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Written by Jon Rosario

A new track, on new tyres, with a new BOP, awaited us for the season opener of the official OTL XBOX ACC GT3 Championship. Donnington, the track of choice, saw many in the field on home soil for the start of their championship bids, a stage which for some, proved to be too much.

As the lights turned from red to green in the pit lane, everything became real for the very first time – welcome to Qualifying. In the first timed session of the weekend, expectations were high for the esteemed OTL talent, and boy did the veterans put on a show. A cagey affair as the track rubbered up, Qualifying saw a standout performance from the lot, with thirteen cars in the pace range (within two seconds of pole position), and GoldenTornado, still a Pro-Am rated driver, taking his #69 McLaren all the way up to eleventh place on the grid!

Ahead of him, the sharp end of the field lied in fine form – RednOrange, UkSimracer, Weed, JSA, and Bxndj taking tenth to sixth (respectively). The top five, featuring GotskGK, Gobble, Khaos, and Syme, couldn’t touch Beige, who as our polesitter smashed the competition with 1:26.997, a laptime that eclipsed his next nearest competitor, Gotsk by a full four tenths! Absolutely dialed in, his Ferrari 488 was singing around the 2.487-mile circuit, the lap so too, making him the new record holder.

“Full attack for the entire race flat out all the way to the end.”

KhaosTheory

The stage set for the race, everyone was ready for the championship start. As the clock hit zero, revvs climbed as the precession took off, Beige leading the train into the first corner, a tight right hander. Scrambling for position, the first corner saw everyone play clean, the lot pulling through and no damage occurring. As the race went on, however, it quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t be long before championship ambition overtook reason. By lap two, the pressure was ramping up through the first sector, a couple blocked off moves in the midfield and front packs having bluffs called as the group rounded the hill.

Down the long straight, the slipstream invited a couple more peeks as drivers sized up moves coming into sector three. One of these, Khaos, saw his moment coming into the final hairpin corner after a good exit out the previous corner. Diving up the inside, he, Gobble, and Gotsk (running 3rd, 4th, and 5th at the time) collided, sending the Mercedes driver tumbling down the order into 12th, and the Porsche driver down to 6th after a great start by the duo! Khaos, acknowledging his mistake, showed some great sportsmanship, giving the place back to Gotsk, throwing him back to 6th place in his bid for a recovery.

At the front then, Beige had escaped the carnage by way of some blistering pace in the opening portion of the race, and because of some great avoidance driving, behind him, up from seventh, was JSA in his #25 Porsche. The race now shaken up, it was up to these two to make something of their good fortunes, and boy did they do so. Trading pace like two boxers in a heavyweight fight, JSA and Beige broke away from the pack slowly, the two keeping each other more and more honest as the race continued. Then, it all changed. In a bout of ‘bad luck’, Beige, pushing for all he’s worth, was caught out, and trying to make an overtake, made contact with a car a lap down. A cloud of dust, and an uproar from those watching later, the battered Ferrari was now in ninth place, seemingly any hope for a podium lost in carbon fibre confetti.

The race once again turned on its head, Round One immediately became a race of strategy – JSA’s to lose, but a gamble away from a missed opportunity. As the pit window opened, and others such as Khaos, Beige, and Gotsk now throwing caution to the wind in their efforts for a successful recovery drive, the question became whether or not to take a new set of tyres. While it was a huge risk, it was a gamble that, especially due to the race’s previous incidents, rightfully gave drivers a second thought about giving up track position for a tyre advantage. It was this reasoning that JSA took into his pitstop.

Opting for a no tyre stop, JSA and his pursuers came down pit lane one after the other, but as quickly as he stopped, he rifled right back out, his short fill enough to get him to the end on a fuel save. Now out, JSA took to a thirty-second lead, but as the rest of the field went through their motions, tensions were high as all eyes were glued to the timesheets. Smashing JSA’s Porsche was the chasing pack, including Beige, Khaos, and Syme. Slashing the gap, Beige’s tyre advantage was palpable, but it wasn’t enough to get him onto the Brit’s gearbox.

In the end, JSA, much to the dismay of Gotsk and his wallet, sped across the line to become this season’s maiden winner, after what was a masterful drive. Behind him, coming to the line was Beige second, and Syme third after an enthralling battle all the way to the line with Khaos (who finished fourth). Fifth would see Gotsk coming home ahead of Gobble in sixth, those two ending the class above this week as Calum heads the midfield in seventh, finishing over 20 seconds back.

The best is yet to come, stay tuned for the next round of the championship from Laguna Seca!