Round 1 of GT Challenge saw Jan von der Heyde put in two assured performances to hold the championship lead from the Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team pair of Dennis Jordan and Alex Siebel after a 15-minute Sprint and a 45-minute Main race.
However, it was all change for Round 2, as von der Heyde had announced his departure from the series altogether, with a revised format of one single 60-minute race being implemented to counter-act rFactor 2 gridding issues experienced in Round 1.
The field arrived at Sebring with thoughts on tyre management – absent in the shorter races of Round 1 – foremost on the drivers’ minds. The quickest way to the chequered flag was through no-stopping, but the question was who could nurse their tyres to the end best?
Round 1 Sprint winner Jernej Simončič had unfortunately encountered a DNF in the Main Race, so was looking to bounce back immediately at the Floridian Airport venue. However, the Slovenian disconnected during Qualifying and his day was unfortunately done.
Turka Hakkinen emerged as the surprise pole-sitter in his Audi R8 LMS GT3, with the impressive Dawid Mroczek of Burst Esport alongside. Former GT Pro champion Michi Hoyer (also of Burst Esport) sat third, the German eager to get his GT Challenge campaign back on track after a subdued start at Long Beach.
Dennis Jordan, the de factor championship leader after von der Heyde’s exit, placed down in a disappointing ninth position, with his Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team team-mate Alex Siebel faring even worse in 12th. Both were out-qualified by 11th-hour Ferrari signing Andonovski, the North Macedonian eager to impress on his debut for Maranello.
As the field thundered towards Turn 1 after the rolling start there was immediate drama at the front. Hakkinen was tagged by Mroczek, forcing both drivers deep and allowing Hoyer to snatch the lead.
Hakkinen recovered to fourth but sustained damage in the lap one encounter, leaving him with a pace deficit to the cars around him. Up front, however, Hoyer was under intense pressure from Vojta Polesny behind, with Jimi Nisula applying a watching in third.
Polesny’s pace advantage was surprising given his fourth-place qualifying position; in fact, it was too good to be true. Through strategic error (or simply loading the wrong set-up), Polesny was fuelled for only 20 minutes, so with hindsight, his overtake on Hoyer was expected.
As Polesny pitted, Hoyer came under increased pressure from Nisula behind. Both drivers were on medium compound tyres so whoever could eke out the most performance while managing wear would likely prevail.
Behind, Hakkinen tumbled down the order but held off Daniel Stepkowski thanks to a glorious full 360 spin while battling for seventh. Although Hakkinen appeared to be struggling his defence was stern, forcing Arda Ercan’s Mercedes-AMG into trackside polystyrene boards.
At the tail end of the top 10, Queens’ Design’s Mia Rose and Rocket Simsport’s Matt Richards engaged in a near race-long battle, both drivers showing tremendous respect and trust in racing wheel-to-wheel as they negotiated the stricken Hakkinen. Richards would ultimately come out on top in this battle after a late mistake from Rose at Turn 1.
Ferrari on the move
Meanwhile, Dennis Jordan had picked his way through the field up to sixth position, just behind his new Ferrari team-mate Andonovski. Both drivers were outliers in the top 10 thanks to their soft compound tyres, which proved to be the right choice for Jordan as he enjoyed strong pace right to the race’s conclusion.
Andonovski played the team game and let Jordan through, freeing Jordan up for an attack on Jesper Pedersen in fourth. The decision was vindicated, as with just a couple of minutes left on the race clock Jordan swept by a powerless Pedersen, securing first position in the championship in the process.
Out front, Hoyer had eased out a gap to Nisula at the race’s conclusion, with Mroczek a secure third position. The result means Hoyer is just 20 points behind Jordan in the championship standings down in sixth place. Dawid Mroczek is Jordan’s closest challenger seven points adrift, with positions three through five separated by just two points.
The next round takes place on the 10th of April at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where Hoyer will no doubt be looking to make further gains on Jordan’s lead.
GT Challenge 2023 Round 2 Sebring results
- Michi Hoyer
- Jimi Nisula
- Dawid Mroczek
- Dennis Jordan
- Jesper Pedersen
- Timotej Andonovski
- Matt Richards
- Mia Rose
- Fabian Balle
- Daniel Stepkowski
GT Challenge 2023 Drivers’ Standings after Round 2
- Dennis Jordan, 351 points
- Dawid Mroczek, 344 points
- Daniel Stepkowski, 337 points
- Alex Siebel, 337 points
- Jimi Nisula, 335 points
- Michi Hoyer, 331 points
- Jesper Pedersen, 329 points
- Turkka Hakkinen, 326 points
- Mickael Le Roux , 325 points
- Matt Richards, 324 points
2023 GT Challenge calendar
Qualification | 21st February – 19th March Rd1 – Long Beach – 27th March Rd2 – Sebring – 3rd April
- Rd3 – Laguna Seca – 10th April
- Rd4 – Indianapolis – 17th April
- Rd5 – Lime Rock Park – 24th April
- Rd6 – Daytona – 1st May