• BMW SIM G2 Esports dominate with Naujoks and Kammerer first and second
• Championship leaders Tonizza and Baldwin struggle, points difference now smaller than ever
• Entry List | Qualifying | Result | Standings
Nils Naujoks took his second GT World Challenge Europe Esports win in succession to maintain an outside shot at the Sprint Series title, while championship leaders David Tonizza and James Baldwin are closer than ever after tonight's Assetto Corsa Competizione race at Imola.
Following a breakthrough win last time out at the Nürburgring, the experienced Naujoks delivered another fine performance at the wheel of his BMW SIM G2 Esports machine. After starting second on the grid he stalked pole-sitter Dennis Schöniger (R8G eSports Audi) for the opening 20 minutes, then launched a move around the outside of Tamburello.
It was a brave attempt, but Naujoks held his nerve and the racing line to make the pass stick. He remained out front through the pit stop phase and never looked in significant danger of being passed thereafter. Indeed, Schöniger had more to worry about from the BMW looming in his mirrors than the one disappearing up the road as Arthur Kammerer closed on to the rear of the #9 Audi.
Searching for a breakthrough result, Kammerer pushed hard in his effort to snatch second. He was repelled at Tamburello, but with four minutes remaining Schöniger made an error at Acqua Minerale that allowed the BMW driver to slip past and secure a one-two finish.
Schöniger held on to third, capturing his maiden series podium, followed by fellow Audi driver Niklas Houben. The GTWR R8G Academy ace impressed again, this time with a fine move on Tobias Gronewald (Unicorns of Love Aston Martin) at Tamburello with just a few minutes on the clock. The latter was ultimately classified ninth after a penalty incurred during qualifying.
Maciej Malinowski took fifth and was the best of the Porsches in his Random Pasta Bowl entry. He was followed by Giovanni De Salvo (FDA Esports Ferrari), who once again had a considerably better day than his title-chasing stablemate David Tonizza. Gregor Schill was P7 in the third BMW SIM G2 Esports machine, while Omega G-Performance Bentley driver Giuseppe Montalbano was eighth and the penalised Gronewald took ninth.
Once all post-race penalties had been administered, the final points position went to Baldwin (McLaren Shadow). Both he and championship rival Tonizza struggled in qualifying, though the Italian was able to climb into the points early on before being hit from behind in a busy pack of cars. At the same moment, Baldwin swooped to move into 10th spot. It was as if there were a pendulum effect between the two.
Tonizza appeared to have suffered damage in the collision, but when Baldwin slipped back in the second half of the race the Italian was right there to apply the pressure. They ran 11th and 12th, the McLaren ahead of the Ferrari, but there was no late change in position as winner Naujoks slowed to avoid running an extra lap. After penalties, it was Baldwin who took the final point.
That ensures that Tonizza's lead at the top of the standings is cut to just five points with two rounds left to run. Indeed, having score 93 points from the opening four races Tonniza has taken just 21 from the next four and failed to register anything over the past two events. At the other end of the spectrum, Naujoks has successive wins and remains in the hunt. He sits third, 37 points shy of Tonizza. It remains a tall order for the BMW man, though just a few races ago he was more than 70 adrift.
Next on the Sprint Series schedule is the penultimate round at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (29 October), with hot-lap qualifying open from Monday 18 through Sunday 24 October. Before that, however, the deciding round of the GT World Challenge Europe Esports Endurance Series takes place tomorrow (Saturday 16 October) at 15:00 CET.