Mortiz Löhner did himself proud at the Nürburgring last time out after a worst-case scenario unfolded so far in his third consecutive defence of the ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship crown. Two wins, however, would only be enough to take the reigning champion to around one hundred points behind the 2022 points leader, Christopher Högfeldt.
The door had been opened for a redemption charge in the second half of the season, yet realistically the Swede’s true title rivals were the somewhat under-the-radar Bence Bánki and Jack Keithley. Although the Brit had delivered a strong round in Watkins Glen, the Slovakian had yet to pick up a win.
Extra interest was to be placed on the qualifying sessions of Round 4 as Zandvoort beckoned – a track not renowned for its overtaking spots. Högfeldt himself would be hoping not to face the underwhelming points returns of two weeks ago.
Sprint race qualifying
Indeed, the TX3 pilot would end up in much more familiar territory for the Sprint Race starting grid. Fourth would be handsome in most scenarios yet the scenery surrounding Högfeldt may have seemed troubling. Keithley lined up one place behind in fifth, yet ahead of the pair lay more championship rivals.
Erhan Jajovski took his first pole position of the season. The North Macedonian arrived at the event fourth in the standings, still very much in contention for the title. Bánki, the closest challenger to Högfeldt, would be second ahead of Löhner who maintained his good form.
The German’s start would end up being just as handy as his fastest lap time. Swooping down the inside of his Dörr Esports stablemate, Löhner was up into second with Keithley up into fourth just behind.
Another early scrap involved Marko Pejic and Gianmarco Fiduci although the Italian would find himself retiring after a spin down at Hans Ernst.
Sadly, as somewhat expected, the race was rather processional not seeing much in the way of excitement. Near its conclusion, Nikodem Wisniewski found out just why so much caution was on display. One gap afforded to Isaac Price was taken with gusto; this move unravelled into the Polish driver losing eight positions ultimately.
No such worries for Jajovski who was barely mentioned such was his dominance. A first win of the season for him was a timely boost in his championship hopes along with both Löhner and Bánki who made up the podium. Högfeldt had to settle for a solid fifth.
Feature race qualifying
Jajovski was on top once again by the end of Feature Race qualifying though the margins between him and surprise contender Leonard Krippner were extremely tight. Also surprising was the lack of both Högfeldt and Löhner in the top ten. For the latter, this may have spelt doom for any hopes he had of retaining the title.
Keithley performed well once more, lining up third ahead of the unfortunate Wisniewski who no doubt sighed in relief to see his evening given a much-needed boost. Bánki, with a serious chance to gain good ground on the championship leader, lay in sixth.
Once again, the second-placed car at the start found themselves under pressure immediately. After a standout qualifying performance, Krippner was close to conceding two places through five corners but for some strong defending into Hugenholtz.
With Keithley up a position, attention quickly turned to the other major players. Bánki had stormed up to fifth whilst Löhner and Högfeldt remained outside the top ten.
With nothing to lose, the reigning champion led the first slew of pit stops as the pitlane officially opened for business. The response this prompted was strong as half the field, including Keithley, Krippner and Bánki arrived for their fresh set of boots.
Sadly for the man who sat next to the pole sitter, a poor stop utterly destroyed his race. Krippner rejoined the track behind Fiduci and well outside the net top ten.
The race leader was next and Jajovski’s timing was impeccable as he remained the net leader following this. His pace was searing, opening up a noticeable gap within just a few laps. With Isaac Price returning to old traditions by becoming the last driver to stop, the entire field had sorted itself out with the focus laying on Wisniewski’s attack on Bánki’s podium spot.
Löhner’s early stop had worked a treat in the grand scheme; from twelfth on the road, he now lay eighth though with plenty of work still to do. At the sharp end of things, tensions were rising in the Williams camp with Keithley dropping back significantly into the clutches of Bánki. Whether a pure loss of pace or a tactical throw of the dice to aid Wisniewski, it ultimately led to his downfall.
Plenty of overspeed towards Hans Ernst enabled Bánki to swing around the outside of Keithley and into second. A spectacular move to earmark a massive change in the championship’s picture.
Erhan Jajovski was simply untouchable on the night coming home miles ahead of his nearest competitor. Bánki, having not won a race to this point, would surely have been the happiest man in the paddock taking over the championship lead from Högfeldt whose form had stuttered.
A surely frustrated Keithley would round out the podium gaining overall on TX3’s Swede but losing out to all his fellow rivals.
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Sprint race results
- Erhan Jajovski 17:01.336
- Moritz Löhner +2.419
- Bence Bánki +3.093
- Jack Keithley +3.714
- Christopher Högfeldt +5.304
- Alexander Dornieden +5.855
- Leonard Krippner +6.203
- Jakub Brzezinski +9.125
- Isaac Price +9.339
- Leon Rüdinger +9.976
Feature race results
- Erhan Jajovski 32:19.759
- Bence Bánki +9.506
- Jack Keithley +10.042
- Nikodem Wisniewski +10.217
- Jakub Brzezinski +11.637
- Emre Cihan +11.941
- Kevin Siggy +12.269
- Moritz Löhner +12.490
- Leon Rüdinger +12.692
- Marc Gassner +14.619