The 2023 SRO Esports Sim Pro Series championship came down to the wire at the final round in Barcelona, with up to 10 teams still in contention for series honours.
Arguably favourites were Tobias Gronewald and Bastian Richter of the Mercedes-AMG Esports Team Unicorns of Love team, as they enjoyed a seven-point advantage over second-placed David Tonizza of the Automobili Lamborghini Esports Team.
In reality, however, any one of the chasing pack was just as likely to take the title: it would all come down to who could maximise their potential in the final race.
It was Nils Naujoks of BMW M Team BS+COMPETITION who drew first blood, however, as the German set a 1:42.637 benchmark for the rest of the field to try and match. Just three-hundredths behind was Harteveld, with Dáire McCormack and George Boothby following in third and fourth respectively – both under a tenth off pole.
Further back, UoL’s Gronewald was 10th, with second-place championship contender Tonizza in fifth.
The race start was clean enough, with Naujoks holding onto first position. However, into Seat corner, Hartveld’s team-mate Jordan Sherratt made an ambitious move down the inside of the two McLarens of Maciej Malinowski and Boothby, only to overshoot and tag Tonizza.
Tonizza cannoned into McCormack, causing a multi-car pileup that put paid to the championship hopes of Tonizza, McCormack and Gronewald in one, fell swoop. Sherratt continued in third position but would be hit with a drivethrough penalty later – some would argue the punishment was too lenient given the incident’s championship ramifications.
Astonishingly, this made the final race of the season – and the destination of the title – a two-way shootout between Naujoks and Harteveld. This became a dead-cert after Tobias Pfeffer was given a 10s penalty for contact with a recovering McCormack.
Hartveled kept Naujoks in sight for the best part of half the race, but had his own five-second time penalty to deal with as he was adjudged to have gained an advantage by leaving the track before the first lap mayhem kicked off. No matter, the Dutchman pitted before Naujoks and emerged over five seconds down on his German rival after the pitstop phase.
Naujoks had elected to stay out for a few laps and use the clear track to his advantage, knowing Harteveld’s penalty negated the chance of an undercut. As a result, Naujoks came out of the pits with a lighter car and fresher tyres and began to build the gap to P2.
Behind, the Lamborghini pairing of Dario Iemmulo and Luca Losio were third and fourth respectively, but Losio was haemorrhaging lap time, falling into the clutches of the impressive Ar Muhammad Aleef, who had gained 15 positions.
Up front, Naujoks was home and hosed, but Harteveld had dropped pace alarmingly and was now under pressure from Iemmulo. Fortunately for the official Ferrari Esports driver, he was able to hang on and take the 2023 SRO Esports Sim Pro Series trophy back to Maranello.
2023 SRO Esports Sim Pro Series
Round 5 Barcelona results
- Nils Naujoks – BMW M4 GT3 – BMW M Team BS+COMPETITION
- Chris Harteveld – Ferrari 296 GT3 – Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team
- Dario Iemmulo – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 – VS Racing by Ballas eSport
- Ar Muhammad Aleef – Ferrari 296 GT3 – Flash Axle Sports
- Maciej Malinowski – McLaren 720S GT3 – on-site qualifier
SRO Esports Sim Pro Series 2023 standings after Round 5
- Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team – Ferrari 296 GT3 – Chris Harteveld
- BMW M Team BS+COMPETITION – BMW M4 GT3 – Arthur Kammerer – Nils Naujoks
- Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Dáire McCormack – Dennis Schöniger – Tinko van der Velde
- Mercedes-AMG Esports Team Unicorns of Love – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Evo Tobias Gronewald – Bastian Richter
- Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports – Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Dominik Blajer – Vojtech Fiala
2023 SRO Esports Sim Pro Series calendar
22nd April – Monza 3rd June – Circuit Paul Ricard 30th June – Spa-Francorchamps 29th July – Nürburgring 30th September – Barcelona
Images courtesy of GT World Challenge Europe