After over a year away, the DTM Esports Championship is back. The days of Class 1 machinery are over; in its place comes lightly modified GT3 grunt with more than just German engineering represented.
It is a German driver who enters the 2022 season as the reigning champion, however. Moritz Löhner has endured a torrid beginning to his year with his previously unshakeable grip on ADAC GT Masters Esports slipping dramatically over the space of weeks.
Heading into Thursday evening, he would be hoping that the ship could be righted somewhat with a strong start in a fresh campaign.
As detailed in our preview, Löhner faces a wide array of familiar adversaries ranging from the likes of Jack Keithley to late-2021 breakout star Christopher Högfeldt. Questions were answered at the first round in Imola.
Sprint Race Qualifying
Given the enclosed nature of Imola, a good lap to start off a championship charge appeared key and Kevin Siggy delivered with a 1:40.027. It was an even more impressive time considering how tightly packed the field ended up being with just four-tenths dividing P1 from P10.
Löhner was at least in the picture claiming third behind Dörr Esports stablemate Leonard Krippner whilst Alessandro Ottaviani looked strong in fourth.
Krippner was caught out big time as lights went green above the rolling start. Löhner was immediately past his compatriot and hassled Siggy into Tamburello.
Ottaviani also tried to leap into the podium places yet to no avail. Limited overtaking spots made things tricky across the opening five minutes for Löhner who, by the eye of the observer, was faster than Siggy yet unable to do anything about it.
Petr Pliska found himself on the precipice of the top ten in qualifying and had maintained his position well enough. Tim Jarschel had seen enough of the Italian’s rear bumper with nine minutes left to run and went on the offensive. The Tailoredrig Esports driver is capable of greatness but his impatience showed on this occasion going for a spin into the gravel at Turn 2.
Into the final five minutes, Löhner had identified his moment to strike. Receiving a strong slipstream off the Team Redline Ferrari 488 ahead, Siggy was helpless to defend as the champion swung around the outside of Turn 1 and had enough power upon exit of Turn 3 to nip ahead of the Austro-Slovenian.
Any Siggy rebuttal was swiftly put to bed thanks to increased pressure from Krippner who played the team game beautifully. Löhner was given plenty of space to guarantee his first win of the season and a much needed shot in the arm for the German driver’s confidence.
Endurance Race Qualifying
Despite losing out on the Sprint Race victory, Siggy was not to be deterred from chasing further success. A second pole position of the evening would surely provide comfort, especially with both Dörr podium scorers further down the order.
In their places stood their other stablemate in Florian Hasse and Gianmarco Fiduci who locked in an all Ferrari front row.
Löhner and Krippner would still qualify inside the top ten, making up the fourth row of the grid.
As was the case earlier, the second row seemed to have the better of the rolling start. Unlike in the Sprint Race, the front row stayed as it was although Högfeldt slipped past Hasse to make it a Ferrari 1-2-3 in Italy.
2020 runner-up Keithley had found himself rather anonymous for the first contest but life in the Endurance was about to get a lot worse. A spin up at Piratella put a stop to any hopes of a top ten finish.
It was potentially looking like a long hour of racing for Fiduci also as Siggy strolled away and Högfeldt breezed by without resistance on the second lap. Thought to possibly have damage, his only saving grace in the opening minutes was the stiff level of the competitiveness behind.
Though Krippner had started poorly, falling outside the top ten, Löhner was looking upward having gained a place and angling for more amongst the train.
Unfortunately, Löhner fell foul of overeagerness. A move on Alessandro Ottaviani went a little too over the edge with the Italian introduced to the Tamburello gravel. This would lose him five places overall.
Any steward’s decision would need to be at the back of Löhner’s mind with places still to be gained. Hasse moved aside for his team leader who got the job done on Fiduci with little fuss just corners later.
More fuss and attention would be kicked up just a lap on at Tosa as Hasse half-spun Fiduci. Though the Fordzilla car wasn’t in dire straits, he still dropped places to both Marko Pejic and Isaac Price. Price himself wouldn’t remain seventh for long as he became the first person to dive into the pitlane.
From second, Högfeldt would be the next major player to stop – just two laps on from Price’s call. Siggy’s response was immediate, covering the Swede successfully but seeing Löhner take the reins on track. The German would make his own stop just before half distance and ultimately landed in net third with much fresher tyres for the remaining time.
Högfeldt was caught fast and although his defence was impressive, it was broken after a solid lap and a half of pressure. Siggy had been working hard and manufactured a five-second gap for Löhner to eat into before any attempt for the race win was made.
It would all come down to the final eight minutes as the stars of the first round were separated by less than a second.
The key moment came at Acque Minerali on the penultimate lap when Löhner misjudged his braking and forced up a lockup instead of running into the back of Siggy. This offered the Redline driver enough leeway to hold onto a fantastic victory while the Sprint Race winner awaited a stewards decision for his transgression on Ottaviani.
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DTM Esports 2022, Round 1, Sprint Race Results
- Moritz Löhner 19:40.076
- Kevin Siggy +1.173
- Leonard Krippner +1.647
- Alessandro Ottaviani +2.117
- Axel Vermeylen +4.190
- Isaac Price +5.051
- Gianmarco Fiduci +5.149
- Florian Hasse +7.197
- Christopher Högfeldt +9.513
- Petr Pliska +9.849
DTM Esports 2022, Round 1, Endurance Race Results
- Kevin Siggy 64:20.070
- Moritz Löhner* +0.437
- Christopher Högfeldt +7.219
- Isaac Price +16.463
- Florian Hasse* +16.821
- Marko Pejic +17.086
- Gianmarco Fiduci +17.442
- Alessandro Ottaviani +17.689
- Leonard Krippner +23.378
- Attila Diner +24.815
*Pending stewards review