For those averse to the colours of red and black, deep sighs of relief were exhaled upon witnessing the victory of Apex Racing Academy at Watkins Glen.
Up until that point, the BMW M SIM Cup had been all URANO eSports. Truth be told, it very well could have remained the case had it not been for an extraordinary set of circumstances.
Three race leaders all found retirement through one way or another. Truly, it was one of those days where keeping it within the white lines reaped benefits far beyond the usual affair.
Nevertheless, a healthy points advantage remained intact for the primary and DATAGROUP URANO outfits. Vlad Khimichev led the driver’s standings outright. A quick return to form was almost expected as the competition arrived in virtual Spa-Francorchamps.
Drago Racing’s breakthrough qualifying session in the States was astonishingly improved upon. Przemyslaw Marek Lemanek would lead the field from pole position ahead of the aforementioned Khimichev.
BS+Turner were next up; Valtteri Alander leading the main Apex Racing Team machine of Owen Caryl. Rounding out the top five would be Dominik Hofmann in the sponsorless URANO entry. In the GT3 class, the #71 Team Redline car upset the formbook by claiming pole position.
Gianni Vecchio would perform the opening stint from BS+Turner’s Felix Quirmbach and the Redline sister machine of Diogo Pinto. The championship leader would be embroiled in a BS+Competition duel of their own; Phil Denes starting fourth.
Alex Dunn proved to be the highest-placed loser amongst either category on the opening lap. Spun on exit of Les Combes, it was horribly sad given their wonderful performance to that point in honour of the late Dilano van ‘t Hoff.
Pinto made quick work of Quirmbach through the first sector, setting up a Redline one-two early on.
Up with the GTPs, Caryl had fallen back behind both the Mivano and URANO Huawei of Fraser Williamson and Yoep de Ligt respectively.
His day would only get worse, dropping all the way back to outside the top twenty. Though not so disastrous for those who stepped into his wake, a significant gap was beginning to form between the top two and those chasing.
As has become tradition, watching the first round of lapping was more thriller than documentary. A number of drivers were caught out in some way or another including Denes who headed toward pit road from the top five of GT3.
Alander a distant memory in the rear view, Khimichev set about attacking Lemanek for the lead; a lead he would earn down the Kemmel Straight twenty-five minutes in.
His advantage over Lemanek would extend dramatically following the first pitstop phase as URANO short-fueled across the board. So extreme was the time loss for Drago Racing that even Daniel Alves Lourenco, fresh in the #90 driving seat, jumped a position.
Williams Esports MAHLE were now in the hunt for a podium too. With the hour mark on the horizon, Josh Lad passed Lemanek for third and danced through the traffic into the distance.
Drago would return to the podium places sooner than they thought but not through the way they would have preferred.
Unfortunately, Khimichev suffered a disconnection just past the halfway point promoting their sister car into the lead. It heralded a somewhat calmer period to come with fourty-five minutes of stagnancy within the top three of both classes.
Finally, with the home stretch in sight, action at last. The two Redline had dominated proceedings in the GT3 class, weathering mid-race pressure from both URANO HP and BS+Turner superbly.
Chris Lulham had bided his time before finally getting a clear cut opportunity into Les Combes; not that Ole Steinbråten showed too much resistance.
The Norweigan showed a little more impetus thereafter, hounded Lulham to the chequered flag albeit unable to overturn the runaway point leader.
Winning the race outright was, of course, Lourenco who went unchallenged following Khimichev’s untimely departure from the lobby. URANO were back on top but it was the second-placed team in the championship making things interesting going forward.
BMW M SIM CUP Round 6, Spa 2023, GTP Results
- Dominik Hofmann/Daniel Alves Lourenco – URANO eSports – LEADER
- Josh Lad/Matt Farrow – Williams Esports MAHLE – +8.075
- Przemyslaw Marek Lemanek/Arturo Melgar – Drago Racing – +21.013
- Yoep de Ligt/Dylan Scrivens – URANO eSports Huawei – +21.331
- Valtteri Alander/Pedro Sanchez Albert – BS+Turner – +30.557
BMW M SIM CUP Round 6, Spa 2023, GT3 Results
- Chris Lulham/Diogo Pinto – Team Redline – LEADER
- Gianni Vecchio/Ole Steinbråten – Team Redline – +0.251
- Luca Kita/Sam Kuitert – URANO eSports HP – +9.246
- Felix Quirmback/Elias Raikaa – BS+Turner – +9.732
- Alejandro Sánchez/Luke McKeown – Apex Racing Team – +15.819