Back for a third season, the ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship appears to have taken the mantle of RaceRoom Racing Experience’s crown jewel contest with the much-loved Esports World Touring Car Cup conspicuously quiet heading into the twilight of 2021.
Grand Tourer machinery isn’t exactly a rarity in simracing nowadays but the Germany-based contest offered lucrative prizes this year with a $100,000 prize pool and a rather more sensational offering in the form of a McLaren GT for any driver who could win every race that season – a total of fifteen.
GT Masters is Moritz Löhner territory, and no-doubt the McLaren promise was set up with him in mind. The Dörr Esports driver, transferring from Mahle in the off-season, completed the rather extraordinary achievement of winning the 2020 title with no race victories to become a two-times champion.
Now the race was on to secure the triple.
You never forget how to win
The season opener at Oschersleben placed an emphasis on Qualifying and it was no surprise that Löhner immediately set the tone for the rest of the season. Pole position for the German would be followed up by a first GT Masters win in over a year. Williams Esports duo Jakub Brzezinski and Jack Keithley rounded out the podium, foreshadowing the title battle to come.
The third Williams of Nikodem Wisniewski would pick up the first Feature Race win of the year, with others like Kevin Siggy, Marko Pejic and Florian Hasse also impressing in the first round. At this early stage, all they could hope for was the possibility of Löhner having more races like his 9th place finish than his victory.
Keithley and Hasse starred a week later at the Red Bull Ring in two thrilling races. The Brit finished third in the 2020 standings while Hasse finished fourth in 2019. Wisniewski’s early success meanwhile, as has happened far too often in his long career, gave way to ravaging inconsistency during the Austrian round. No top ten finish in either race was a crippling blow, with Löhner picking up a fifth and second podium of the year.
For the first four races, you’d forgive most fans hoping for a new champion to be excited. Yes, Löhner had already won a race. However, with four different winners in four races, and Tim Jarschel arguably robbed of Oschersleben Feature victory by a disconnect, the future of the title battle was bright.
They wouldn’t have been so happy had they known that the Sprint Race at Zandvoort (Round 3) would be the last time Moritz finished outside the top five before Saschsenring (Round 6).
The Dutch circuit was a disaster for the Red Bull Ring winners, with Hasse not finding the top ten and Keithley suffering in the Feature Race after winning the first. Underrated challenger Brzezinski was fortuitously promoted to reverse grid pole position for the second race, but failed to keep his front row partner Löhner behind. Already the German’s greatest weapon was beginning to show its virtues.
A second win would arrive for him at the Nürburgring preceding a fifth place. Then followed a double podium at EuroSpeedway Lausitz. Despite the best efforts of those below him in the points table, there was simply no matching his unrelenting ability to score points. Kevin Siggy was a sleeper contender but never had the raw speed to qualify well – relying on a reverse grid to win in the fourth round. Likewise, for every good round Keithley had, a bad one seemed to follow.
Red herring hope
Sachsenring would bring an abrupt end to Löhner’s five races inside the top five and finally offer a slim hope to the chasing pack. The circuit was not well suited to the nippy Porsche but played well into the hands of the Bentley Continental GT3s utilised by the likes of Williams Esports and Isaac Price, who, after winning in Lausitz, had lifted himself to a new level.
The event would give Keithley and Brzezinski the sort of return expected by the championship leader on a regular week with the Brit nabbing the Sprint win and the Pole grabbing a fifth and a third. Price was also strong with two fourth place finishes, further evidence of his upturn in fortune. Almost in spite of a miserable Sprint Race, Moritz Löhner displayed a champion’s drive in the Feature Race.
From well outside the top ten, Löhner was able to navigate his way through an error-strewn field to land just ten seconds off winner Jeffrey Rietveld. Fifth place on a day when his Porsche was outgunned in every department. Only three races left to survive.
Controversy to King
Although a far-cry from the farce that unfolded at the DTM finale in real life, the GT Masters Esports season finale Sprint Race at Hockenheim did its best to incite debate. The race was genuinely entertaining as a fast-starting Bence Bánki staved off pole sitter Pejic, who had finally resurfaced from a mid-season slump.
At least that’s what the race classification would have you believe.
In actual fact, Pejic had fallen behind both Löhner and Hasse at the start. Though re-overtaking the second of the Dörrs on the road, the potential three times champion elect simply wasn’t going to budge. Except he did in the dying moments of the race, slowing to allow his stablemate onto the podium in an effort to help him achieve third in the points standings.
Noble gesture or not, this caught the eyes of the stewards who came down on Löhner hard for ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’; slamming the German with a time penalty which meant he’d be starting both Feature Races from P15 on the grid. Ultimately this only served to fuel a masterful redemption drive that would win Moritz his third consecutive GT Masters Esports title with a sixth place; more than enough to dismiss the last challenger in Brzezinski.
On an evening where two drivers picked up their only wins of the season, and one of them in Pejic showing that perseverance pays off with a fantastic final event, all the talk was about Löhner. Whatever you may think of his actions at Hockenheim, there is no doubting that he is one of the standout drivers on RaceRoom Racing Experience nowadays.
He claimed the crown two years ago and shows no signs of letting go. Moritz Löhner is truly a GT Master.
ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship
Top 10 – final driver standings
- Moritz Löhner, Dörr Esports, 396 points
- Jakub Brzezinski, Williams Esports, 359 points
- Bence Bánki, Dörr Esports, 340 points
- Florian Hasse, Dörr Esports,319 points
- Isaac Price, Independent, 306 points
- Jack Keithley, Williams Esports, 303 points
- Kevin Siggy, Team Redline, 299 points
- Jeffrey Rietveld, Team Redline, 273 points
- Marko Pejic, Mahle Racing Team, 250 points
- Alexander Dornieden, MRS Esport, 238 points