Dillan Tan secured his second-straight Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Asia Sprint Series title after coming out on top of a nervy season finale at Suzuka, while Russel Reyes did just enough to secure the Silver class laurels after a race-long three-way fight.
Having dominated last year’s championship and won three out of four rounds heading to the Suzuka finale, Legion of Racers star Tan was always going to be favourite for the crown, even if his event started in a rare way when he was bested in qualifying.
Philippa Boquida managed to edge Tan out, putting her BMW M Team BS+Competition M4 GT3 on pole by seven thousandths of a second, with Fadhli Rachmat’s Honda in third as four different brands occupied the top five.
Even though Tan failed to grab pole for just the second time this year, his title chances were still boosted by his main rival Ferris Stanley starting just sixth in his BS+Competition BMW. While Boquida excelled, Stanley never seemed to have the raw pace, and that would set up a tough event for him.
When the lights went out, Boquida didn’t get the best launch and Tan dived for the lead around the outside of turn one, but even with the Tarmac Works-backed Mercedes-AMG out front, Boquida refused to let him escape and stuck to the AMG’s bumper through the first half.
Boquida pitted a lap earlier than Tan to try the undercut, and the two cars rejoined nose-to-tail when the order shook out, with Tan inches in front but not yet up to speed. Contact between the two entering the Esses gave Tan a grassy off and a worrying moment, but he gathered it up to continue to lead, and was then handed a decisive margin when Boquida got crossed up through Spoon, giving Tan the breathing room he needed to secure both the win, and the championship.
Boquida was still a clear second, ahead of Sota Muto after he pressured Rachmat into a mistake to pass the Honda. That started a sad slump down the order for Rachmat who was clearly struggling with understeer and eventually suffered a costly spin.
Naquib Azlan was fourth ahead of Stanley, who spent the first half of the race with his mirrors full of Andika Rama Maulana’s AMG and failed to make anywhere near the progress he needed to worry Tan. Maulana finished right behind the BMW in sixth.
The biggest title tension came in the Silver class, where things stayed on a knife-edge until the closing stages.
Things were shaken up when Daffa Boediharjo snatched pole ahead of all the championship favourites and a no-show from second in the points KuiSheng Huang made it a three-way fight. Huang’s absence left Reyes leading by 10pts from Rialto Ristofani, but while Ristofani qualified third in class and within the top 11, Reyes struggled to 15th and fourth in the class order. With the pressure firmly on, Reyes worked his way up to 13th overall to put himself on the back of the leading Silver train, and this fight only intensified over the second half of the race as the leaders were bunched by the pit window.
Knowing fourth would still be enough to claim the title if Ristofani didn’t win, the pressure switched to Ristofani and things came to a head when he made contact with Kobe Chan’s Pro class BMW exiting the hairpin as he attempted to chase down class leader Boediharjo. Ristofani was hit with a time penalty for the move, sealing the championship for Reyes.
Boediharjo took a well-deserved class win – and in doing so made it five different winners from five races this season – with Reyes being elevated to second after getting the better of Shuning Gong’s Audi and Ristofani’s penalty setting him back to fourth at the flag.
Two-time Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Asia Sprint Series champion Dillan Tan said: “I’m really happy. And I’ve been really happy with the performance from myself this entire year. At the start of this race I found the right line at the start to get into the lead and that just kinda saved my entire race. I’m not really sure how things all came together so well this year, but they did.”
Silver champion Russel Reyes said: “I’m so hyped up to get the championship in my first year. It’s been a big fight all season in Silver. I had some trouble with my pace at the start of the year, especially in qualifying, which I had again today, but things came together for me in the race it feels great.”
The Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Asia Sprint Series will return in 2024.