Everyone had something to say about the BMW M SIM Cup’s opening round in 2023. To claim that it was eventful would be an understatement, but what is sim racing without a little spice from time to time?
Although very much inheriting the spoils of war, URANO eSports took victory in both classes around Daytona International Speedway. They would be hoping to demonstrate a similar dedication to survival and consistency in Round 2 at Sebring International Raceway on Sunday (19th March).
Having recently switched from Obsidian Racing to BS+COMPETITION, Pedro Sanchez Albert could not have asked for a better qualifying session.
His new team enjoyed the GTP pole position slot thanks to a one tenth advantage over Owen Caryl’s Apex Racing Academy machine.
This was something of a turn up for the books given the senior Apex team could only turn out a lap good enough for fourth through Ben Fuller. Separating the sister stables lay Edoardo Leo of Mivano Corse.
Florian Lebigre sat pretty on GT3 pole position though the margins were much tighter across this category.
HardMode’s Matti Sipilä got to within two hundredths of the R8G pilot’s time whilst three Team Redline drivers found themselves less than nine hundredths away.
Chris Lulham, Gianni Vecchio and Tom Burns – starting third, fourth and sixth respectively – hoped to find great solace in potential team plays throughout the contest.
If Albert’s qualifying performance was well-earned, his start to the race was practically gift-wrapped. The Spaniard’s getaway was sublime, helped all the further by a rather lackadaisical reaction to the lights by Caryl. Leo wrestled second away from the Apex driver with the move completed by Turn 5.
As the BS+ sprinted away, attention turned to the GT3 class which appeared significantly closer across the opening few laps. Lebigre managed the situation well enough although Sipilä would take over leading duties before the first ten minutes had elapsed. The Redline trio had not figured much in the narrative to this point although featured for not the best reasons soon enough.
First was Vecchio who lost his brakes dramatically into the Hairpin forcing a very early retirement. Then came Burns who was last seen parked up on the side of the road before he confirmed that a second Redline car was out of proceedings. All of this was set against the backdrop of the GTP class’ first lapping of the GT3 field. Not a period of time to remember fondly.
Mercifully, a calm followed the storm with the only real story of note being Caryl’s inability to sustain podium-bound pace.
Forty minutes in, he has lost third to the URANO of Vlad Khimichev and was now hounded by Fuller in the sister Apex Racing machine. All three drivers would gain a position in the short term thanks to a very early stop fo Leo, a stop which Fuller chose to match.
This call forced the hand of both Khimichev and Albert with both cars first and second in the following rotation. It worked beautifully for the URANO who rejoined the circuit leading. It was horrid for the BS+ which was whacked by the Williams Esports Razer GT3 machine losing both even more time.
Lebigre’s pace was beginning to wane, evidenced by a smooth move by Lulham through Sunset Bend. It was no surprise then when R8G colours were the first to head towards pitlane in the GT3 lead battle.
Jesse Jones was tasked with the ‘hammer time’, though the anvil didn’t fall fast enough and quick reactions saved both HardMode and Redline track position.
Another quiet twenty minutes rolled by before race leader Khimichev was back on pit road. Leo, Albert and Caryl all followed suit next lap around though Fuller curiously kept his Apex car out far longer.
A thrilling duel ensued upon pit exit for his replacement, Daniel Sivi-Szabo with Dominik Hofmann; a duel which ended in defeat for the time being.
Kevin Ellis Jr., a man in sizzling form, was cooking up something fierce having taken over the #98 Apex Racing GT3. Jones sadly saw R8G slip off the podium whilst Ellis Jr. ripped off into the distance attempting to close a two-second gap to the leading duo.
This was done within a mere ten minutes and encouraged a hurry up for Diogo Pinto. A sweetly-timed Turn 1 move gave Redline the class lead.
This would prove crucial given Ellis Jr.’s struggles to pass Antti Ahola. The Finn held back the Brit for as long as he could before it transpired that a second trip to the pits was required after short-fueling. This dropped HardMode’s #995 to fifth, presenting Jimmy Antunes with a free podium for Team Fondue.
Jonas Wallmeier saw the chequered flag in comfort picking up the #4 URANO’s second win of the season ahead of Fraser Williamson’s Mivano and Valtteri Alander’s BS+.
Pinto put Redline back on top in the GT3 category; the drama not complete before Jones ran out of fuel seeing R8G drop to fifth from a class pole position.
- Vlad Khimichev/Jonas Wallmeier – URANO Esports Datagroup – LEADER
- Edoardo Leo/Fraser Williamson – SRC Mivano Corse GTP Rosa – +04.454
- Pedro Sanchez Albert/Valtteri Alander – BS+ Competition – +17.603
- Dominik Hofmann/Daniel Alver Lourenco – Urano Esports – +18.536
- Ben Fuller/Daniel Sivi-Szabo – Apex Racing Team – +23.013
- Chris Lulham/Diogo C. Pinto – Team Redline – LEADER
- Luke McKeown/Kevin Ellis Jr. – Apex Racing Team – +5.108
- Leandro Anderrüti/Jimmy Antunes – BMW Team Fondue – +14.105
- Matti Sipilä/Antti Ahola – HardMode – +29.832
- Florian Lebigre/Jesse Jones – R8G Esports – +30.313