Sunday, 10th April, would be an early one for many in Europe thanks to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix’s dawn-bound starting time.
With Formula E also finding a place on the schedule, you would have been forgiven for missing the DTM Esports Championship’s anomalous round in the early evening. Just three days on for Round 3 at the Lausitzring, Round 4 would take the grid to Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.
Moritz Löhner had done incredibly well to take back-to-back wins in his title defence, yet there was certainly a question to be asked if it was too late already.
Heading into the weekend, the German sat 45 points behind the points leader, Kevin Siggy. The Austro-Slovenian had already claimed three victories and was yet to finish any race outside of the podium.
Sprint race qualifying
Alexander Dornieden put in a mighty lap to start fourth, his highest starting position of the season, with Leonard Krippner continuing to demonstrate an upturn in speed with fifth.
For the likes of Gianmarco Fiduci, Alessandro Ottaviani and Christopher Högfeldt, it appeared that the wheels were truly falling off their title charges.
Fiduci, who had suffered a catastrophic pitlane speeding penalty in the last round’s Endurance Race, was the highest placed of the trio in seventh.
Siggy’s intentions were clear from the get-go as Löhner conceded second immediately at La Source. Eyes would have been glued to the Kemmel Straight had Alex Mosin not suffered a massive accident over Raidillon, his MediaMarkt Ferrari no doubt feeling as lucky as its driver that this was RaceRoom Racing Experience and not the real world.
In the meantime, Fiduci got to work with a pass on Krippner who had lost out to Max Pfeifer.
After a few laps under immense pressure from Löhner, Siggy was able to capitalise on the underwhelming pace of Keithley. After the title favourite completed his move through Les Combes, Löhner now was eager to reap the harvest for himself; the Williams Mercedes-AMG was a sitting duck at Bruxelles.
A punchy performance by Fiduci had seen him up to fifth by this point; a pass on Dornieden looked very achievable. Sadly, impatience got the better of the Italian yet again. His haste cost him a good chance at the German and backfired with Pfeifer reclaiming fifth.
Then, after getting out of shape through Eau Rouge, his Sprint was destroyed in a hopeless attempt to fend off Krippner.
The last lap was a showdown between the top three. Plenty of paint was exchanged between Siggy and Löhner but the championship’s form driver won out yet again to extend his points advantage.
Endurance race qualifying
Fiduci was surely out of the championship hunt now but still claimed a notable fourth. Keithley on the other hand was unable to better or even replicate his Sprint race pole pace. The Brit would have to deal with the midfield in seventh.
Pejic was an outlying factor that Siggy was keen to deal with immediately. Attempting a similar move as he had on Löhner in the Sprint, the Austro-Slovenian would face stiffer competition.
Ultimately the move would come nonetheless through Les Combes, a move which aided Fiduci who snuck onto the podium behind the Redline Ferrari. In the meantime, Keithley had gained two positions thanks in part to a nervy moment up Eau Rouge for Pfeifer duelling away with the charging Team Fordzilla driver.
There were plenty of exchanged sponsors between the leading duo earlier but this vibrant display of combat was spreading across the field. Pfeifer looked to retake his lost position soon after the fact and did so at the Bustop Chicane
Just one straight later, however, Keithley charged up the inside to restore his fifth position. This unsettled Pfeifer greatly who saw Hasse blaze past.
It remained no less brutal at the tip of proceedings. Siggy tried every which way at Les Combes multiple times before getting a much-needed bump draft boost from Fiduci to edge himself ahead of Löhner. The German saw a moment to bite back into the final corners of the lap, yet this would prove ill-advised.
With Siggy maintaining the lead through La Source, he coincidentally paid Fiduci back handsomely. The Italian swept into second place up the hill.
Having lost two places and stuck for ideas behind the podium runners, Pejic gambled with one of the first pitstops served. Though tyre wear was expected to be a major concern come the closing 10 minutes, the short term gains were quickly identified.
Fiduci was the second of the top four to head in for new rubber and found the Veloce AMG ahead upon his return to the track.
In spite of his strong pace, Pejic would not see the lead become his following Siggy’s and Löhner’s stops at the halfway mark. As one Ferrari escaped his clutches, he fell into the claws of another; Fiduci was back into second through Les Combes.
From here the scene would calm for the next ten minutes. Even Löhner’s eventual overtake on Pejic had an air of contentment about it.
Siggy exuded an air of authority in Belgium, claiming a second win and fourth podium appearance of the week with a three-second cushion. From here, it looks highly unlikely that anyone will usurp his quest to become the DTM Esports champion. From here on out, ambitions may have to be adjusted to, at least, making it into the top five.
DTM Esports 2022, Round 4, Sprint race results
- Kevin Siggy – 19:45.567
- Moritz Löhner +0.341
- Jack Keithley +0.528
- Alexander Dornieden +1.385
- Max Pfeifer +2.591
- Adam Pinczes +7.458
- Petr Pliska +7.607
- Axel Vermeylen +8.006
- Christopher Högfeldt +8.439
- Leonard Krippner +8.596
DTM Esports 2022, Round 4, Endurance race results
- Kevin Siggy – 64:07.255
- Gianmarco Fiduci +3.738
- Moritz Löhner +4.569
- Marko Pejic +9.965
- Jack Keithley +11.195
- Max Pfeifer +11.442
- Florian Hasse +11.561
- Alexander Dornieden +19.333
- Petr Pliska +19.963
- Leonard Krippner +20.934