Round 4 of GT Challenge saw Jernej Simončič take another victory in what has been a largely dominant season for the Slovenian.
However, his chances of claiming the 2023 crown have been dented by two non-finishes, with Dennis Jordan of the Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team emerging as the championship’s most consistent performer to head the standings.
The tight twists and turns of Lime Rock Park awaited the drivers for Round 5, with the track arguably favouring the nimbler Ferraris and McLarens over the Mercedes-AMG juggernauts (including Burst Esports pair Michi Hoyer and Simončič).
Using the narrow Uphill Chicane layout of Lime Rock, qualifying at the front of the pack was going to be paramount. Surprisingly, it was Diogo Silva who claimed pole position in his BMW M4 GT3, leading Hoyer by just under half a tenth of a second.
Behind them, it was the Ferrari pair of Timotej Andonovski (who was signed by the Maranello squad ahead of Round 2 at Sebring) and Alex Siebel followed by Simončič in fifth. Championship leader Jordan qualified seventh, so had some work to do to preserve his title buffer.
Silva made a sluggish start and was quickly enveloped by Andonovski, Hoyer and Simončič at Turn 1. Siebel had fallen off the back of the lead group almost immediately too, slotting in just ahead of team-mate Jordan. There was some confusion over the start procedure, however, which would have huge implications later.
Up front, it was fellow Ferrari driver Andonovski making moves, as he sent it around the outside of Hoyer at Turn 1, the German being firm but fair in his defence but ultimately unable to stop the Macedonian from taking the lead.
There was drama behind as Simončič dove into the pits to serve a penalty – presumably for being out of position at the start of the race – promoting everyone behind up a position, including championship rivals Siebel and Jordan.
With a quarter of the race done, Ercan and Silva engaged in a fierce battle for third, resulting in unfortunate contact and the end of Ercan’s podium hopes at the Uphill Chicane. As a result, Jordan trumped his teammate and homed in on Silva.
The incident bunched the pack behind, resulting in Jake Denehan getting a run on Jimi Nisula through the final corner. His Audi bounced unfavourably off the inside kerb, collecting the McLaren and caused the Irishman’s instant retirement. Nisula would continue, albeit with significant damage.
Jordan made a robust overtake on Silva at the same corner a few laps later, allowing two more cars through in the process, including a grateful Siebel.
With a few minutes remaining, Siebel and Jordan swapped positions as Jordan was unexpectedly baulked by traffic slowing for the pitlane. He lost the position to his team-mate but it could have been so much worse for the German. The Ferrari pair finished the race line astern in third and fourth, nearly 10 seconds behind the leading pair of Andonovski and Hoyer.
And it was Andonovski who just held on for the win from Hoyer, impressively handling the race-long pressure from the Burst Esport driver. Siebel and Jordan cemented their second and first positions in the championship respectively, with Arda Ercan securing fifth and Jernej Simončič pulling off an inspired sixth place after a stirring recovery drive.
With one round to go at Daytona International Speedway’s Road Course, the championship looks to be in the hands of Dennis Jordan and the Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team. Can anyone stop them?
GT Challenge 2023 Round 5 Lime Rock Park results
- Timotej Andonovski
- Michi Hoyer
- Alex Siebel
- Dennis Jordan
- Arda Ercan
- Jernej Simončič
- Fabian Baklle
- Diogo Silva
- Remi Delorme
- Remco Majoor
GT Challenge 2023 Drivers’ Standings after Round 5
- Dennis Jordan – 638 points
- Alex Siebel – 623 points
- Michi Hoyer – 615 points
- Jernej Simončič – 606 points
- Timotej Andonovski – 602 points
- Daniel Stepkowski – 602 points
- Arda Ercan – 588 points
- Jimi Nisula – 583 points
- Fabian Balle – 572 points
- Mickael Le Roux – 560 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