Philippa Boquida put in a consummate performance to take a stunning first win in the opening round of the Mobileye GT World Challenge Asia series, the R8G driver ultimately winning by over four seconds at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Boquida, entered in the Silver class driving a Porsche 911 GT3, saw off a number of Pro drivers to claim overall honours.
Ar Mumhhamad Aleef (SEM9 Flash Axle) made use of undercut momentum at the pitstops to get past fellow Pro class driver Dillan Tan (Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team LoR) for second place, only to be handed a penalty for cutting the pitlane entry. This meant the Mercedes of Tan finished second with the Fadhli Rachmat’s Tarmac Works Bentley Continental third.
Boquida had taken pole for championship’s opening round, the Australian admitting after the race that her car was set up for cornering speed, meaning she had to survive the chase down to the first turn at the start.
She almost didn’t make it – after getting a poor start, the Australian had to go three-wide with Tan and Rachmat into the first corner in a spirited attempt to preserve the lead.
The latter bailed out into the runoff, but Boquida and Tan went wheel to wheel through the opening corners, taking part in a thrilling duel.
This was eventually settled at Turn 5, Boquida weathering the storm and reclaiming first – by the end of lap one her margin was 0.5sec.
Further back, chaos ensued in the pack with several cars going into the gravel and barriers as the 44-car field tried to thread its way through the opening turns.
A front breakaway group of four cars began to separate itself from the pack – Boquida, Tan, Aleef and Andika Rama Maula (Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team LoR) were covered by 0.4sec as they ran nose to tail.
Further back, things weren’t so serene: KuiSheng Huang (LK Full Pace Racing) was turned around in the penultimate corner, his Mercedes-AMG GT3 being spun twice more as he tried to recover with the field streaming past.
The fighting in other parts of the midfield was no less intense: Zachary Smith’s Alpha Venturi Racing Aston Martin was snapping at the heels of Fickry Segeir (Gayatri Simracing), whilst at the same having to defend from Teryy Rayton’s Laundry House Audi R8.
As the pit window opened on 15 minutes, Boquida had pulled out a 1.1sec lead on Mercedes-AMG Esport’s Tan and SEM9 Flash Axle’s Aleef.
Eighth-placed Ferris Stanley elected to bring in his Gen-Z Racing 911 for an early stop, as did Jake Baldwin (Ferrari 488 Happy Laps) from 21st.
The battle remained full-on at the front, as Maulana looked for a way past his team-mate Aleef at Turn 1.
Much was made of the twelve BMW M4s entered into this race, and though they mainly populated the midfield, they were no less exciting for it: Daffa Nabiel (JMX Phantom) and Marco Wong (Z-Challenger) provided much entertainment with a competitive duel.
Race control had its hands full too: Sergey Mirenko (Audi R8 Laundry House) was handed a ten-second penalty for causing a collision at the start whilst Sean Maddison (Honda NSX HPD JAS Pro Asia) was given a drive-through for “failure to hold the brake”, as Presley Martono (JMX Phantom) also took a five-second penalty for causing an accident.
As the halfway make was passed, the battle for second continued to wear on: Tan was still clinging on for dear life ahead of Aleef, with Maulana and Moreno Pratama close behind.
It was the latter who cracked first and decided to pit, and there were other battles just as fierce deeper into the pack.
The swashbuckling Vattana Motorsport McLaren 720S of Thanathip Thalanapan was trying to take the Macau e-Motorsports Vantage of Oscar Lou at the final chicane, but this simply put the former back into the clutches of a six-car gaggle heading into the first turn.
Aleef came in just past 25 minutes, emerging in 11th, hoping to get the undercut on Tan. At first it appeared it hadn’t worked: Tan emerged from his pitstop just ahead, but looked vulnerable in the first corners of the lap on cool tyres, allowing Aleef to take advantage.
The SEM9 Ferrari driver saw his chance into Turn 5, dived down the inside made it stick. Boquida pitted shortly after, emerging with a six-second margin over Aleef, as six cars ahead were left to pit.
As the clock ticked down, Aleef managed to get the gap down to under four seconds, but it never really looked in doubt – Boquida sailed home to take an emphatic opening Mobileye GT World Challenge Asia Esports race win of 2022
The race stewards had their work cut out with the number of incidents throughout the race, with 58 noted in total. However, two of the most significant were given to Aleef: one for cutting the pit entry and another for causing a collision, dropping him from second to fourth, promoting Tan to second and Fadhli to third.
Organised by SRO Motorsports Group and Ak Esports in partnership with Mobileye, Fanatec, Kunos Simulazioni, Pirelli and The Sim Grid, the Mobileye GT World Challenge Asia Esports Championship utilises the unmatched simulation of Assetto Corsa Competizione. As the championship heads to Imola next, Tan leads the Pro points standings with 35 points, whilst Boquida has the same number in the Silver title race, leading Laundry House’s Andrew O’Hara on 29 and Wong on 25.