Following eighteen months of non-activity, it transpired that news of the Esports World Touring Car Cup’s demise had been greatly exaggerated. Last seen in 2020, the championship’s survival was a welcome one given its status as one of the earliest examples of a real-world to virtual world transition; back into its Touring Car Championship guise.
A full season will debut in early 2023 – despite the WTCR sadly disappearing – and, to set the grid, three ‘shoot out’ rounds will effectively form a mini-qualification league using the RaceRoom Racing Experience platform.
Many returning names made it for the Nürburgring including Bence Bánki, Jack Keithley and David Nagy. They would line up against relative newcomers such as Grega Hudjek and Yuval Rosen.
With only twenty spots available for the 2023 grid, every one of the six races mattered. A strong first qualifying session was therefore imperative and all drivers enjoyed the luxury of private conditions to set their best lap time.
Winning his first eWTCR race at the tail end of the 2020 season, Gianmarco Fiduci had grown plenty as a driver since.
The Italian claimed pole position ahead of Rosen; the Israeli just one-hundredth behind the pacesetter. Martin Barna and Petr Pliska, both experienced runners at this stage of their careers, made up the second row.
All things considered, the start was relatively well-behaved. Some shenanigans in the midfield saw Jack Keithley suffer greatly whilst a jump start for Alessandro Ottaviani killed his hopes of points. Aside from those mentioned, the top ten were largely unchanged.
Barna’s wealth of experience shone through heading onto the second lap. A strong dive into the Yokohama-S relieved Rosen of second place but there was no time to rest as Pliska immediately took up interest. The Italian was better served watching his own back, however, as Max Pfeifer briefly took possession of fourth before losing it the following lap.
The scrap had allowed Rosen to run up the road albeit briefly, soon to be reeled back in. Pliska was certainly the faster driver with six minutes left to run but made an error by challenging the Audi ahead through Turn 5. Although an excellent save was produced, both Pfeifer and Bánki slipped through.
With this incident, the Israeli’s podium-bound days were numbered. Pfeifer, with the wind behind his sails, made short work of the task at hand. One lap left to run, Fiduci launched his final offensive at Barna. He could not find success but his Fordzilla stablemate did, re-passing Bánki for fifth.
It would end up being another win to add to Barna’s modest collection followed home by Fiduci and Pfeifer.
As the top ten finishers had been reversed to form the grid for Race 2, Axel Vermeylen found himself on pole position ahead of Luciano Witvoet.
The first couple of corners were navigated well enough before racing sparked into life via the full-send of Fiduci on Pfeifer. On the back foot, Gianmarco had to wrestle his starting position back and had done so with Barna feeling the heat of his defensive aggression.
Crucial work for the Italian had not yet been completed and some ten minutes into the race, he caught Pfeifer completely off guard at the final corner. Seventh was finally his.
Further up the road, Witwoet finally snatched the lead from Vermeylen after shadowing the Belgian’s rear wing for many laps.
Hudjek fell foul of a slow-down penalty at the end of this particular lap, seeing Bánki, Pliska and Fiduci all benefitting. Meanwhile, Rosen wrought the wrath of Dörr Esports. A misjudged bump on Florian Hasse unravelled into the German repassing Rosen followed by Matija Markovic. Even Ilia Drovossekov got in on the action but could not progress from 13th position.
For the second time that evening, the last lap provided some thrilling racing. Bánki initiated combat through the final turn with Mackenberg well in his sights.
After duelling side-by-side through Mercedes Arena, the opportunity was available for the clinical Fiduci to strike. He stormed around the outside of Turn 5 and into fourth down the inside of Turn 6. His excellent evening would be capped with a final overtake on Mackenberg himself who lost a podium finish at the death.
Fiduci, therefore, found himself leading the qualification battle for the 2023 season. Bánki, Pliska and Pfeifer all enjoyed good rounds whilst Rosen, Vermeylen and Witwoet had all locked in podium points.
eWTCR 2022 Shoot Out, Round 1, Race 1 results
- Martin Barna – 26:49.794
- Gianmarco Fiduci +0.095
- Max Pfeifer +3.906
- Yuval Rosen +4.323
- Petr Pliska +4.722
- Bence Bánki +5.264
- Grega Hudjek +5.591
- Marvin Mackenberg +6.352
- Luciano Witvoet +6.719
- Axel Vermeylen +7.121
eWTCR 2022 Shoot Out, Round 1, Race 2 results
- Luciano Witvoet – 26:51.520
- Axel Vermeylen +0.359
- Gianmarco Fiduci +1.877
- Marvin Mackenberg +1.952
- Bence Bánki +2.157
- Petr Pliska +2.426
- Grega Hudjek +3.894
- Max Pfeifer +4.139
- Martin Barna +4.407
- Florian Hasse +4.791