Reigning Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Asia Sprint Series champion Dillan Tan proved unstoppable during the season-opener at Imola, getting his title defence off to the best possible start with victory.
The man who won four of five races last season grabbed the early initiative by scraping to pole in an ultra-tight field where a single second separated the top 33 runners. Tan then survived some early pressure before establishing himself as the benchmark and leading throughout in LOR’s #144 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The Silver class featured three different leaders across the one-hour race, with Luke Addison providing the most entertainment as he battled his way to both the class win and fifth place overall in the Genisus Esports BMW M4 GT4.
And the BMW proved the car to have around Imola, with a horde of M4s occupying the top spots, but none of them could match Tan in the AMG.
When the lights went out Tan managed to slot himself in front of Ferris Stanley’s BMW M Team BS+Competition M4 into Tamburello as the pack bunched up behind them. Last year’s Silver champion Philippa Boquida was an early casualty, her BS+Competition M4 being pinched in the traffic, sustaining light damage and dropping down from fourth to seventh.
Once through the early turns, Tan established a gap over Ferris and the chasing Sota Muto in the Williams Esports Mercedes-AMG as the top three pulled clear. Tan pulled the gap out to just under three seconds by the time he pitted, and then rejoined ahead of Ferris by the same margin to cruise home for a comfortable victory.
Ferris was an equally clear second, with Muto completing the podium as the frontrunners did the hard work early on, but behind the fights raged.
After Boquida’s early misfortune, Daffa Ardiansa grabbed fourth overall and the Silver class lead in the SOLOX BMW M4. Ardiansa held the spot until the pit window opened and then he suffered a cocktail of two stops, clashes and a post-race penalty that put him well out of contention.
That opened the door for a tremendous fight between Boquida, Chris Tsang and Silver contenders Luke Addison and Russel Reyes. Boquida timed her pit stop perfectly, diving into an empty pit lane the second the window opened to gain back some of the ground she’d lost early on. That, plus a superb move to pass Addison into Tamburello after the stops helped her to fourth.
But Tsang, Addison and Reyes engaged in a race-long fight over Silver honours, with the trio being virtually inseparable throughout. Tsang held fifth overall for much of the race, before Addison finally unlocked his defence with a superb undercut through Tamburello inside the final 10 minutes, only to be followed by Reyes as the Silver runners continued their head-to-head duel.
Reyes got one final chance to run alongside Addison in the closing minutes, but the Genisus BMW held on to fend off the JMX Phantom version. While Reyes took the flag in sixth overall, a 10s post-race penalty for contact dropped him back out of the top-10, and down to third in the final Silver classification.
Naquib Azlan was seventh across the line in the McLaren Axle Sports 720S GT3 after also squeezing past Tsang’s Z-Challenger Racing BMW. Zachary Smith was ninth in Alpha Venturi Racing’s Aston Martin Vantage AMR. Silver runner Rialto Ristofani rounded out the top 10 on the road in the MPRGP BMW but, like Reyes, was also docked 10s post-race for causing a collision. That opened the way for Full Pace Racing Porsche driver KuiSheng Huang to take both a spot in the top-10 and second in Silver ahead of the penalised Reyes.
The next round of the Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Asia Sprint Series takes place at Donington Park on July 28.