After three years of the BMW SIM GT Cup, 2023 ushered in the BMW M SIM Cup. The racing on offer, in many senses, was turning up a notch with the introduction of a brand-new ‘GTP’ class adding to the peril of navigating a two-hour endurance sprint.
Each entry boasts two drivers, both of which are required to complete stints in order to classify once the chequered flag is flown.
In fact, the only element to decrease during this transition is the prize pool. Although a reduction of $15,000 is significant, teams will have more opportunities to net some cash thanks to race-by-race podium splits for each class.
Team Redline’s Max Benecke secured the title in 2022, now the question was who would claim the crowns for themselves in this rebirthed championship.
As was to be expected, qualifying was extraordinarily tight around Daytona International Speedway – the location for the first round of ten. Vlad Khimichev stuck his Urano Esports Datagroup machine on pole position, the first in series history to be set by a prototype.
The BMW M Hybrid V8s looked spectacular at full speed, a luxury that Pedro Sanchez Albert would hope to be afforded starting from second for Obsidian Racing.
Williams Esports, under the spotlight in the world of simracing, made up the second row with Josh Lad and Mike Partington.
Apex Racing Team looked strong in the GT3 category meanwhile as their three entries lined up astern. Luke McKeown, Elvis Rankin and Gaël Valero started behind Rainer Talvar, Luca Kita and Oskari Rinne respectively.
Khimichev wasn’t hanging around as the go was given. The Russian bolted clear of the sleeping pack behind building an early gap across the first lap. Meanwhile, the Apex train worked beautifully together as the GT3s got underway.
All opposition was passed with the sole exception of Talvar’s BS+ Competition machine which cut a horribly isolated figure entering the infield section.
Teammate Rhinne had, at the very least, kept his nose ahead of Kita who had fallen to sixth by the end of the opening lap. This offered the Finnish pilot a platform to build upon as demonstrated by a quick repass of Valero into Turn 5 the next time around.
Disaster would strike the outfit just moments later as Talvar was spun at Turn 6 by second-placed Rankin who had taken on the mantle of Apex train leader. This forced McKeown, who was directly behind the incident, into avoiding action gifting Rhinne another position. McKeown would get one back into the International Horseshoe but at the cost of Rankin, who was now under investigation.
It took all of ten minutes for the front-running GTPs to meet the slower pack and multiple errors continued to mar the quality of the opening round. At the head of the GT3s, Rankin and McKeown seized on the chance to break away and did so with aplomb.
Almost thirty minutes in and they had produced a gap of ten seconds. However, Rankin had now been slapped with a fifteen-second post-race penalty for his earlier mistake.
Back with the GTPs, Khimichev finally lost the race lead almost forty minutes in to Lad, who had disposed of Albert earlier on. Having just navigated their way through heavy traffic, the pair were some three seconds clear of everyone else. It all came to naught as positions were exchanged once again, and the first pitstop phase came and went.
As the race wore on, Lad’s patience was began to wear thin. Khimichev was dancing through the traffic and this, in turn, caused a totally unnecessary error for the Brit. Hitting traffic on the way through the Bus Stop landed the Williams machine with a ten-second penalty, almost certainly denying him victory.
Things threatened to get worse with a new driver in the car. Atte Kauppinen had done well to reel in Jonas Wallmeier in the #91 but absent-mindedly strayed under the yellow line to overtake through the banking. The Finn was graciously let off.
As illegal as that move was, the new pair in the runaway Apex GT3 leaders had a heinous crime committed against them. A careless Rick Jonk GTP overtake left them running into each other on the far side of the Bus Stop.
This would have been music to the ears of the third-placed Team Redline of Diogo Pinto but for an early incident which ruled him out of contention. Michael Janney, in the unpenalised #98, somehow retained the lead but with damage to his car. It wasn’t to last, as with less than ten minutes to go Urano’s Alexey Nesov relieved him.
Entering the last stretch, Wallmeier led the race yet again but was joined by teammate Daniel Alves Lourenco. Kauppinen had been involved in more silliness and was facing even sterner punishment; he was not a factor. Ultimately, given how tempers had boiled over elsewhere, Urano did well to keep their drivers in position. A win in both classes was a job well done on a difficult day for the M SIM Cup.
- Vlad Khimichev/Jonas Wallmeier – Urano Esports Datagroup – LEADER
- Dominik Hofmann/Daniel Alver Lourenco – Urano Esports – +0.079
- Josh Lad/Atte Kauppinen*** – Williams Esports Fanatec – +0.260
- Mike Partington/Carl E. Jansson – Williams Esports Razer – +24.242
- Pedro Sanchez Albert/Pablo Lazar – Obsidian Racing – +29.004
– Post-Race Penalty Not Applied
** – Under Investigation Post-Race
- Luca Kita/Alexey Nesov – Urano Esports HP – LEADER
- Chris Lulham/Diogo C. Pinto* – Team Redline – +0.176
- Elias Raikaa/Julian Kesselhut – BS+ Competition – +0.390
- Luke McKeown/Michael Janney – Apex Racing Team – +0.947
- Elvis Rankin/Maxence Godiinho* – Apex Racing Team – +3.909
– Post-Race Penalty Not Applied