The previous round of the 2022 Mobileye GT World Challenge Europe Esports (GTWC Europe) from Zandvoort saw reigning champion James Baldwin close the championship gap on leading pair Dáire McCormack and David Tonizza.
Racing at night added an element of jeopardy to proceedings, but it was the battle in pitlane that ultimately decided the winner. Baldwin performed the undercut on the Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team‘s Tonizza and streaked away to win by nearly 10 seconds at the chequered flag, with McCormack finishing third after penalties had been applied.
For Round 3, the Pro championship contenders headed to the Nürburgring Grand Prix Circuit. The Nürburg track has traditionally been a happy hunting ground in Assetto Corsa Competizione for the McLaren, Ferrari and Bentley driven by Baldwin, Tonizza and McCormack respectively, but the mid-engined cars appeared to be struggling for pace.
ROUND 3 NURBURGRING Qualifying
The main talking point from Qualifying was Silver class Bentley driver emerging with overall pole position. Even more remarkably, he and second-placed Tobias Gronewald had set the same lap time down to the last thousandth of a second. But the TRITON Racing car got the nod thanks to setting his time first.
Tonizza was the first of our championship contenders in third, with his main rivals in sixth and seventh – McCormack and Baldwin respectively.
Second place in the Silver class was taken by BMW G2 Esports’ Robbie Stapleford in ninth overall, with some distance to Joe McAuley’s Ferrari in third, way down in 18th on the combined grid. It was clear that the Bentley, BMW and Mercedes runners were enjoying the technical nature of the Nürburgring much more than their mid-engined rivals.
ROUND 3 NURBURGRING Race
After the rolling start, Dominik Blajer succumbed to the pressure of pole position by out-braking himself into Turn 1, dropping to third, while Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team UOL’s Gronewald and Tonizza swept through.
Behind, BMW Team BS+COMPETITION‘s Nils Naujoks looked for a way through on the ailing Silver car but to no avail. With McCormack looming in the German’s mirrors, Naujoks opted to take his mandatory pit stop with only 15 minutes of the race gone. It was a bold call, but in such a processional race an undercut can prove to be particularly effective.
Baldwin followed Naujoks into the pits, with Tonizza being the next of the frontrunners to box five minutes later. Although he emerged ahead of his 2021 rival Baldwin, Naujoks had done enough to get in front of the Ferrari, completing the undercut.
McCormack streaked ahead of Blajer decisively for second position, before setting his sights on Gronewald in the lead. At the mid-point of the race, Gronewald pitted and was released to the track with a one-second advantage over a charging Naujoks.
Meanwhile, McCormack opted to stay out, his pace in clear air being strong enough to warrant an overcut strategy call.
Tonizza was losing touch with the Naujoks/Gronewald battle, falling into the clutches of Baldwin and Stapleford behind. Struggling with race pace, the Italian succumbed to Baldwin’s Veloce McLaren in a well-worked switchback manoeuvre in the Turn 1 and 2 complex.
With 22 minutes left, Naujoks made a daring pass on Gronewald at Turn 1. In fairness, the Mercedes driver didn’t fight the move, acknowledging his pace deficit at this stage. However, McCormack was still out front setting faster lap times than the erstwhile leaders and pitted one lap later.
McCormack emerged two seconds in the lead of Naujoks once the pit stop phase shook itself out, and he continued extending his gap to the end. Naujoks got his 2022 campaign back on track with a solid second position after a disappointing DNF at Zandvoort, while Blajer held onto a solid third and the Silver class win.
Behind, Stapleford had made a couple of clumsy attempts to overtake the fading Tonizza, resulting in contact on both occasions. The Ferrari driver opted to lift off and let the young Englishman through soon after, sensing that discretion was the better part of valour on this occasion.
Stapleford was later hit with a five-second penalty for the contact, costing him five positions in the race but he held on for second in the Silver class – some 16 seconds behind Blajer.
Tinko van der Velde snuck under the radar for Williams Esports to take an impressive fifth position overall, fending off a charging Baldwin in the latter stages. Tonizza finished a disappointing sixth in the Pro class, which would have been worse if not for Arthur Kammerer’s five-second penalty.
With only two races left to run, McCormack holds a commanding lead at the top of the Pro standings, the Munster Rugby Gaming driver enjoying an 18-point lead over Tonizza. Baldwin, Gronewald and Tonizza are separated by just eight points and look to have their work cut out for them if they are to overhaul the young Irishman.
Although the McLaren, Ferrari, Audi and Porsche runners endured a generally torrid time at the Nürburgring, such is the ebb and flow of the championship’s Balance of Performance calculations we can perhaps expect an upturn in fortunes at the Hungaroring and Monza.
In the Silver class, Dominik Blajer has taken three wins out of three this season, cementing an 18-point lead over Stapleford. The pair are head and shoulders above the rest of the Silver pack, regularly mixing with the top Pro cars, with Blajer already accruing nearly double the points of Fabien Piffet in third place.
As we head towards the business end of the season, can McCormack continue his imperious form in Hungary on the 6th of July, or can Baldwin, Tonizza or Gronewald cut into his lead? With the Bentley favouring the high kerbs of the Hungaroring it looks like the Irishman is in an enviable position.
ROUND 3 – NURBURGRING – RACE RESULTS – PRO CLASS
- Dáire McCormack Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Munster Rugby Gaming 01:00:04.599
- Nils Naujoks BMW M4 GT3 BMW Team BS+COMPETITION +3.929
- Tobias Gronewald Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team UOL +7.012
- Tinko van der Velde Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Williams Esports +9.834
- James Baldwin McLaren 720S GT3 Veloce +10.034
ROUND 3 – NURBURGRING – RACE RESULTS – SILVER CLASS
- Dominik Blajer Bentley Continental GT3 2018 TRITON Racing 01:01:38.238
- Robbie Stapleford BMW M4 GT3 BMW G2 Esports +16.353
- Fabien Piffet Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Team Fordzilla +22.862
- Mikhail Bykov Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Simware.pro by VDES +28.769
- Valentin Barrier Bentley Continental GT3 2018 VirtualDrivers by TX3 +31.902
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS – PRO CLASS
- Dáire McCormack Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Munster Rugby Gaming, 93 points
- David Tonizza Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team, 75 points
- Tobias Gronewald Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team UOL, 72 points
- James Baldwin McLaren 720S GT3 Veloce, 67 points
- Nils Naujoks BMW M4 GT3 BMW Team BS+COMPETITION, 48 points
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS – SILVER CLASS
- Dominik Blajer Bentley Continental GT3 2018 TRITON Racing, 105 points
- Robbie Stapleford BMW M4 GT3 BMW G2 Esports, 87 points
- Fabien Piffet Bentley Continental GT3 2018 Team Fordzilla, 54 points
- Mateusz Tyszkiewicz Bentley Continental GT3 2018 TRITON Racing, 50 points
- Egor Ogorodnikov Bentley Continental GT3 2018 VDES Academy, 33 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