The live finals of the Gran Turismo 7 Porsche Esports Challenge were held last weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as part of Porsche’s 2022 Sports Car Together Fest, a three-day celebration of the German automaker at one of the most famous racing circuits in the world.
It was the first live, competitive Gran Turismo event open to the public since the GT World Tour visited Sydney, Australia, in February of 2020, and — perhaps most notably — featured the largest cash prize of any competition officially affiliated with Polyphony Digital. As expected, it brought out the top Gran Turismo drivers in the United States and many familiar faces from the World Series.
After the first round of live semi-finals on Friday, eight finalists remained to compete in the finals on Saturday:
- Dean Warner Heldt
- Andrew McCabe
- Randall Haywood
- Robert Heck
- Kevan Pounder
- Daniel Solis
- Anna Giro
- Michael Avansino
Points earned in the semi-finals carried over into the finals, so Andrew McCabe started off Saturday with a two-point lead over his closest competitors, Randall Haywood and Dean Warner Heldt, both of whom where tied with 30 points.
Heldt took a commanding lead in the first race at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, with McCabe and Haywood finishing fourth and sixth, respectively. Haywood fought back in Race 2, driving from pole position to a victory of his own, with McCabe in second and Heldt in third.
This set the stage for a three-way battle for the $15,000 USD cash prize heading into the final race at Circuit de la Sarthe, with Heldt, McCabe, and Randall separated by just three points.
To make things even more interesting, none of the three drivers qualified particularly well, with McCabe starting in the second row, followed by Haywood and Heldt. Although the event was not officially recorded or streamed, if you want to see how it all played out, you can watch a poorly filmed replay of the final race below.
Haywood muscled his way past McCabe at the start, leading the three championship contenders in fourth place. Meanwhile, Robert Heck pulled away at the front, having established a four-second gap over second-place Kevan Pounder.
As it came time to make their mandatory pit stops, however, Heck’s strategy became more apparent as he coasted into the pit lane on fumes. Heck’s lengthy refueling stop allowed Haywood to leapfrog him and the rest of the pack, emerging from the pits to take provisional lead of the race. He also opted to stay on the same set of tires.
Heck put up a fight to the very end — challenging Haywood all the way to the final chicane — but it wasn’t enough to keep Haywood from taking the race win and the championship.
“I kind of gambled in a way, but it worked out,” said Haywood, 21, of Chicago. “My favorite brand is Porsche, so it’s more exciting for me that I won in front of my favorite manufacturer.” Second place went to McCabe, 25, of Potomac, Maryland. Twenty-year old Heldt, of Las Vegas, rounded out the top three.
For the win, Haywood earned $15,000 USD in cash, the largest of its kind in the history of Gran Turismo competitions. The runner-up, McCabe, won a $10,000 cash prize. Heldt, the final podium finisher, brought home $5,000. Along with a cash prize, each winner received a trophy and a watch courtesy of Porsche Design.
Congratulations to Randall and the rest of the podium finishers!