Luigi Di Lorenzo fought off Bentley’s Jordan Pepper to secure victory in the final round of the SRO E-Sport GT Series at Kyalami for Aston Martin while Louis Delétraz secured the championship with a controlled run to third-place.
It was the GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3.R driver who started on pole after a hard-fought qualifying session at the South African circuit which was chosen after a fan vote. He started out with a strong opening lap, but the Porsche didn’t seem to switch its tyres on as quick as its rivals.
That meant Delétraz was first mugged by Di Lorenzo – who started second – and then Pepper to be relegated to third. It was almost fourth but slight contact with Angus Fender’s McLaren sent the 2 Seas Motorsport driver spinning in what Delétraz believed was a netcode issue between the pair – supported by the fact that he wasn’t given a penalty by race control.
From there, the Swiss racer decided to bank the points rather than try to reclaim the places ahead of him resulting in a quiet hour for him with the lead pair powering into the distance and no rivals behind able to really close in. Nearest championship rival Ben Barnicoat did make an effort to overhaul the Formula 2 racer, as he sliced his way through the pack to move from his starting position of 16th to 4th.
Barnicoat, in the second 2 Seas Motorsport McLaren 720S, closed to within half-a-second of Delétraz on the final lap but couldn’t find a way to get past the Porsche and took the chequered flag in fourth.
After the race, Delétraz told the official stream: “I’m super happy, it was a difficult race – I knew we had the speed but the race pace was tough with the 25kg of success ballast. I definitely was a bit worried [after slight contact with Angus Fender in the second lap] on my screen I didn’t really hit him so it must have been in the game, I know he had connection issues during the week.
“I just did it as a normal race and pushed as much as I can, I was happy with my pole but again I knew I wouldn’t have the race pace. I just did my race and see where I ended up – I did get big pressure from Ben at the end.”
As the title was decided behind, the battle for the race win was heating up in front. Having stretched his legs early in the race, Di Lorenzo quickly found his mirrors filled by Pepper’s K-PAX Racing by SIRIO eSports Bentley Continental GT3 as the latter appeared to be lighter on its Pirelli tyres.
Lap after lap, Pepper closed the gap on the Italian and with 20 minutes remaining the South African tried to make a move up the inside of Di Lorenzo at The Crocodiles but the Aston driver gave no room and the pair touched, spinning Pepper and dropping him five seconds off the lead.
The Bentley driver tried to close the gap back in with the time remaining, and entered the final lap just 0.6sec behind. However, the Kyalami circuit isn’t the easiest for overtaking and Di Lorenzo kept his nerve to cross the line first and take his – and Aston Martin’s – first win in the series.
Fifth went to Michael O’Brien in a rather lonely race for the British GT regular having a sizeable deficit to Barnicoat ahead and a comfortable margin over the cars behind.
That’s because Team Parker Racing’s Scott Malvern was busy defending his sixth place from Ben Tusting in the Balfe Motorsport McLaren. With less than ten-minutes to go it appeared Tusting was ahead of Malvern’s Bentley having got up the inside at Crowthorne, but Malvern kept his speed around the outside and maintained his position all the way to the flag.
Eighth went to Teo Martin Motorsport’s Fabrizio Crestani who lost pace late in the race having previously been fighting Malvern and Tusting. David Fumanelli was the best of the Ferraris in ninth with Lorenzo Marcucci rounding out the top ten thanks to a late time penalty for Alex Buncombe, who was penalised from ninth for spinning Ivan Pareras in their door-to-door battle on the penultimate lap.