The ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship returned on Tuesday evening with the first of a six-round 2022 season sure to bring plenty of excitement.
If you missed out on what happened in pre-season we have you covered, but the main takeaway is a change in format seeing the removal of the GT4 class and the introduction of a second qualifying session before the second race of the evening. Both races have also been shortened in length.
The opener took place in the United Kingdom at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix layout. Löhner in a new car, promoted GT4 drivers eager to test their metal and several drivers with pre-season momentum. It was teed up to be a thrilling ride.
Löhner’s level of consistency in 2021 was brutal, although this was often in spite of somewhat underwhelming qualifying performances. Not many previous outings could match up to only 17th in his first 2022 venture.
The fact the German was only 0.449 seconds off the ultimate pace was a testament to just how tightly packed the grid is this year.
Somewhat on the periphery of the elite in 2021, Christopher Högfeldt had built up strong form in the recent REMUS GT3 Championship and looked to bring this to the party with an opening pole position. On the front row with the Swede would be Erhan Jajovski whose promising start to 2021 ended up tailing off.
The mercurial Nikodem Wisniewski hoped to rectify such a tag with a strong third ahead of a hugely impressive Michael Rächl.
Rolling starts don’t usually produce as many early swaps as their standing start counterparts, yet the rather skewed looking formation crossing the line proved bountiful for Wisniewski who marched up to Jajovski and ultimately took second around the outside of Graham Hill Bend while further back, Isaac Price spun.
A bizarre set of events then unfurled as a number of the German runners, including Löhner and Pejic, all retired simultaneously citing a problem with the simulator itself. With many Germans still in the running, it was a baffling scenario that sadly could not be rectified with the race already in motion.
There wasn’t much more to be said of the major points contenders with the tight, twisty environment of Brands making it too risky for many a contender to chance a lunge.
Not that there was any chance to lunge on Högfeldt who simply ran away from those behind in the opening laps and never looked back. The TX3 driver led Wisniewski and Jajovski home to the podium.
It would transpire to be Högfeldt’s day in qualifying with a thrilling second session topped by the teammate to Juan Pablo Montoya in the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, just beating out a much-improved Price to top honours. Behind these two lay Marc Gassner and Leonard Krippner, underrated drivers in the wider sim racing scene who always seem to perform well in this particular championship.
Once again, Löhner was not in the top ten conversation, although he wouldn’t be alone in disappointment as Rächl’s sensational first qualifying effort could not be matched again.
For the second time that evening, second off the start was usurped by third early on. Price was caught napping as the go was given and Gassner didn’t think twice with the move done before Paddock Hill Bend.
Though, in theory, these GT3 machines wouldn’t require a pitstop in the reduced 30-minute race time from last year’s 40-minutes, a stop was still mandated by the rules.
Aware of this, before the pit window had even officially opened, many made their way onto pitroad to get out of the train and into clean air to try and better their potential. The leader of this group was Krippner, ahead of Pejic and Rächl.
Though Högfeldt and the three behind him didn’t blink, Bánki and a number of others responded immediately to this aggressive strategy.
Reigning champion Löhner was a part of this section, yet inexplicably spun on pit entry performing one of the most bizarre stops of championship history, let alone his own career to this point.
Of the leading quartet, Gassner was first to blink a lap on from Löhner’s moment of madness. It was a good thing he did too as Bánki arrived underneath his rear wing instantly putting pressure on the usually tactically astute Price now in second.
The privateer driver would pursue his customary long first stint whilst Högfeldt stopped on the halfway mark. The man dominating proceedings at Brands had no challenge at the pit exit.
Price finally headed onto new tyres with eleven minutes left and it appeared that patience had paid off. After losing position to Gassner early on, the British driver was back ahead.
However, in spite of the slight tyre advantage, Price was unable to catch an infallible Högfeldt who took two wins home alongside his two pole positions. A clean sweep.
For a second consecutive season, the Traxion.GG YouTube channel is the place to go for your exclusive English commentary coverage. Be sure to subscribe for all future rounds of the ADAC GT Esports Masters Championship this season.
ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship, Brands Hatch, Sprint Race results
- Christopher Högfeldt – 17:29.594
- Nikodem Wisniewski +1.905
- Erhan Jajovski +2.475
- Bence Bánki +3.725
- Michael Rächl +4.381
- Jack Keithley +4.855
- Leonard Krippner +5.307
- Alexander Dornieden +6.700
- Jakub Brzezinski +8.022
- Emre Cihan +8.516
ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship, Brands Hatch, Feature Race results
- Christopher Högfeldt – 32:12.598
- Isaac Price +0.942
- Marc Gassner +5.767
- Bence Bánki +7.048
- Erhan Jajovski +7.540
- Leonard Krippner +7.907
- Nikodem Wisniewski +9.150
- Jack Keithley +10.348
- Leon Rüdinger +10.775
- Kevin Siggy +11.907