Mathematics can be a sickening ray of hope at times.
With just two races left of the Esports World Touring Car Cup’s phoenix (and perhaps truly final) season, Bence Bánki was practically home and dry but for the numbers not quite lining up. Officially speaking, he lay 35 points ahead of the chasing trio of Italian drivers meaning that a solid finish in the evening’s first contest would be plenty.
Unofficially speaking, the Slovakian would require not scoring for the title ‘fight’ to persist to the final chequered flag.
Having already sewn up the Pole Position Trophy for 2023, Bánki was simply flexing by setting the fastest time in qualifying for a fourth time. Of all the circuits, this one was most expected given its location.
The Slovakiaring, albeit quite remarkably the shortest track on the calendar, was certain to provide more natural overtaking opportunities than its predecessors. Alessandro Ottaviani would hope to take advantage of this from second, although he’d find himself surrounded in a Dörr Esports fiesta.
Returning eWTCC champion Alexander Dornieden demonstrated no rustiness, a third-place start hugely impressive given how tight the field is nowadays. Max Pfeifer and Florian Hasse rounded out the top ten while Gianmarco Fiduci struggled to eighth.
ESPORTS WTCR 2023 – ROUND 5, Race 1
It was sixth on the grid’s Petr Pliska who made the most of lights out – screaming past Hasse and Pfeifer to occupy fourth by Turn 3. Truth be told, everyone was rather well-behaved for a potential last encounter in TCR machinery. Even the intra-team battles were cordial as Hasse made his way past Pfeifer.
The first genuine flash point sparked some eleven minutes into proceedings. Dornieden had looked the faster driver in the leading pack and sent it into Turn 1 on Ottaviani.
It was a little too aggressive and places were exchanged to right the wrongs though the damage had been done. Veloce’s leading car now sat over a second behind Bánki with barely any slipstream.
A domino effect generated interest from Pliska, although his attempt to sweep around the outside of Dornieden at Turn 3 only served to invite attention from Hasse. The German doggedly attacked through the middle sector before securing fourth on the exit of Turn 8. He would quickly find himself on the backfoot thanks to a poor Turn 14 exit.
Hasse and Pliska felt the wrath of the freight train, Pliska, Fiduci and Juan Manuel Gomez all flying through. The second-placed man in the championship fancied more, however, and capitalised on a poor Turn 1 for Pliska to briefly grab fourth for himself. It all came to a head into Turn 3 when Fiduci was elbowed out of the way inciting a reaction which dumped him back to seventh.
Overworking the tyres left the Italian vulnerable to Pfeifer and the German was back into seventh on the final lap. A final lap that was merely a victory parade for the newly-crowned, two-times champion of the eWTCR. Bence Bánki was king once again.
ESPORTS WTCR 2023 – ROUND 5, RACE 1 RESULTS
- Bence Bánki – 25:52.047
- Alessandro Ottaviani – +1.563
- Alexander Dornieden – +2.305
- Petr Pliska – +2.803
- Juan Manuel Gomez – +4.221
- Florian Hasse – +4.730
- Max Pfeifer – +7.266
- Gianmarco Fiduci – +7.596
- David Nagy – +8.080
- Adam Pinczes – +9.131
ESPORTS WTCR 2023 – ROUND 5, Race 2
A disappointing Race 1 had left Fiduci third in the standings, but he did now enjoy a top-three start for the final flurry of the year. As he (along with Adam Pinczes and David Nagy) got away nicely, behind all hell was about to break loose.
Pfeifer and Hasse came under immediate threat from Gomez and Pliska leading to disaster for the Fordzilla duo. Surrounding Hasse into Turn 3, Gomez was caught on the inside and effectively PIT manoeuvred himself across the German. This, in turn, caught Pliska on the outside and both were sent to the gravel.
Fiduci, meanwhile, was making the most of his superior confidence. Lacing around Nagy through Turns 7 and 8, second was his, leaving just Pinczes between him and the lead. Nagy dropped another position to Pfeifer and as he continued to descend Fiduci was only looking up. Yet another pass around the outside of Turn 8 meant that 25 points were just twenty minutes away.
Having eventually made his way by Nagy himself, Hasse soon took care of his stablemate to enter the winner’s conversation at the halfway stage. Just two laps later, the German would be gifted second after Pinczes barely stopped his car in time at Turn 3. Fiduci was lucky to escape contact.
It had been a great season from Pinczes – everything considered – with Arnage’s Hungarian required to pre-qualify for every event. Today was just not his day as he continued to suffer with brake instability. A podium went up in smoke thanks to Pfeifer before Bánki rubbed salt in the wound with a last lap pass.
For Fiduci, however, he at least grabbed an elusive victory. And with it came second in the championship.
ESPORTS WTCR 2023 – ROUND 5, RACE 2 RESULTS
- Gianmarco Fiduci – 25:55.811
- Florian Hasse – +0.376
- Max Pfeifer – +0.847
- Bence Bánki – +1.122
- Adam Pinczes – +1.562
- Alessandro Ottaviani – +3.553
- Jack Keithley – +3.837
- David Nagy – +4.383
- Axel Vermeylen* – +4.817
- Elmar Kurbanov- +8.840
* = Under Investigation Post-Race
Images courtesy of Gianmarco Fiduci