A tight, tactical battle has seen Williams claim the title in the first season of GTPlanet League, beating Team Redline in the final.
If you’re new to GTPlanet League, it’s a team-racing format featuring two teams of four drivers. Each position scores a point, with eight going to the winner and one to the driver in last, so every position and every overtake is vital to the team’s score. The matches feature two races, with a reverse grid for race two, and all drivers use the same cars and tires, with no tire wear or fuel consumption. A point for each fastest lap and one for the first race’s pole position ensures there can be no ties.
Each team had come through four matches to get to this point, with three in the round-robin stage to earn their knockout seedings, and then a semi-final last weekend. When the two met in the regular season, Redline took victory by just one point in some of the closest racing we’ve seen.
Sunday’s racing action also saw Lazarus and Thrustmaster fight it out to avoid the wooden spoon.
Third Place Playoff – Lazarus (1-3) v Thrustmaster (0-4)
Despite the stable four-man squad, including the top-ranked GTPlanet League driver Nico Rubilar (FT_NicoR), Thrustmaster hadn’t recorded a single match win across the season. It had managed plenty of race wins, but even with Rubilar claiming both wins in a single match back in week 2, never carried the whole match. When Thrustmaster met Lazarus in the round robin stage, Lazarus recorded its only win so far.
In the race at Suzuka, Thrustmaster immediately set about establishing that it wasn’t about to go down without a fight, and claimed all four spots on the front two rows of the grid in qualifying. The first lap proved costly as first Angel Inostroza (FT_Loyrot) and then Adriano Carrazza (UDI_Didico15) found themselves dropping to the back of the pack, however both recovered to finish ahead of Lewis Bentley (LZR_Lewis) who managed an accident of his own. Rubilar kept his head to take the race win, and give Thrustmaster a six-point lead heading into race two.
The first lap came to define race two. Matthew Thomas (LZR_Thomas) was able to jump the two Thrustmaster drivers off the line and slot in behind Bentley. After a battling first lap, Callum Moxon (LZR_Calster) joined them, getting his elbows out to pass Inostroza in the Casio Triangle. From there he was able to repeat his form from the Autopolis race the previous week, acting as a rear-gunner to allow his team mates to stretch out a lead at the front.
Thrustmaster reacted too slowly, only allowing Rubilar through to challenge Moxon with two laps remaining. Despite banging in another fastest lap — taking his season tally to four — Rubilar was only able to catch the young Brit but not pass him. That resulted in a Lazarus 1-2-3, giving the team the series third place, while Thrustmaster ended with five defeats from five.
- Lazarus (2-3) – 39
- Thrustmaster (0-5) – 36
Grand Final – Team Redline (4-0) v Williams (3-1)
Thus the action moved to Barcelona to find out who’d be our first champion, the undefeated Redline or — after the semi-final drubbing of Lazarus — the frightening Williams team.
Redline took first blood and the first point, with a pole position for Mikail Hizal (TRL_LIGHTNING) in the Super Formula car. However Patrik Blazsan (Williams_Fuvaros) got the better start, and swept up the inside of turn one. With judicious use of the Overtake feature in these cars — and the turbulent air behind them — Blazsan built an unassailable lead.
An unusual mistake from Valerio Gallo (JIM_BRacer26) saw him slip from third to fifth, while Andrew McCabe (TRL_Doodle) spun on the curbs at the final chicane to fall off the back of the pack. With Hizal and Manuel Rodriguez (TRL_MANURODRY) rounding out the podium — and a fastest lap for Hizal — that meant only a two-point deficit for Redline, and a front-row lockout for race two.
McCabe and Australian colleague Dan Holland (TRL_holl01) managed the opening stages well, but the race-defining incident occurred between Holland and Gallo on lap one. Braking at the end of the back straight, the two appeared to misjudge each other’s lines. Holland ended up off-track — just missing McCabe — and dropped to 7th.
With Williams now occupying 2nd to 5th places, the team showed its tactical nous to allow Blazsan up into second. That allowed him to move up towards the back of McCabe’s car. A stellar run through the final chicane on lap seven brought the Hungarian into slipstream range and — just as with Hizal in race one — he passed for the lead on the inside of turn one after deploying what seemed like all of his car’s Overtake facility.
Although Hizal banged in two fastest laps at the end, there was no fightback as Redline finished 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th. The title went to Williams, and by a large margin.
- Williams (4-1) – 43
- Team Redline (4-1) – 32
We would like to extend a special thank-you to all of the teams and drivers who competed in the first season of the GTPlanet League! Thank you, also, to the thousands of viewers who tuned in to watch each week. We have been overwhelmed and humbled by all the feedback we have received as experiment with this new form of racing competition.
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