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Gregg in virtual seventh heaven

Friday, July 03, 2020

WITH the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down motorsports worldwide, virtual or sim racing has shifted into high gear.

Last Saturday saw the inaugural Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Sprint Trophy Latin America race. The virtual competition used the Sony PlayStation 4 game Gran Turismo and saw 14 drivers take to the digital version of the Circuit de la Sarthe in France, home of the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans, using the Porsche 911 RSR. Broadcast live on the Internet, competitors raced for 12 laps around the 13.626-kilometre course, having to do pit stops for fuel and tyres.

Jamaica's representative was top driver Kyle Gregg, who was representing ATL Motorsports— the arm of ATL Automotive Group responsible for the Porsche brand.

“It was an awesome experience. Thanks to ATL and Porsche for giving me the opportunity to race for them. Never in my life have I raced for an hour. Concentrating for that long was hard as it was mentally demanding,” Gregg told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.

Gregg got to as high as second place during the qualifying sessions, but in the closing moments dropped to eighth, where he started the main race. Once up and running, he finished seventh and was third amongst the real race drivers in the competition. The race was won by professional sim racer Alonso Regalado Carabelli.

“This was my first time driving the Gran Turismo platform and the Porsche RSR. It's very different to what I'm used to. It took me a while to get fast. The car was very demanding to drive. Hopefully, one day I can drive an actual one to compare the feeling. I know the Radical in the iRacing platform is very similar,” he said.

Christina Taylor, group marketing manager — ATL Automotive, said she was elated at her company's involvement in the inaugural virtual race.

“We're absolutely pleased and impressed at the level of professionalism by our regional Porsche Latin America team on the concept of the first virtual race for the Latin America & Caribbean region, acquiring sponsorship by iconic TAG Heuer which goes well with our iconic brand, and the execution and sportsmanship of the racers. We were all very close in the last few days before the race, reaching out, talking daily and racing against each other, offering tips and suggestions before race day. It was an honour to be amongst the region's top racers as it was a mix of both virtual and track racers,” she said.

“As the authorised Porsche dealer for Jamaica, we were invited along with other dealers for Latin America and the Caribbean. Along with Trinidad, we are proud to have represented the Caribbean as we were the only English-speaking countries with racers... As Jamaica's leading automotive company, while we're not actively involved in motorsport, we do keep our ear on the ground and it's hard to miss Kyle Gregg, he's a local motorsport favourite with multiple championships under his belt. He's always been a part of our ATL Automotive family and in a way an extension as he's a huge Audi fan and customer. When this event was being conceptualised, he was becoming more active in sim racing with his FANATEC equipment and set-up. It was a natural fusion,” she continued.

Taylor said the feedback has been phenomenal and the event allowed motorsports enthusiasts across the region to unite towards an honourable purpose of raising funds for charity while sharing the love of Gran Turismo.

The Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Sprint Trophy Latin America had US$9,000 up for grabs spread across the top three finishers. The money will be donated to the 'Empathy Pact', an initiative led by the non-profit organisation, TECHO, that seeks to raise funds to help families affected by the coronavirus in Latin America and the Caribbean. TECHO also put three watches, worth US$7,550 provided by series sponsor TAG Heuer, up for auction with the proceeds for the charity as well.

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