Lee wins Gran Turismo Esports Challenge in thriller

Friday 15 December, 2023
Photo: Sector One Racing Team
Andrew Lee has won the inaugural Motorsport Australia Gran Turismo Esports Challenge after executing a solid strategy in the event’s grand finale.
More than 30 drivers participated in the three-stage Esports competition, consisting of five heats, a pre-final and qualifying session and the final race in which 14 drivers took part.
Having won his opening seven-lap heat at the famous Daytona Road Course, Lee advanced to the final qualifying session where he missed out on pole position by a slender two hundredths of a second. Gopi Mahindajit claimed pole by just four thousandths of a second over Heat 3 winner Paul Kandanoleon.
All three drivers played key roles in the grand finale, but it was Lee who managed to secure a five-second victory, despite only taking the lead on the last lap.
Starting the 21-lap final race at Spa Francorchamps in P3, Lee was one of two drivers on the medium compound tyres and had to exercise patience as Mahindajit led strongly in the first half of the race.

The race leader and fellow contender Ryan Tame were among the first drivers to stop, pitting on lap nine, which elevated Kandanoleon to the lead and Lee to second before both went into the pits the following lap.
The overcut strategy ended up paying off for Kandanoleon as he emerged ahead of Mahindajit and Tame, who were in a bttle of their own. Lee on the other hand took a risk and immediately pitted on the next lap to switch away from the mandatory hard tyres.
Emerging further down the order, Lee had the remainder of the race to gain positions and slowly worked his way forward, with the front three opting to switch to the mandatory hard tyres towards the end of the race - Mahindajit pitting at lap 18 and Tate on lap 19.
Both drivers were then easily picked off by the fast-charging Lee upon re-entry, and when the race leader, Kandanoleon, opted to make his stop on the penultimate lap of the race, Lee surged ahead and into the lead, building a five-second lead before crossing the chequered flag.

Kandanoleon secured second place, while Mahindajit completed the podium ahead of Heat 2 winner Matthew Simmons, who passed Tame in the latter stages of the race.
Heat 5 winner Guy Barbara finished sixth after a brilliant recovery drive despite being turned around on the opening lap. Ridwan Ibn Hamza and Matthew Allen secured P7 and P8 as a reward for their efforts after having to take an alternative route into the final through the pre-final qualification – an achievement they shared with the highly impressive Ryan Tame.
Completing the top 10 were Aydan Matthews and Liam Tame, with the latter claiming the Heat 4 win earlier in the competition.
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