Coming into the final race of 2023’s GT Challenge competition, Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team’s Dennis Jordan was well in control of the championship.
Thanks to consistency rather than blinding speed, the German held a commanding 15-point lead over team-mate Alex Seibel, with the Burst Esport pair of Michi Hoyer and Jernej Simončič a further eight and 17 points adrift respectively.
Simončič has set the benchmark in terms of pace this season: the Slovenian claiming three wins up to this point. Although he had encountered misfortune at three events his pace was never in question and he can consider himself unlucky not to be leading the series.
However, the Ferrari trio of Jordan, Seibel and new team-mate Timotej Andonovski have played the team game perfectly, adopting a pragmatic approach to races, with Andonovski the most confident of the three thanks to claiming an assured victory at Lime Rock Park.
The final round was scheduled to take place on Daytona International Speedway’s Road Course layout, with Jimi Nisula taking a surprise pole position in his older-spec McLaren 650S GT3.
Mickael Le Roux would join him on the front row, with Jordan slotting into third, giving himself a great opportunity to claim the crown. Simončič started alongside, however, with fellow championship protagonists Seibel and Hoyer further back in seventh and a disappointed 14th respectively.
With the prospect of a 90-minute race including a mandatory pitstop, those who qualified further down the grid could at least plan an alternate race strategy.
Jernej Simončič’s strategy off the line was abundantly clear. The Slovenian bump drafted Le Roux past Nisula, with Simončič sliding down the inside at Horseshoe to claim second. Nisula had a good run on Simončič soon after and took second position before closing in on race leader Le Roux.
Behind, Jordan had closed onto the back of Simončič, both deciding to work together such was their eagerness to join the lead battle. Simončič was acting as the cork in the bottle at this stage, however, with Fabian Balle capitalising by diving down the inside of Jordan at Turn 1.
Up front, Nisula had launched attack after attack at Le Roux with the Mercedes-AMG driver impressively holding firm. That is until Nisula took advantage of a superlative run through Turn 7 towards The Le Mans Chicane, taking the lead ahead of the pitstop phase.
With 42 minutes left to run, Nisula made his mandatory stop with Le Roux pitting one lap later. Surprisingly, Le Roux made the overcut work, emerging ahead of Nisula who faced the prospect of another convoluted overtake in order to claim victory.
One lap later still, Jordan, Simončič and Andonovski made their stops and it became clear that Simončič had made a bold strategy call, either electing to change just two tyres or short fuelling. Regardless, this jumped him up to the head of the pack, gaining at least eight seconds on the leading pair.
Nisula made a quick move on Le Roux and was straight after Simončič, with Jordan pushing Le Roux along aiming to join in the fun. However, a surfeit of pace meant the race was now a clear battle between Nisula and Simončič for the win.
Both drivers were pushing hard, so much so that with around 13 minutes to go Simončič outbraked himself at Turn 1 under pressure from Nisula. Contact was made, with Nisula’s McLaren moving into a deserved lead.
The run to the chequered flag on the final lap was equally as exciting, with Simončič staying in Nisula’s slipstream for one last shot at first position. Rolling through the final banked corner, Simončič made his move, the pair neck-and-neck across the line.
Nisula took the win by just nine-thousandths of a second. Le Roux took a creditable third, with new GT Challenge champion Jordan fourth.
Although Jordan had failed to win a race all season, his ultra-consistent performances gave him a deserved GT Challenge championship, aided by successful performances from his Ferrari team-mates – Siebel and Andonovski ending second and fifth in the standings.
The Burst Esports pair of Hoyer and Simončič finished third and fourth respectively, with Simončič ruing issues at Long Beach and Sebring which undoubtedly would have made him a series contender.
GT Challenge 2023 Round 6 Daytona International Speedway Road Course results
- Jimi Nisula
- Jernej Simončič
- Mickael Le Roux
- Dennis Jordan
- Fabian Balle
- Timotej Andonovski
- Alex Siebel
- Henri Sinik
- Remco Majoor
- Michi Hoyer
GT Challenge 2023 Final Drivers’ Standings
- Dennis Jordan – 725 points
- Alex Siebel – 707 points
- Michi Hoyer – 697 points
- Jernej Simončič – 694 points
- Timotej Andonovski – 688 points
- Jimi Nisula – 679 points
- Daniel Stepkowski – 666 points
- Arda Ercan – 661 points
- Fabian Balle – 660 points
- Mickael Le Roux – 650 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