Michi Hoyer moved himself into the GT Challenge championship hunt at Round 2 from Sebring, taking victory and closing in on his German compatriot Dennis Jordan at the top of the standings.
With Round 1 Main Race winner Jan von der Heyde sitting out the rest of the season and pacesetter Jernej Simončič encountering issues in both rounds so far, any one of the top ten could stake a claim to the GT Challenge crown for 2023. A task made more difficult by the series’ tight points structure.
Could Simončič push through his earlier disappointments to mount a title charge, or would Hoyer, and Jordan continue their race-winning form?
Qualifying for Round 3 at the tight and twisty Laguna Seca failed to create any shocks at the front of the field. The main championship protagonists filled out the first two rows, with Simončič on pole by a healthy 0.15s.
Jordan was next, with his Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team stablemate Alex Siebel just behind. Starting fourth and eager to move forward was Hoyer, followed behind by the third Scuderia Ferrari car of Timotej Andonovski.
The lead battle was remarkably well-behaved as the field made its way towards Turn 1, although further behind there was a huge shunt involving Turka Hakkinen, Jesper Pedersen and Jake Denehan, as the trio attempted to go four-wide with Kristian Kwietniewski at the Turn 1 kink.
The incident proved to be race-ending for Hakkinen, Pedersen and Denehan unfortunately.
It was line astern at the front, however, with Simončič and Jordan moving away from Siebel behind. The Scuderia Ferrari drivers had opted for soft compound tyres at Sebring, with Jordan in particular nursing them to good effect.
At Laguna Seca, however, the choice was between mediums and hards, with mediums being the tyre of choice for the majority of the field. Keeping them alive would be tough around the tight confines of the Californian circuit.
With a third of the race gone, the battle for seventh was simmering along nicely. Arda Ercan held the position but was under attack from Daniel Stepkowski, Vojta Polesny, Mickael Le Roux, Mia Rose and Matt Richards behind.
Tensions eventually boiled over, with some jostling finally giving way to full contact as Rose tagged Polesny into a half-spin at the final corner. This relegated an aggrieved Polesny down to 13th , with a subsequent bump and run on Kwietniewski underlining his frustration.
This in turn led to an entertaining four-car battle between Le Roux, Richards, Kwietniewski and Polesny, culminating in Richards hitting an anti-cut and spinning. The Welshman was collected by Polesny on the way round, leading to retirement.
Ahead of this battle, Mia Rose had picked her way through the carnage up to eighth, right on the tail of Sebring spinner Daniel Stepkowski. Second-place finisher at Sebring Jimi Nisula endured a torrid time at Laguna Seca, struggling to extract pace from his McLaren 650S GT3, resulting in a 17th place finish.
Ryan Elliott had put on an impressive display by climbing to 14th by the race’s conclusion, the Englishman able to pick his way through the midfield from a lowly 25th on the grid.
Simončič and Jordan dominance
Out front, however, Jordan kept Simončič honest, the Slovenian soaking up constant pressure from the Ferrari driver. Jordan was perhaps playing a pragmatic game, unwilling to go for a risky overtake given the distance between himself and Simončič in the championship.
Additionally, Jordan’s team-mate Siebel was a couple of seconds in arrears in third position, giving Jordan a buffer to focus on the lead battle. Hoyer held fourth with Andonovski fifth, the front five remaining in their starting positions throughout the race.
At the chequered flag, it was therefore Simončič from Jordan, with Siebel two seconds further afield. Hoyer and Andonovski were in their own races a further 12 and 20 seconds behind, with Dawid Mroczek finishing a secure sixth.
The result means Jordan extends his lead to Mroczek in the championship to 14 points as we head to the Indianapolis Road Course for Round 4, where Jernej Simončič will no doubt be eager to continue his winning streak.
GT Challenge 2023 Round 3 Laguna Seca results
- Jernej Simončič
- Dennis Jordan
- Alex Siebel
- Michi Hoyer
- Timotej Andonovski
- Dawid Mroczek
- Daniel Stepkowski
- Mia Rose
- Arda Ercan
- Vojta Polesny
GT Challenge 2023 Drivers’ Standings after Round 3
- Dennis Jordan, 461 points
- Dawid Mroczek, 447 points
- Alex Siebel, 447 points
- Daniel Stepkowski, 337 points
- Michi Hoyer, 444 points
- Jimi Nisula, 438 points
- Jernej Simončič, 426 points
- Mickael Le Roux , 425 points
- Timotej Andonovski, 422 points
- Arda Ercan, 420 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