The penultimate round of the 2022 Mobileye GT World Challenge Europe Esports series saw a lap one pile-up shake up the championship battle.
Round four of the 2022 Mobileye GT World Challenge Europe Esports from the Nürburgring saw Irishman Dáire McCormack produce a mature drive to help secure his second win of the season, and with it, a commanding 18-point lead in the championship.
Second in the championship is Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team’s David Tonizza – runner-up in last season’s standing. His biggest rival – and defending champion – James Baldwin was beginning to lose touch, languishing 26 points off the lead.
But the tight confines of Budapest’s Hungaroring managed to shake up the championship order over 60 minutes of dramatic GT3 racing, and could well prove to be the pivotal moment in the 2022 series.
Round 4 Hungaroring Qualifying
In qualifying, Race Anywhere Simsport’s Jordan Grant-Smith took a surprise Pro class pole in his Porsche 911 GT3-R, just over one-hundredth of a second ahead of Tonizza’s Ferrari. Tonizza had stolen a march on his rivals with this qualifying performance, slotting himself well ahead of the chasing pack.
Of the other championship contenders, BMW Team BS+COMPETITION’s Nils Naujoks was fourth, McCormack 12th (14th overall), Baldwin 13th (15th) and Tobias Gronewald 17th (19th).
In the Silver class, Dominik Blajer’s dominance was finally over after three poles in succession, as both Robbie Stapleford (BMW G2 Esports) and Rocket Simsport’s new signing Kieran Prendergast demoted the Polish TRITON Racing driver to third.
Round 4 Hungaroring Race
It was chaos on lap one. Heading into the first corner, Stapleford misjudged his braking and drove into the back of Michael Tauscher’s Porsche. This set off a chain reaction as the German cannoned into Tonizza, who also collected the innocent Naujoks on the outside.
The carnage continued heading into Turn 2, with half the field either involved in, or held up by, another huge contretemps. This incident dealt championship leader McCormack race-ending damage and with it another twist in the title tale.
Three out of the top five in the championship were now either out of the race or out of heavy points-scoring contention. Only Baldwin and Mercedes’ Tobias Gronewald emerged relatively unscathed: the opportunity to narrow the points gap at the forefront of their minds.
Grant-Smith held firm throughout the drama behind, however, but had Amir Hosseini’s McLaren 720S in close company all the way up until the pit-stop window. Of our championship contenders, Naujoks and Gronewald opted for early pit stops in an effort to undercut slower cars ahead.
The tactic worked for the pair, as they picked up five and three points respectively – not a bad return considering the lap one chaos. It may have been more for Naujoks if he hadn’t lost out to some robust battling with GTWR R8G Academy’s Andrea Capoccia, as well as Gronewald, earlier in the race. Naujoks even faced a drive-through penalty to add to his eventful run.
Meanwhile, James Baldwin fared better than all the 2022 title contenders, the Veloce McLaren driver dodging the lap one incidents to emerge seventh. This became sixth after Stapleford’s visit to pitlane, but the horsepower of Prendergast’s Honda meant the Englishman endured a frustrating time just behind.
Prendergast faded on worn rubber and visited the pits. Baldwin – the 2022 Alpine Esports Series winner – set lap times quick enough to complete the overcut on the Honda driver, gaining a net overall fifth position.
Luca Losio had a comparatively quiet evening, the Mobileye x Jean Alesi Esports Academy pilot deservedly taking a podium after an unlucky incident at Misano ruined his best performance to date.
Up front, Grant-Smith eased his way clear of Hosseini to take the win by nearly two seconds. The Race Anywhere Simsport pilot produced a consistent performance under extreme pressure from Hosseini and deservedly produced his best result in the competition.
Leading in Silver class, Stapleford used his early pit stop strategy to good effect, finding himself comfortably ahead of Prendergast after the pit window, and fourth overall.
However, Stapleford was adjudged to be the catalyst for the Turn 1 incident that destroyed Tonizza and Naujoks’ day, and was handed a 40s time penalty, dropping him to fourth in class. This gifted Prendergast the Silver win on an impressive debut for Rocket Simsport, with Blajer securing second.
Only a disastrous final race can stop the Pole from claiming the Silver class championship, with Stapleford the only man who can stop him.
As for the Pro class, thanks to his main championship rivals’ issues, Baldwin has closed to within five points of McCormack, with Gronewald and Tonizza 11 and 13 points further adrift respectively.
What is certain is the title will be won by one of these four protagonists next time out at Monza. And with four different manufacturers fighting it out, the question is who can make the most of their machinery to claim the 2022 Mobileye GT World Challenge Europe Esports series?
ROUND 4 – HUNGARORING – RACE RESULTS – PRO CLASS
- Jordan Grant-Smith Porsche 911 GT3 R (2019) Race Anywhere Simsport
- Amir Hosseini McLaren 720S GT3 R8G eSports
- Luca Losio BMW M4 GT3 Mobileye x Jean Alesi Esports Academy
- James Baldwin McLaren 720S GT3 Veloce
- Niklas Houben Audi R8 LMS Evo II R8G eSports
ROUND 4 – HUNGARORING – RACE RESULTS – SILVER CLASS
- Kieran Prendergast Honda NSX Evo Rocket Simsport
- Dominik Blajer Bentley Continental GT3 2018 TRITON Racing
- Egor Ogorodnikov Bentley Continental GT3 2018 VDES Academy
- Robbie Stapleford BMW M4 GT3 BMW G2 Esports
- Tommy Razeyre McLaren 720S GT3 SDL eSports | Logitech G
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS – PRO CLASS
- Dáire McCormack Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Munster Rugby Gaming, 93 points
- James Baldwin McLaren 720S GT3 Veloce, 88 points
- Tobias Gronewald Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team UOL, 77 points
- David Tonizza Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team, 75 points
- Nils Naujoks BMW M4 GT3 BMW Team BS+COMPETITION, 50 points
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS – SILVER CLASS
- Dominik Blajer Bentley Continental GT3 2018 TRITON Racing, 134 points
- Robbie Stapleford BMW M4 GT3 BMW G2 Esports, 109 points
- Kieran Prendergast Honda NSX Evo Rocket Simsport, 63 points
- Egor Ogorodnikov Bentley Continental GT3 2018 VDES Academy, 58 points
- Fabien Piffet Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Team Fordzilla, 55 points
2022 MOBILEYE GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR
Misano – 6 April Zandvoort – 4 May Nürburgring – 8 June Hungaroring – 6 July
- Monza – 3 August