosmo in one of the K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3s at the halfway mark, while Cosmo later was forced to serve a drive-through penalty for a separate incident.
Round 2 takes places at the virtual Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Italy on April 19 at 3 p.m. ET.