Monterey, CA - After taking pole position, Bryan Heitkotter, driving the Nissan Nismo GTR GT3, returned to GT World Challenge America powered by AWS action to take the first round of GT Rivals Esports competition at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The former GT Academy winner and Pirelli World Challenge competitor showcased his in-game driving skills mastering Assetto Corsa Competizione competition in Round 1.
As the field took the green, Kenton Koch had a rough start falling back several positions into the Andretti hairpin. Leaving Turn 2, Koch's Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3 would get into the back of the BMW M6 GT3 of Karl Wittmer causing caos on the rest of the 34-car field behind them. The carnage took out many of the top contenders, allowing Heitkotter to open a large gap and remain uncontested during the 60-min feature race with a 25-second margin to P2, even with a last lap scare in traffic.
Coming in runner-up, Tomas Lastre, one of our five Sim Racers from Champion Motorsport drove his Bentley Continental GT3 to a strong second-place finish. After escaping the first lap maylay, he found his way past Tom O'Gorman and cruised to a comfortable second place finish. Lastre utilized his in-game experience and drove a smart race to finish as the top sim racer in the event.
The final podium spot changed often, but in the end it was Karl Wittmer driving his way back to a third place finish after being caught up in the first-lap mayham. Wittmer, who many of his competitors looked at as an early favorite, dropped nearly to the back of the field and fought his way tback to claim third in the closing laps. Dakota Dickerson, driving the lone Ferrari 488 GT3 in the field, finished in fourth and Kenton Koch with an awesome comeback drive came in the Top 5 after many self-inflected incidents. Following the first-lap incident, Koch endured two drive-thru penalties in the hour long race to make his way back in fifth.
Jacob Abel showed great promise. The young formula-car standout ran in the Top 5 for a majority of the race in his Acura NSX GT3 Evo. Falling just outside in sixth as the checkerd flag waived. Tom O'Gorman, who had a strong start faded mid-race and was held to the seventh position in the Acura NSX GT3 Evo. With sim racer JT Tami taking eighth in the Lexus RC F GT3, Nikko Reger finishing in ninth with the Porsche 991.2 GT3 R, and Daniel Morad rounding out the Top 10 in the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
With sports car stars throughout the field, we know each weekend will be a new battle as real world drivers acclimate themselves to sim racing. Assetto Corsa Competizione proves to be the leading sim racing platform for GT racing and truly represents GT World Challenge powered by AWS well our Official Game. Overall, an exciting race throughout the field and Misano can't come soon enough!
GT Rivals Esports Invitaitonal returns next Sunday at 3pm ET from Misano. The race will be streamed live across Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.