Four drivers came into the final round of the 2022 Mobileye GT World Challenge Europe Esports with a shot at the title. Two of these four, Tobias Gronewald and David Tonizza, had an outside chance of claiming the crown, lying 16 and 18 points off the lead respectively.
Between Dáire McCormack and James Baldwin, however, it was too close to call. McCormack had a slender five-point lead over the Englishman heading into the final round – despite a no-score in Hungary. But with rain forecast for the entire 60-minute sprint around Italy’s ‘Temple of Speed’, the championship was in for an enthralling conclusion.
It was first blood to Gronewald in qualifying, as the German piloted his Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team UOL car to second on the grid, less than a tenth of a second behind the similar Mkers Mercedes example of Kevin Siclari.
Of the other championship protagonists, Baldwin secured an excellent fourth place, a full four tenths ahead of his nearest McLaren stablemate. Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team’s Tonizza was 11th overall in his home race, while McCormack endured a tough session, ending up 16th on the grid in his Munster Rugby Gaming Bentley Continental GT3.
In the Silver class, young Englishman Robbie Stapleford took pole position and seventh overall, two positions ahead of the leading Pro class BMW M4 GT3 of Nils Naujoks. However, Silver class champion-elect Dominik Blajer could only muster 17th on the combined grid. The Pole – like McCormack – was struggling with the Bentley’s lack of pace at Monza.
As the field descended into the Variante del Rettifilo on lap one, Gronewald made a move around the outside of Siclari, the pair making slight side-by-side contact in the process. On corner exit, Siclari was moved slightly into the gravel run-off area, allowing Baldwin to streak past and into second place behind Gronewald.
Siclari dropped to seventh by the Variante della Roggia, while Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team HRT’s Dennis Schöniger jumped Baldwin and moved up two positions into second. Automobili Lamborghini Esports Team’s Jordan Sherratt was the biggest mover in the top ten, having climbed five positions into third after deposing a conservative Baldwin on lap two.
Further back, the racing was chaotic to say the least. McCormack had dropped well outside the top 20 and Tonizza found himself in the thick of the battle between Siclari and Stapleford, which unfortunately ended in Stapleford being harpooned by Siclari on the approach to the Ascari chicane.
Siclari was later hit with a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident. Round 5 had promised so much for Siclari but it was all for naught after just a few laps. Tonizza had also incurred the wrath of the stewards, picking up a five-second time penalty for minor contact. He would serve this during his pit stop, coming as a huge blow to his title ambitions.
At the halfway stage, the order of the top four was unchanged. Gronewald led from Schöniger, followed by Sherratt and Baldwin. If the race finished in this order Gronewald and Baldwin would be separated by just two points, with Baldwin just edging it.
The pit stop phase would prove to be pivotal to the course of the race and championship. Sherratt, Gronewald and Schöniger had made their stops and emerged nose-to-tail. Baldwin exited pitlane just behind the battling trio, who all missed their braking points into Turn 1, thereby cutting the chicane.
Unfortunately for Gronewald, this was his fourth track cut warning. He was hit with a drive-through penalty, and his hopes of the title were dashed. This left Schöniger out front with Sherratt in close company. Baldwin held a watching brief in third, knowing that if he stayed out of trouble he would be champion again.
McCormack put up a brave fight, battling his way through the pack and into 15th at the chequered flag, but it was not enough on this occasion. The young Irishman won two rounds this season and will surely be a championship contender well into the future judging by this year’s consummate displays.
Likewise, Tonizza and Gronewald showed great pace and consistency throughout the campaign but were undone by low scores in the final two rounds. Gronewald was especially unlucky to pick up his drive-through penalty while still very much in championship contention.
At the front, however, Schöniger held off the attacks of Sherratt to take his first win of the season, with Baldwin mightily relieved to finish third just ahead of BMW Team BS+COMPETITION’s Naujoks.
In the Silver class, once again Blajer took the race win in what has been an utterly dominant season for the TRITON Racing driver. Although BMW G2 Esports’ Robbie Stapleford was able to match his pace this season, Blajer consistently delivered results.
The pair was undoubtedly the class of the field in Silver, so should prove to be competitive in the Pro division next season. Kieran Prendergast rounded out the Silver championship podium for Rocket Simsport, having run as an independent entry in the first three rounds.
This year in Assetto Corsa Competizione, James Baldwin has won the Alpine Esports Series, a round of the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series at Spa and is now a two-time Mobileye GT World Challenge Europe Esports champion too.
His consistency – scoring points in every round – married to his innate pace allowed the Veloce driver to stay in title contention even after a tricky opening race at Misano. The question is, can he make it three-in-a-row next year?
With the competitiveness and professionalism of SRO’s esports championships increasing every year, the challenge will be greater than ever before.
ROUND 5 – MONZA – RACE RESULTS – PRO CLASS
- Dennis Schoeniger Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team HRT
- Jordan Sherratt Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo Automobili Lamborghini Esports Team
- James Baldwin McLaren 720S GT3 Veloce
- Nils Naujoks BMW M4 GT3 BMW Team BS+COMPETITION
- Mike Nobel Honda NSX Evo HPD JAS Pro Europe
ROUND 5 – MONZA – RACE RESULTS – SILVER CLASS
- Dominik Blajer Bentley Continental GT3 2018 TRITON Racing
- Marcello Bonaccorsi Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo VSR by Ballas eSport
- Robbie Stapleford BMW M4 GT3 BMW G2 Esports
- Fabien Piffet Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Team Fordzilla
- Marco Jonkers McLaren 720S GT3 MJKartracing
2022 MOBILEYE GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS – PRO
- James Baldwin McLaren 720S GT3 Veloce, 113 points
- Daire McCormack Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Munster Rugby Gaming, 98 points
- David Tonizza Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team, 90 points
- Tobias Gronewald Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team UOL, 81 points
- Jordan Sherratt Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo Automobili Lamborghini Esports Team, 75 points
2022 MOBILEYE GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS – SILVER
- Dominik Blajer Bentley Continental GT3 2018 TRITON Racing,168 points
- Robbie Stapleford BMW M4 GT3 BMW G2 Esports, 134 points
- Kieran Prendergast Honda NSX Evo Rocket Simsport, 78 points
- Egor Ogorodnikov Bentley Continental GT3 2018 VDES Academy, 61 points
- Fabien Piffet Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Team Fordzilla, 77 points