Anyone who enters any competition in top-tier esports hopes that they will find their life changed on the other side. Whether it be through cold, hard cash or a golden opportunity, there is no denying that those who ultimately succeed are those who deal with the pressure best.
Pressure is surely something that any of the official Lamborghini sim racing group will feel day in and day out as they strive for better every outing. Hence, an Assetto Corsa Competizione LAN event to decide the next to join their ranks was certainly apt.
The Nürburgring has become something of a mecca for the industry dating back years to a feast of Gran Turismo World Tour and Esports World Touring Car Cup offerings in 2015. I should know, I was there! It is here where this particular story was set to come to an end. Many hopefuls arrived, but only one would go home happy.
Rather than just one race, two would be waged around the German circuit on this particular Sunday evening. No reverse grid double jeopardy on this occasion, however. Two qualifying sessions would offer the fastest on the day just rewards.
A rain-affected opening session made things incredibly tricky, a scenario that Michael Romagnoli mastered with flying colours. Having been in the hunt for a Ferrari Esports seat twice, he would be knocking on the door of a drive at their great rivals from the off. Maciej Malinowski occupied the spot next to the Italian on the front row with Carl Jansson and Andrea Miatto forming the second.
Impressive to see was how close the entire field remained; the top fifteen were separated by a second on the dot.
Conditions remained very much wet as the first race was sent underway. Malinowski challenged Romagnoli immediately thanks to a quicker start. That aforementioned pressure got the better of the pole sitter, running deep and throwing away any hope of rescuing points thanks to a blown engine. All in the space of a few seconds.
Unfortunately, that would be it for almost two-thirds of the race in respect to points-scoring positional changes. The lone exceptions of note would be Dario Iemmulo who gained two places and Florian Dührkop who dropped two in the fallout of Romagnoli’s error.
Indeed it wouldn’t be until twelve minutes remaining before, finally, the battle for the podium sprung into life. After hounding Malinowski for laps on end, Jansson had to switch focus from offence to defence. Miatto was a little more risk prone in his own offensive plays and this cost him. Turn 10 saw minor contact between himself and the Swede result in Nikodem Sobczyk sweeping through into fourth.
Miatta would snatch the position back just a few minutes on which somewhat spelled doom for Sobcyzk. It was entirely possible that his tyres were really suffering, so much so that it led to a minor mistake costing him even more places.
Malinowski was not under any such threat. His victory was a statement hallmarked by almost a five-second winning margin. Now came the task ahead of looking to main the points advantage through the second race.
The Real Race – Super Trofeo Esports 2023 – European Regional Finals, Race 1 results
- Maciej Malinowski – 15 Laps
- Carl Jansson +4.850
- Andrea Miatto +5.492
- Dario Iemmulo +7.760
- William Pisano +9.618
- Nikodem Sobczyk +11.265
- Simone Seminara +13.422
- Florian Dührkop +13.459
- Pavlo Polovchuk +15.841
- Tinko van der Velde +16.134
The second qualifying session greeted the field with sun at last although this, perhaps, was not what Malinowski was hoping for. It would only be seventh on the grid for the self-installed favourite though he wouldn’t need to worry about beating Jansson who found himself marooned in the bottom five. Miatto didn’t fare well either as he could only manage tenth.
Sobczyk on the other hand was delighted to claim pole position ahead of Romagnoli who now required multiple permutations to go his way even with victory. Marco Lomi sprung up out of nowhere to lead the second row ahead of Iemmulo who was now arguably in the best place to usurp the driver bearing the number one on his machine.
He could not have wished for a better opening sector. With the front two squabbling, Iemmulo stole the march on both to vault himself into the lead. Lomi went the other way, landing in sixth, whilst Malinowski had fortuitously grabbed fourth place early on. This meant that, as it stood, both the Pole and Iemmulo were dead even on points.
That progress would be halted heading onto the second lap. Malinowski had a move on Sobczyk for third sewn up until Romagnoli took a tight line into Turn 1, cutting across the duo. It simply was not Michael’s day as he returned to the track in sixth. Maciej could consider himself very lucky – only Dührkop had capitalised on the scuffle.
Lomi’s time in the top ten came to a scary end; Ruslan Khamidullin completely losing control of his car into Turn 1 and collecting the helpless Marco. True controversy was just around the corner though. The stewards deemed both Malinowski and Sobczyk at fault for the earlier Turn 1 incident as, ultimately, Romagnoli was the worse off.
As bold a call as this was, Malinowski was now required to deal with the cards he had been dealt. Just one lap on from receiving the bad news, he completed a clean pass on Dührkop to hold third on track. The German made a mistake soon after, entering intense combat with Romagnoli whilst offering Sobczyk and Malinowski more time out of their penalties.
By the chequered flag, only six seconds had been found by the pair. Although this was still far better damage limitation then either might have expected, it still cost Malinowski the podium. More critically, it cost him the fourth place he required to challenge Iemmulo on countback.
So, with victory in the bag, Iemmulo would be representing the ‘raging bull’ as a factory esports driver in 2024.
The Real Race – Super Trofeo Esports 2023 – European Regional Finals, Race 2 results
- Dario Iemmulo – 16 Laps
- Nikodem Sobczyk +7.512
- Michael Romagnoli +10.091
- Florian Dührkop +10.643
- Maciej Malinowski +13.095
- William Pisano +14.235
- Jack Noller +15.013
- Andrea Miatto +16.084
- Stefano Bonsignore +17.114
- Simone Seminara +19.243