ESL Racing Series MAPFRE has made clear that the excitement is a given in the fourth qualifying race. The centennary Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Stock Car from NASCAR became an unprecedented challenge for the 18 teams, with strategy making a difference for Vodafone Giants and their driver, Pablo López, who scored the first Spanish win against all odds.
The race was mainly dominated by both GSR SimRacing drivers, David Greco & Giordano Valeriano, who made the most of their studied preparation, followed by their compatriot Michele D’Alessandro (Musto Racing). On Lap 4, the race went under caution for the first time when the gearbox of Víctor Lobato (MSi eSports) stuck in neutral in the frontstretch, with Fernando Álvarez (DRIVEX eSports) not being able to avoid him. After the restart, both Pablo López and Borja Millán (Team Huanaco) reached the top 10, having made up places in the double digits from their race starting position.
The incident that changed the race happened on Lap 13. After a bad qualifying mired him into an unusual situation in the second half of the grid, Risto Kappet (ACR Zakspeed) crashed with Carlos Quilez (S2V Racing) coming out of Turn 4, triggering a big accident on which José Berenguer (World of SimRacing), Nikodem Wisniewski (Williams eSports) and Álvarez were also involved. Pablo López and other drivers who were on the lead lap, all of them from 16th place downwards, took advantage and made their pit stop. Among them, Kuba Brzezinski (Williams), with Pablo just behind, Gianfranco Giglioli (ATR Team Brask), Cristian Lorente (Giants) and Marc Pérez (MSi),who was making his second pit stop, having incurred some damages in the Lobato incident.
With barely two laps of green flag racing, a crash between Dennis Jordan (Huanaco) and the lapped car of Kamil Pawlowski (ATR Team Brask) on Lap 20 brought a new caution, on which three top 10 drivers pitted: Joonas Raivio, Yuri Kasdorp (both from Veles SimSport) and Kevin Siggy Rebernak (Edge eSports), which got out in reverse order from when they entered, and behind those who pitted earlier. Then, a 15-lap green flag stint began on Lap 23, something that played against the leaders and Daniel Kiss (NetRex Grand Prix), which had opted to stay on track, and were dependant of a very interrupted race to make it to the end, like Millán, who passed Petar Brljak (NetRex) for fifth.
On Lap 28, Giglioli went out of contention after a crash with Raivio and, although the caution didn’t come out, the avoiding slow downs helped an unexpected guest: Fran López, ASM Motorsport’s rookie, who had stopped in the previous caution and won four positions in one sweep, adding to the three he had already got in previous laps. Once Lorente passed Pérez, Vodafone Giants started their pursuit against Brzezinski, while at the front of the race, Valeriano was losing multiple spots with tyre issues.
The leaders finally gave up between laps 35 y 36, getting out of pit lane significantly down the order, and it was during those laps when Pablo López culminated a long attack to pass Brzezinski for the lead. A lap later, while Lorente was also passing the Polish driver, the fifth caution came out when, trying to defend from Pérez after passing him, Muhammed Patel (Musto Racing) crashed by himself on Turn 4. Both had been surpassed by a stellar Fran López, already behind Kasdorp, who was reeling on the top 3 drivers.
With four laps to go, Pablo López pulled away at the restart while Lorente made a heavy defense from his three pursuers, but on the next lap, Millán spun the lapped car of Kappet, forcing a new Pace Car appearance. The race was decided on an Overtime finish on which Pablo López, with help from his teammate, crossed the finish line in first place without opposition.
Lorente ended up second, although his last restarts were under review for leaving too much space with the leading car, and Kasdorp got into the podium after a bold manoeuvre on Fran López and Brzezinski in the last lap. The Williams driver, hanging on worn tyres, would fell to sixth behind Raivio, while Marc Pérez completed his 23-position recovery to end up seventh, over Siggy Rebernak, Jim Parisis (Edge eSports) and Millán.
Having dominated the whole race, David Greco could barely save a 12th place finish, with Valeriano and D’Alessandro outside the top 20. The ideal example that, at ESL Racing Series MAPFRE, only excitement and competitiveness are guaranteed. With two races to go, the teams will have to put everything on the table for the second-to-last race, in the former aerodrome of Sebring, driving a LMP2 car from Oreca.