The Mercedes-AMG teams have enjoyed successful GT World Challenge Esports campaigns so far in 2023, notching up several wins across the European, Asian and Sim Pro series, with the previous European Sprint championship round from Spa-Francorchamps culminating in a top-four lockout for the Stuttgart marque.
And the trend continued in Round 4 from the Nürburgring’s Grand Prix layout, as the HRT Unicorns of Love’s Niklas Houben edged out Williams Esports’ Dominik Blajer, with Dennis Schöniger making it a second consecutive all-Mercedes-AMG rostrum.
It was a dominant performance from Houben at the Nürburgring, and it all started with a superlative qualifying performance. The German managed to beat the top Silver class driver Vojtech Fiala, driving a Porsche 911 GT3 R for Williams Esports, into an impressive second place.
Surprisingly, it was another Silver driver in third, as Marco Jonkers slotted his Mercedes-AMG onto the second row. Erik Del Fante did a tremendous job to haul the unfancied Honda NSX GT3 Evo into sixth overall and third in Silver.
Of the other Pro contenders, Blajer and Schöniger had to content themselves with fourth and fifth on the grid respectively.
It was set to be a tough evening for championship contenders Mikhail Statsenko and George Boothby, however, as the pair qualified down in 18th and 33rd, the Balance of Performance not suited to their respective Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II and Ferrari 296 GT3 machines.
It was a solid start from Houben, who eased away from Fiala up front. Behind, Blajer launched an incisive move on Jonkers to snatch third at the Schumacher S before setting off after Fiala.
Jonkers lost another three positions in quick succession in the following laps, with Schöniger, Luke Whitehead and Michael Tauscher all passing in a matter of corners. Del Fante was soon on his tail too, mounting an attack on second place in SIlver.
The front four eased away from the group headed by Whitehead in fifth, with Jonkers re-taking sixth from Tauscher as the pit window opened. Jonkers overtook Whitehead at Turn 1 with 36 minutes to go, aiming to build a sufficient gap to retain fifth after the pitstop phase.
Blajer and Schöniger pitted simultaneously, Whitehead followed in a lap later, which allowed Jonkers and Del Fante clear air to attack. Just before half distance, Houben and Fiala boxed, with Fiala enduring a torrid pitstop and losing second overall as a result.
Schöniger had also jumped the unfortunate Fiala into third, who nevertheless retained a healthy advantage in the Silver class stakes. Marco Jonkers, on the other hand, had lost second in Silver, as Del Fante jumped ahead in the pitstop phase. The Silver podium positions would remain unchanged until the chequered flag.
Likewise, it was status quo at the head of the Pro class as Houben eased to victory, securing the fastest lap in the process. Blajer just held off Schöniger for second position, taking the lead in the championship.
Blajer holds a slender single-point advantage in the standings from Statsenko, with Houben climbing to third just seven points further adrift. In Silver, Fiala maintains a strong grip on the title, sitting an almost-insurmountable 34 points ahead of Dario Iemmulo.
GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint series 2023, Pro results
- Niklas Houben Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020 Mercedes-AMG Esports Team HRT by UOL
- Dominik Blajer Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020 Williams Esports Razer
- Dennis Schoniger Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020 Mercedes-AMG Team Williams ESports
- Bastian Richter Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020 Mercedes-AMG Esports Team Unicorns of Love
- Mikhail Statsenko Audi R8 LMS Evo II ITB Sainteloc Racing
GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint series 2023, Silver results
- Vojtech Fiala Porsche 992 GT3 R Williams Esports Fanatec
- Erik Del Fante Honda NSX GT3 Evo The Italian Job
- Marco Jonkers Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020 West Competition Racing
- Dario Iemmulo Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 VS Racing by Ballas
- Max Wojtyna Porsche 992 GT3 R Williams Esports
Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe (Online Sprint) Calendar
May 3 – Monza May 24 – Circuit Paul Ricard June 21 – Spa-Francorchamps July 19 – Nürburgring
- August 23 – Barcelona
Prize money pool: €18,500
Featured image courtesy of SRO Esports