Marta Garcia and Tatiana Calderon enter the All-Star GT by Circuitcat charity esport event
Top female racers Marta Garcia and Tatiana Calderon joined the All-Star Gran Turismo simracing event in support of the Spanish Red Cross, in a star-studded grid led by Carlos Sainz. Garcia was a brilliant ninth in an action-packed final race, also claiming the fastest lap.
He is the man of the moment, the new Formula 1 superstar that just crowned a childhood dream. Carlos Sainz, the new idol of the many Scuderia Ferrari fans worldwide, was among the promoters of a virtual race in support of the Spanish Red Cross: the Gran Turismo All Star by Circuitcat was contested on Friday 29th May on the popular PS4 platform and featured some of the most important Spanish racing drivers: alongside Sainz, the former F1 driver Roberto Mehri, GP2 racers Dani Clos and Andy Soucek, GT specialist Antonio Garcia, Roldan Rodriguez, Albert Costa, Lucas Ordonez and rally Dakar driver Nani Roma, as well as MotoGP rider Alex Rins. Among them, two high-profile female names: W Series race winner Marta Garcia and Super Formula racer Tatiana Calderon.
“I am happy to accept the challenge launched by Carlos Sainz! If there is something sure it is that we are all going to have fun!" - said Marta before the event. "Wait until you see the complete grid for this charity race for the Red Cross! In addition to my daily routine to prepare for the 2020 season in the W Series and the Formula Renault Eurocup, competing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is always a joy! And if I am sure of one thing, it is that eSports are here to stay.”
The 19-year old lady from Dénia, Spain, in fact also announced that she will combine her W Series campaign - when it will go underway - with the Formula Renault Eurocup championship, after having entered the only collective pre-season test in Barcelona right before the lockdown.
Tatiana Calderon also joined the grid of the Gran Turismo special event before confirming her presence in the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, where she will compete with her real ELMS teammates in the all-female crew of Katherine Legge, Sophia Floersch and Australian simracer Emily Jones.
The 15 invited drivers were then divided into two groups and raced against each other in the two separate heats featuring a 5-minutes qualifying session and 10 laps races. Top 4 finishers went straight to the final, while a last-chance qualifier race was held for the remaining drivers. A simple format that provided plenty of action and entertainment throughout the field, with both heats being closely fought and with an amazingly level-playing field.
In the first heat, professional simracer José Manuel Brea took pole position in the Nissan GT3 challenger, followed by Carlos Sainz. Marta Garcia was sixth after her qualifying effort and slotted in the third row. As the lights went out, Sainz sprinted into the lead, with Roldan Rodriguez also moving ahead of the poleman. Marta Garcia had a slow start off the line and found herself in a side-by-side battle with Antonio Garcia that continued almost throughout the race. After regaining sixth place, Marta battled with Dani Clos and Manuel Rodriguez, both exchanging some contacts during the frantic and action-filled initial phases.
On the fifth lap, Brea regained the lead of the race, while behind the top-three gaps remained minimal and the fight for fourth was wide open. Marta Garcia switched positions with Clos, before being sent into a spin at turn 1 and dropped to seventh. The battles between Clos and Roldan Rodriguez allowed her to catch back the pack, after a series of impressive fastest laps. The young lady passed Antonio Garcia into turn 5, but she made contact again with Dani Clos as the former GP2 racer lost control of his car at the chicane and forced Marta to cut the corner. After another charge, Marta moved up to fifth on the penultimate lap.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz had retaken the lead on lap 8 and held on to win in style the first heat, leading Brea and Manuel Rodriguez under the chequered flag. Marta Garcia ultimately finished P6 after a very aggressive drive in her beautiful black, white and pink Mercedes AMG GT3.
Tatiana Calderon went up against drivers of the likes of Alex Rins, Lucas Ordonez, Albert Costa, Roberto Mehri and Andy Soucek in the second heat, driving an all-red Alfa Romeo 4C. The Colombian driver immediately brought herself up to provisional pole with the first flying lap, but was then topped in the closing minutes by professional simracer and Williams Esport driver Coque López, Albert Costa and Ordonez.
It was a great start from Costa and Ordonez, who both overtook López before Montmelo's turn one, with Calderon dropping from fourth to eighth. Unlike the first race, the second heat saw two different groups shaping up: the leading trio opened a safe gap over the rest of the pack, while Tatiana Calderon made it back to sixth on the fourth lap. The 27-year old from Bogotà then went too deep into La Caixa as she was battling with Mehri, losing again a position to motorbike racer Alex Rins.
With again the midfield providing quality racing, Ordonez dropped to third and Coque López passed Albert Costa after a series of exciting switch-backs for the lead of the race.
Again into the mix, Calderon went deep into the gravel trap of turn five, losing two places but quickly caught up with her competitors. One lap later, she completed a stunning double pass at La Caixa.
After the 10 laps, López took the victory from Costa and Ordonez. Fourth went to Soucek on-track, but was then assigned to Mehri after a penalty. Calderon, steadily in sixth until the last corner, crossed the line in eighth after a late off-track.
LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER
Antonio Garcia led the field into turn one of the "Last Chance Qualifier" race, followed by Soucek and Clos. Marta Garcia dropped from fourth to seventh, while Calderon moved up to fifth after a great start off the line, but was down to last place after a first lap mistake.
Andy Soucek quickly gained the lead, but was then passed by Clos after a drag race on the main straight of the second lap.
Marta Garcia recovered to fourth with some more aggressive moves, as Calderon was involved in a domino-effect incident with Nani Roma and Alex Rins, but emerged on top of these battles and quickly closed in on the other lady in the field.
The Colombian passed Garcia under braking at turn 1, but the Valencian switched back at the following corner. Their battle costed the girls two positions, but they charged back to regain the lost time and advanced to third and fourth respectively.
Andy Soucek took the lead of the race on the fifth lap, while Marta Garcia swapped position with the Alfa Romeo driver for third.
In the final stages, Dani Clos was able to beat Soucek for victory, with Marta Garcia claiming third and advancing into the final. Calderon was fifth and unfortunately out of the grand finale.
It was the perfect start for the W Series race winner, as she immediately brought herself up to P1 after the first corner, closely followed by Dani Clos, Roldan Rodriguez and Antonio Garcia. Marta completed the first lap into the lead, but was passed on the main straight by Clos. With Carlos Sainz quickly charging through the field from the back, the McLaren F1 driver claimed third from Marta Garcia, who lost momentum and dropped to P6.
More hectic action relegated the Spanish lady to ninth on lap 4, just as Roldan Rodriguez surprised Clos with a move for the lead.
Lucas Ordonez, author of a spin on the opening lap, was the first to pit for the compulsory pitstop, with the rest of the field following a couple of laps later. Coque López emerged on top and stripped Clos of first place with a heavy braking at La Caixa before pitting, which left Brea into the advantaged position.
While a huge battle unfolded for the top positions, Marta Garcia pitted for fuel on lap 8, but was then back for new tyres one lap later.
Recovering from the back of the pack, Marta signed the fastest lap of the race in 1:38.047 and caught the group back: she charged through the backrunners and was into P8 with two laps to go.
Despite the constant position changes, the final was surprisingly a clean race - which made the All-Star GT by Circuitcat a really enjoyable simracing event.
Behind the two simracers, Carlos Sainz emerged into third, closing in on the leading pair. Despite a late attempt at La Caixa, Sainz was unable to finish higher than third, as Coque López was crowned champion ahead of José Manuel Brea.
Marta Garcia finished ninth at the chequered flag, after a throughly impressive second ever simracing competition.
“Yesterday's race was fun and hard fought!" - commented Marta. "It was a pleasure to share track with drivers as talented as those who raced yesterday, and especially with Carlos Sainz, whom I thank, along with PlayStation and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the invitation to enter this important challenge to raise funds for the Red Cross, in support of their work in the fight against the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic is causing.” - she added.
Garcia will now prepare for the upcoming opening round of the W Series Esports League, which will go underway on 11th June at the Autodromo di Monza. The Spanish driver is also set to enter the next round of the Formula Renault Esport Series, which made its first appearance simultaneously with the All-Star GT event on Friday.