After a tough couple of races at the Sachsenring, Moritz Löhner had done enough to maintain a healthy points advantage heading into the final round of the 2021 ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship. Located at the legendary Hockenheimring, this ‘double-header’ event would run two Feature Races on top of the customary single Sprint.
More jeopardy perhaps for the title favourite, though the two-times champion showed no signs of concern heading into qualifying.
Marko Pejic was back at the sharp end of the grid after going ‘missing in action’ mid-season. 2021 has shown plenty of promise for the young German, though not much has been capitalised on. Behind the pole-sitter lay three cars in Dörr Esports colours; Bence Bánki, Löhner and Florian Hasse respectively.
After picking up his first win in the series in the previous round, Jeffrey Rietveld continued his encouraging form trajectory with fifth and just over a tenth away from the front of the grid. Jakub Brzezinski meanwhile, as the only challenger to Löhner, endured a disappointing result down in 13th.
GT3 Sprint Race
Pejic and bad starts were one of the talking points of the early season and once again the old headline ran once more. Bánki immediately seized upon first with a late, retaliatory, dive into the Turn 6 hairpin. Behind, Brzezinski had turned on the jets, careening up to seventh. Pejic’s first lap nightmare wasn’t over as both Löhner and Hasse escorted him out of the podium spots.
Despite this early setback, he would recover well, re-passing Hasse with 15 minutes to go. Fascinatingly, his final overtake would be in the dying moments of the race, but in no part down to his own skill. In an apparent show of comradery for his stablemate, Löhner would slow down to give Hasse a podium in his fight for third in the points standings.
Though well-intentioned and calculated given Brzezinski’s sixth-place finish, the actions were frowned upon by the stewards who slammed the championship leader with a 10-second post-race time penalty for ‘unsportsmanlike behaviour’. From finishing fourth, Löhner would be classified 15th in what will be one of the most hotly debated stewards’ decisions in the series’ history.
Emre Cihan would cap off a tremendous GT4 season with yet another pole position and victory. The Turkish driver will certainly be one to watch in the main championship next year. Alessandro Ottaviani almost stole pole position away but was once again pipped.
Meanwhile, it was heartbreak for Nikita Shaposhnik; the Ukrainian qualifying third but finishing outside the top twenty with Julian Kunze taking his place.
GT3 Feature Race 1
With the post-race commotion put to rest, it would be Christopher Högfeldt who found himself in pole position for the first Feature Race of the evening. Similar to the Sprint earlier, first place seemingly wasn’t where you wanted to be hurtling towards Turn 1 as both Tim Jarschel and Marc Gassner passed the Mercedes-AMG. Brzezinski, desperately needing as many points over Löhner as possible, dropped a place early to Kevin Siggy.
The Austro-Slovenian, along with stablemate Rietveld, third-placed Högfeldt and Isaac Price, all came in to pit at the earliest opportunity with an eye to undercutting those ahead. The MRS Esports drivers responded immediately allowing Brzezinski to taste the lead for the first time this round.
Löhner’s stop would arrive at the halfway mark with early signs suggesting that time had been gained with a tyre advantage to boot. As the second stint progressed, the opposition began to sway the reigning champion’s way with a top-five finish in sight and rear guard pressure being applied by his stablemates. His lucky break would arrive as Rietveld tangled with a slowing Högfeldt; the two opening the door for Moritz to sweep through.
Brzezinski was amongst the final stoppers and as fate would have it, he exited the pits just ahead of Löhner. The scrap between the two was unnecessary excitement from the Dörr Esports perspective, especially as their star driver had already done enough with sixth place.
A barnstorming final few corners truly took the spotlight away from the actual winner of the race, Tim Jarschel, and podium sitters Gassner and Price. Löhner had done it though – he was a three-time ADAC GT Masters Esports champion.
GT3 Feature Race 2
With the title fight over, the unique second Feature Race of this final round had a much more ‘end of school’ vibe. The starting order would be taken as the finishing order of the Sprint Race without the reverse grid applied. Either way, this meant that the freshly crowned king of GT Masters Esports would be starting from 15th once again.
For the first time that evening, the driver in pole position led into Turn 2 as Bánki fended off a Pejic fueled with thoughts of redemption. Löhner’s charge up the field was even more rapid this go around with 10th already his within the opening 10 minutes. This time around, The German would be one of the first to pit along with Tim Jarschel although the younger of the hometown heroes would pick up a speeding penalty.
After acting as the race leader’s shadow for 20 minutes, Pejic was finally able to exact some short-term revenge on Bánki. The Slovakian’s response was swift, diving into the pits as the German continued round. The undercut almost paid off too with Pejic forced onto the defensive immediately at the pit lane exit.
Florian Hasse’s strategy on the other hand wasn’t anywhere close to working out. A long first stint gave him fresh rubber for the last 13 minutes but also dumped him into net-sixth from an initial position of third. A comeback podium drive was always too much to ask for, with only Brzezinski falling behind in the ensuing final stages of the season.
But winning comfortably would be Marko Pejic who ultimately locked down his most fruitful event of the year from Bánki and a stubborn Rietveld holding off Price.
ADAC GT MASTERS ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND 7, GT3 SPRINT RACE RESULTS
- Bence Bánki 23:52.945
- Marko Pejic +1.026
- Florian Hasse +2.996
- Moritz Löhner* +3.198
- Jeffrey Rietveld +3.386
- Jakub Brzezinski +4.360
- Isaac Price +4.772
- Kevin Siggy +6.708
- Marc Gassner +7.161
- Tim Jarschel +8.243
*Before penalty applied
ADAC GT MASTERS ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND 7, GT3 FEATURE RACE 1 RESULTS
- Tim Jarschel 44:06.230
- Marc Gassner +0.462
- Isaac Price +0.871
- Kevin SIggy +5.270
- Jakub Brzezinski +6.224
- Moritz Löhner +6.302
- Jack Keithley +6.501
- Bence Bánki +6.974
- Jeffrey Rietveld +8.205
- Alexander Dornieden +9.739
ADAC GT MASTERS ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND 7, GT3 FEATURE RACE 2 RESULTS
- Marko Pejic 44:15.668
- Bence Bánki +3.995
- Jeffrey Rietveld +4.488
- Isaac Price +5.118
- Florian Hasse +6.519
- Jakub Brzezinski +9.153
- Marc Gassner +13.106
- Max Pfeifer +15.451
- Kevin Siggy +16.882