Michael Kundakcioglu took command of the GT World Challenge America Esports championship lead with a comprehensive victory in Round 2 of the season at Donington Park.
The Season 2 champion qualified his No. 96 SideMax Motorworks McLaren 720S GT3 on the outside of the front row after turning in a lap time just a fraction of a second off of Philippe Simard’s pole time in the No. 19 R&K Racing BMW M6 GT3.
Kundakcioglu got the jump on Simard on the opening lap and built a substantial lead during the first quarter of the 60-minute race, only for Simard to slowly reel him back in by the halfway mark.
The crucial moments came during the mandatory pit stop window. Simard was the first pit caller of the lead duo but was delayed in the process due to an error by taking tires along with his fuel stop. Kundakcioglu, meanwhile, had a relatively clean pit sequence and emerged with a sizable lead while Simard found himself outside of the top 10.
One brief off track moment in the final 10 minutes, which Kundakcioglu described as momentary lapse in concentration, was the only slip up for the Canadian who cruised to his first win of the season and his first in GT World Challenge Esports America competition since the Season 2 opener at the Nurburgring.
While the battle for the lead was settled by the end of the pit sequence, the fight throughout the rest of the field was fierce until the checkered flag.
Chris Severt put in a consistent drive to finish second, backing up a strong fifth-place performance in the opener at Kyalami in his No. 81 Black Hawk Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3.
Zach Patterson finished in the points for the second-consecutive event as well with a third place result for HPD JAS Pro America NSX GT3 Evo, just ahead of fourth place Simon Fisher’s No. 595 McLaren for RacinSimTools Esports.
Simard managed to recover to finish fifth after his setback during the pit stops with a stirring drive that included multiple bold overtaking maneuvers, including one on the final lap for the last top five position on Race 1 winner Cody Pryde. The move locked Simard, along with the rest of the top five, into the next Sprint round of the championship Circuit Spa-Francorchamps next month.
Only minutes earlier Pryde had appeared in line to finish runner-up to Kundakcioglu, however a late drive-through penalty dropped the PPR Esports driver down the order in the final ten minutes and he settled for sixth.
Matt Leeman recovered from an early spin to finish seventh for Hillmount Racing. Cardin Lu (HPD JAS Pro America), Nicolas Alvarado (New World Simracing), and Émile Carpentier finished in the final three points paying positions to complete the top 10.
After the first two Sprint rounds Kundakciaglu leads the championship by 10 points over Pryde while Severt has jumped to third 15 points behind the leader.
The GT World Challenge Esports America series returns to action with the first Endurance round of the season at Laguna Seca on July 17 with the next race of the Sprint championship to follow the next weekend from Spa.
RESULTS: Round 2