Another round had passed and four more drivers had secured their spots in the NGK Spark Plug Esports Cup finale. Alex Mosin and Mihai Neg joined race winners Sinan Gunay and Maximilian Lorenz in putting their feet up as the championship rolled into Dubai Autodrome for Round 3.
Of the drivers who were still on the hunt to punch tickets for themselves were Ville Kreivi and Stef Cremers. Both drivers now sat around forty points clear of everyone else yet both also knew that their comfortable margin meant nothing on a bad day at the office.
Cremers, ultimately, was nowhere to be seen whilst Kreivi almost landed pole position for the first race. His hopes were dashed in the dying seconds of qualifying thanks to a stunning lap from Kodi Nikola Latkovski. The North Macedonian had made his bow in the Esports World Touring Car Cup recently and had made a shrewd choice to continue building his portfolio here.
Mariusz Zabdyr and Sören Jäger formed the second row although a gulf in one-lap pace was evident between the pair.
A poor launch left the hopeful Latkovski on the back foot immediately. Kreivi was easily through while Zabdyr wasn’t waiting to be asked twice, slicing his Porsche down the inside of Turn 1.
Enzo Philippau was to be the biggest loser of the opening lap. An impressive qualifying lap had the Frenchman starting from fifth, but contact in the middle sector dropped his position to tenth.
Zabdyr was driving like a man who knew he had limited chances left to put himself in the season finale. The pressure on Kreivi was too hot for the Finn to handle and a mistake just three and a half minutes in saw both the Pole and Latkovski through.
His day would only get worse, sadly, as with eight minutes to go he dropped his Mercedes AMG into the barrier.
With the gap to the chasing pack now over five seconds, the leading pair entered into an almighty duel featuring some thrilling creativity via Latkovski. It was not enough to dissuade Zabdyr from putting together a stunning defensive drive to cap off a complete race victory.
- Mariusz Zabdyr – 21:39.285
- Kodi Nikola Latkovski – +1.052
- Luca Schuhbeck – +6.814
- Sören Jäger – +7.144
- Jonas Riedel – +7.405
- Enzo Philippau – +7.884
- Linus Griese – +8.368
- Nico Söhnel – +8.888
- Sebastian Reeh – +12.678
- Kilian Guijt – +17.341
Fending off the recovering Kreivi for the backend of Race 1 had earned Kilian Guijt pole position for Race 2. The Dutchman led down the hill from Nico Söhnel and Sebastian Reeh, who had exchanged places, while carnage ensued behind. Podium-sitters Luca Schuhbeck and Latkovski tangled with Philippau, the tragic Kreivi caught in the crossfire.
In fact, the only front-runner not to get blindsided was Zabdyr who enjoyed a storming couple of minutes. Starting from tenth on the grid, he had obviously benefitted from the melee and put together some stunning moves on Jäger and Riedel to lock down fourth by the second approach of Turn 3.
Those aforementioned then locked wheels a little too enthusiastically; Jäger by far the worst off.
Two race wins in one evening was a huge challenge for Zabdyr yet with the lion’s share of time on his side, it looked feasible. More than feasible, in fact. Reeh was helpless to prevent the Pole from relieving him of his podium placement. By the halfway point, Guijt and Söhnel were eyeing their rear-view mirrors.
The German scuppered his own chances with a mistake and although the Dutchman put up more of a fight, the eventual overtake seemed inevitable. That was until Zabdyr spun and had most of his hard work undone. More drama was yet to come as Guijt, now fending off Söhnel once again, was spun by his rival with just one minute to go.
So, although Söhnel would see the chequered flag first, his race win was under serious scrutiny.
- Nico Söhnel* – 21:45.155
- Jonas Riedel – +0.997
- Linus Griese – +1.764
- Kilian Guijt – +2.722
- Sebastian Reeh – +3.408
- Yaroslav Dmitriev – +5.352
- Mariusz Zabdyr – +6.277
- Mikhail Lapanik – +6.370
- Kodi Nikola Latkovski – +8.074
- Rokus de Bie – +9.551
- – Under Investigation Post-Race