HPD JAS Esports Academy Gears Up for GT World Challenge Esports Championships

  • North American and European HPD JAS Esports Academy Pro Team drivers announced after global qualification process
  • Season begins May 22 with three-hour endurance classic at Monza for European Union drivers and sprint event at Kyalami for North American racers
  • HPD expands its commitment to cultivating next generation of racing talent through new sim-racing academy

Honda Performance Development (HPD), the leader of Honda and Acura high-performance motorsports programs in North America, together with European-based JAS Motorsport will kick off the first race of the 2021 GT World Challenge Esports season this weekend with the newly-formed HPD JAS Esports Academy Pro Team. 

The selection process kicked off earlier this month with drivers from across the globe entering the HPD JAS Esports Academy qualifiers to showcase their speed, pace, and racecraft aboard the virtual Acura NSX GT3 Evo in Assetto Corsa Competizione. HPD narrowed down the candidates and conducted driver interviews to learn more about each driver’s racing strategy, experience, aptitude, and real-world and sim-racing aspirations in order to select team members for the 2021 HPD JAS Esports Academy program.

In North America, HPD and JAS Motorsport are excited to announce Zach Patterson, Josh Staffin, and Cardin Lu as the team’s Academy drivers, led by HPD GT3 Academy graduate Karl Wittmer. Wittmer’s extensive real-world track time in the championship-winning NSX GT3 Evo through the 2020 HPD GT3 Driver Academy will bring integral experience to the North American team. Working closely with Patterson, Staffin, and Lu, Wittmer will provide individualized guidance and support to increase each driver’s performance and learning, in addition to serving as the fourth driver in Sprint competition. Patterson provides an analytical approach to his sim racing and finished first overall in the region’s qualifying race. Staffin offers extensive experience in the virtual NSX GT3 Evo and valuable knowledge about ACC with his time spent as a Champion Motorsport admin. Lu joins as the youngest team member with excellent speed and pace that compliments the team’s seasoned members. 

“It’s a great honor to represent HPD in the virtual world once again. HPD has played a monumental role in my development over the years and I’m looking forward to sharing my real world knowledge with our newly formed e-sports team,” says Karl Wittmer, Team Leadre, HPD JAS Esports Academy Pro Team. “I truly believe in the drivers we have selected together and I’m excited to see our progression and performance as the season kicks off.”

The HPD JAS Pro America team will compete in all Sprint rounds, and pair up for Endurance events with HPD GT3 Academy drivers when needed. Their first challenge will be a one-hour sprint race at Kyalami this Saturday, May 22nd at 4pm EDT, where the real world NSX GT3 Evo has shown to be a contender. 

In Europe, two drivers have been selected to compete in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance series. Nicolas Hillebrand and Ben Creanor will team up with JAS Motorsport Driver Development team members throughout the season. Hillebrand, an economics student hailing from Germany, exhibited both speed and poise under pressure in the qualifications process. He’ll be joined by Euro Nascar’s youngest driver, Ben Creanor from the UK. Creanor brings both real-world and sim racing experience, proving to be an ideal candidate for the program. Hillebrand and Creanor will also be joined by JAS development drivers for future Endurance races.

The HPD JAS Pro Europe team also kicks off this Saturday, May 22nd at 17:00 CEST with a three-hour endurance race at the Temple of Speed known as Monza. A two-car effort will see Hillebrand and Creanor team up in the #XX car, with American teammates Karl Wittmer and Josh Staffin joining the race in the sister #XX car. 

HPD JAS Asia team members will be announced in the coming weeks, as the Asia-Pacific Endurance season kicks off in July.  

Tune-in to all the GT World Challenge Esports action at YouTube.com/GTWorld or on Facebook at @gtworldchallengeeurope and @gtworldchallengeamerica.

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About Honda Performance Development:
Honda Performance Development, Inc., (HPD) has a rich heritage creating, manufacturing, and supporting Honda Racing and Acura Motorsports customers since 1993.  From pinnacle racing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and IMSA Sports Cars to commercial racing programs, HPD powers the dreams of professional and amateur racers from age 4 to 40+. HPD is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and leads all of Honda and Acura’s high-performance racing programs in North America.  HPD specializes in the design and development of powertrain, chassis, electronics, and performance parts, as well as technical and race support. HPD offers parts and race support to Honda and Acura amateur and professional motorsport racers, and is continually expanding its palette of racing programs that make Honda racing products available to all racing styles, from karting and Quarter Midgets to the highest levels of pro racing.

For more information about HPD and the company's racing product lines, please visit: http://hpd.honda.com.

About Honda and Esports:
Honda has a significant presence in gaming and esports and is the exclusive automotive partner and official automaker of Team Liquid and the Riot Games League of Legends Championship Series. In addition, Honda’s Head2Head gaming channel is now in its third season on Twitch. Through Honda’s gaming partnerships, the brand aims to grab the attention of the youthful audience behind the explosive growth of esports. These deeply enthusiastic fans share a similar passion for Honda, as Honda is a top brand with first-time buyers and Millennial, Gen Z and multicultural consumers1. Honda Performance Development joining forces with European-based JAS Motorsport not only expands its commitment to racing talent through sim racing, but also one-ups Honda’s marketing commitment in the gaming space.

1. Source: Strategic Vision

About JAS Motorsport:
Founded in 1995, JAS Motorsport is one of the world's leading touring car teams and constructors. Initially fielding Alfa Romeos in the ITC, JAS became a technical partner of Honda in 1998 and has been at the forefront of its activities with touring cars, rallying and, more recently, GT racing. In 2012, JAS was chosen to develop, in partnership with Honda R&D, the Civic WTCC with which it claimed the Manufacturers' world title a year later. JAS designed and built the Civic Type R TCR, which has claimed 38 major titles so far (23 with the current model), and is also responsible for the build of the NSX GT3 Evo race car; itself a winner of 15 championship crowns.

About SRO Motorsports Group – The global leader in GT racing
With nearly three decades’ experience at the forefront of a continuously evolving industry, SRO Motorsports Group is the established global leader in GT racing. A busy 2021 season will see events staged under the SRO banner on five continents, highlighted by the prestigious Total 24 Hours of Spa. 

The company's expanding portfolio of series includes Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS categories in America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Each retains its unique identity, while also allowing competing brands to dispute a global manufacturers’ title through their continental representatives. What’s more, a groundbreaking new initiative for 2021 will see virtual racing come together with the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup, where a series of e-sports contests will count towards the real championship.

Staged since 2016, the flagship Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli sees world-leading manufacturers compete through their local teams at marquee events across the globe. Considerable emphasis is placed on amateur competitors, too, with the GT Sports Club concept combining a relaxed environment with highly professional standards for drivers using GT2 and GT3 machinery.

SRO also works with the FIA to organise and promote the FIA Motorsport Games, a multi-disciplinary event in which drivers compete in the colours of their national flag. A range of international and domestic series catering for GT2, GT3, GT4 and touring car machinery also form part of an extensive on-track programme, while the burgeoning sim racing scene has taken on considerable importance through the SRO E-Sport GT Series. 

In addition to promotion and organisation, the company operates the SRO Race Centre by MMC service facility at Circuit Paul Ricard, and provides the ultimate driving opportunities at world-renowned venues through Curbstone Track Events. Combining a passion for performance with industry-leading experience, SRO continues to play a key role in shaping the future of global GT racing.