A thrilling encounter at Sebring International Raceway was the perfect remedy to what was a rather messy opening round to the BMW M SIM Cup for 2023. Excellent battles and tactical masterclasses saw the #4 URANO car claim its second win in the GTP class whilst Team Redline struck victory in the GT3 class via Chris Lulham and Diogo Pinto.
This extended stay in the United States continued into Round 3 as Road America welcomed the competition to its 6.5km layout. For URANO, the objective was simple. The GT3 narrative was far more complex with no duo as of this point establishing any form of dominance.
Qualifying did not go so hot for the championship leaders, though the session did provide a joyous surprise. Alex Gal would start from pole as a part of the terrifically-named Please Hire Jaidyn J Ladic independent entry. Apex Racing featured heavily in the last round and was set to do so again – Owen Caryl putting his Academy machine on the front row for the second consecutive event.
Caryl’s partner car, the #199, claimed fifth through Daniel Sivi-Szabo. In between the stablemates lay Niklas Beu for SRC Mivano Corse and Pedro Sanchez Albert in a rebranded BS+Turner who would hope for better fortunes than his declining Sebring outing.
Vlad Khimikev, now adorned with the #91, underperformed to a ninth-place grid slot.
In the GT3 category, Florian Lebigre lay down another excellent single-lap demonstration though would miss out on pole position to Tyre Bag’s Matti Sipilä. Elias Raikaa and Maxime Brient made up the second row for BS+Competition and Apex Racing respectively.
Then you would find the all-Redline third row of Gianni Vecchio and the latest race winner Chris Lulham.
Gal stole the march on those behind, utterly unopposed into Turn 1. Perhaps this advantage was exaggerated by the poor getaway of Caryl who came under pressure from Beu. The German was a little too hasty, losing the rear mid-corner and dropping back hugely.
Aside from a couple of other stragglers near the back of both fields, the early laps were relatively calm. Vecchio was the first to break order with a well-judged lunge down the inside of the Moraine Sweep, deposing Lebigre from GT3 third after losing out to Raikaa through the opening turns. Then came the first lapping phase.
Sketchy does not quite encapsulate the edginess of witnessing a full pack of GTP cars weaving their way through the GT3 cars. Quite incredibly, the passing was largely well-accomplished though it did affect those within the slower class.
Lebigre, for example, was able to take advantage of the controlled chaos and re-overtake Vecchio. The biggest switch would be for the lead as Raikaa made his way to the front.
Lebigre’s time in the podium dream seemed never destined to last. This time, both Redline cars muscled their way through prior to a hit into the gravel via Brient. Vecchio made hay while the sun shined – Sipilä falling further back as eventually, both Redline cars would occupy the podium slots. Not content with this, Raikaa would be dethroned and sent back to third; Redline held a 1-2.
We promise the GTP race was still ongoing but there had hardly been any action to speak of. That was until the forty-minute mark when the terrifying nature of lapping caught out Albert and Matt Farrow. The Williams Esports Mahle pilot had made his way into third before contact with the BS+Turner sent both into the gravel; Yoep de Ligt the benefactor.
Both Uranos would gain yet another free position after the first round of pitstops thanks to the misfortune of Caryl. He slammed into the tunnel wall at Turn 4 whilst trying to lap a GT3. This was ideal for de Ligt who now found himself with a straight shot at Gal – a shot he took at the first opportunity into Turn 5. Race leader for roughly an hour, the pole sitter continued to struggle as a second Urano of Dominik Hoffmann relegated him to third.
Hurtling towards the final thirty minutes, upon the completion of everybody’s final stop, drama unfolded for Diogo Pinto in the second Redline. The Portuguese driver turned across the lapping Please Hire Jaidyn, now helmed by Arturo Melgar, and lost third to the BS+ of Julian Kesselhut. Melgar’s third had been under threat and this was the last straw, his defence broken by Jonas Wallmeier to form a Urano 1-2-3.
Even worse was the unfolded realisation that his machine was far more hurt than expected. The Spaniard tragically plummeted down the order. Pinto also failed to drive away unscathed, his lagging pace inviting Luke McKeown to overtake and settle into third for Apex. Sensationally, on the final lap, Pinto was able to undo this due to his Apex rival running out of fuel.
The tale of the day was to survive. Urano, in doing so, demonstrated exactly why they are the outfit to be feared. The Datagroup machine had failed to win for the first time but netted a podium which could be enjoyed as part of a lockout; the Huawei car tasting victory.
BMW M SIM Cup, Round 3, GTP RESULTS
- Yoep de Ligt/Dylan Scrivens – Urano Esports Huawei – 66 laps
- Dominik Hoffman/Daniel Alves Lourenco – Urano Esports – +1.482
- Vlad Khimichev/Jonas Wallmeier – Urano Esports Datagroup – +9.875
- Daniel Sivi-Szabo/Markus Søholm – Apex Racing Academy – +18.243
- Pedro Sanchez Albert/Valterri Alander – BS+Turner – +18.567
BMW M SIM Cup, Round 3, GT3 RESULTS
- Gianni Vecchio/Ole Steinbraten – Team Redline – LEADER
- Elias Raikaa/Julian Kesselhut – BS+Competition – +1.326
- Chris Lulham/Diogo C. Pinto – Team Redline – +18.735
- David Toth/Nicolás Rubilar – Arnage Competition – +22.418
- Phil Denes/Ryan Barneveld – BS+Competition – +24.927
Images: RaceSpot TV