Round 3 of the SRO Esports Sim Pro Series took place on-site at the biggest GT3 event of the year – the 24 Hours of Spa. As ever, the LAN event’s platform of choice would be Kunos Simulazioni’s official GT World Challenge game Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Naturally, Spa-Francorchamps would also be the venue of choice for 23 of the fastest esports drivers in the world, all battling away over five rounds to win a share of the €75,000 prize pool.
It was a Mercedes-AMG benefit at the front of the field, with the first five positions on the grid claimed by the Stuttgart marque. Unicorns of Love’s Tobias Gronewald snatched pole position by just 0.045s from Dominik Blajer in second.
The Polish driver had set an identical time to Tobias Pfeffer but earned a front-row slot thanks to setting his time first.
Next was Williams Esports’ Dáire McCormack, with Niklas Houben fifth for Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team MSI. Further back, Paul Ricard victor David Tonizza struggled to 14th, one place behind Automobili Lamborghini Esports Team teammate Luca Losio.,
The Mercedes-AMG drivers broke away from the pack as the green flag dropped, sorting themselves out along the Kemmel Straight, blocking out any threat from Kamil Pawlowski’s Audi R8 LMS Evo II behind.
Pawlowski came to grief on the exit of Bruxelles, however, after a hip check from Scuderia Ferrari Esports Team’s Jordan Sherratt. David Tonizza, on the other hand, was picking his way through the field nicely until slight contact with the Brabham Esports entry of Elvin Smith sent him down the order and out of contention.
The Mercedes-AMG group at the front remained fairly static with only McCormack moving ahead of Houben into fourth in the first 30 minutes of racing. As the pit window opened, McCormack acted decisively and was the first of the leaders to box, emerging with clear space in front of him thanks to Spa’s unusually lengthy pitlane.
Gronewald was last to pit, but his stint at the front was short-lived as McCormack had completed the undercut perfectly, having a two-second advantage over his Mercedes-AMG stablemate.
Gronewald set about catching the Irishman ahead, but by the chequered flag, he’d only reeled in McCormack by a single second. Pfeffer was close behind in third position but an exciting battle for fourth saw Blajer overhaul Houben at the final corner.
Behind, the first non-Mercedes-AMG was the Jean Alesi Esports Team Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) of Daniel Savini – a massive 18.3s behind the race winner. Tonizza stumbled home a dejected 18th, dropping to seventh overall in the championship as a result.
At the top of the overall standings, however, the Mercedes-AMG dominance continues, with the manufacturer locking out the top four positions. Gronewald and teammate Bastian Richter lead on 76 points with Blajer second on 67. Pfeffer is three points adrift with McCormack and co-driver Dennis Schöniger fourth on 61 points.
With only two rounds to go, it looks increasingly likely that one of the top four entries will become champion. The next round is set to be held at the Nürburgring on the weekend of the 29th and 30th of July, however, with the layout historically unsuited to the front-engined Mercedes-AMGs.
Tonizza, Savini et al will certainly be hoping to get their championship challenges back on-track around the Eifel venue.
SRO Esports Sim Pro Series, Round 3 Spa-Francorchamps race results
- Dáire McCormack Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports 01:00:27.458
- Tobias Gronewald Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG Esports Team Unicorns of Love +01.040s
- Tobias Pfeffer Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG Esports Team HRT by UOL +02.308s
- Dominik Blajer Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Williams Esports +07.501s
- Niklas Houben Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team MSI +07.639s
- Daniel Savini Porsche 992 GT3 R Jean Alesi Esports Team +18.363s
- Gregor Schill BMW M4 GT3 BMW M Team BS+COMPETITION +25.236s
- Maciej Malinowski McLaren 720s GT3 EVO Onsite Qualification +30.755s
- Kamil Pawlowski Audi R8 LMS Evo II ITB Sainteloc Racing +34.294s
- Luca Losio Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 Automobili Lamborghini Esports Team +37.433s
2023 SRO Esports Sim Pro Series calendar
22nd April – Monza 3rd June – Circuit Paul Ricard 30th June – Spa-Francorchamps
- 29th July – Nurburgring
- 30th September – Barcelona
Images courtesy of SRO Esports