- New season begins with Misano masterclass from McCormack
- Blajer takes Silver Cup honours to secure clean sweep for Bentley
- Qualifying | Race Result | Standings
Daire McCormack delivered the performance of a lifetime to win the season-opening Mobileye GT World Challenge Europe Esports Championship event at Misano.
A 48-car grid assembled for the Assetto Corsa Competizione race, and with less than a second covering the top-45 in qualifying the competition was tougher than ever. The Munster Rugby Gaming driver started second at the wheel of the #814 Bentley but scythed into the lead with a magnificent pass around the outside of poleman David Tonizza (Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team) at turn 1.
The Italian fought back, but McCormack had the inside line for the second corner and was fully in front as the pack exited turn 3. This was as close as Tonizza ever came to recapturing the lead, with McCormack producing metronomic pace that allowed the Bentley to edge slowly into the distance.
But while the lead battle was effectively settled at turn 1, the season-opening race still produced plenty of action – particularly during a frantic final 15 minutes.
The spectacle was improved by the extension of the pit window for the 2022 season, with drivers now permitted to stop at any time between the 15th and 45th minute. This allowed for a far more creative approach to strategy, with some pitting early and aiming for the undercut while others ran long.
It was during the final quarter of an hour, once the front runners had made their stops, that the drama really intensified. There was a particularly close fight for the final spot on the podium as Nils Naujoks (BMW Team BS+COMPETITION) passed Michael Tauscher (Unicorns of Love Porsche) and set off in pursuit of Tobias Gronewald (Mercedes-AMG E-Sports Team UOL). The two ended up in a drag race to the chequered flag, with the Mercedes-AMG ultimately edging the charging BMW M4 GT3 for third.
Naujoks dropped behind Tauscher after the chequered flag after receiving a penalty for an earlier collision. That left him fifth, one spot ahead of teammate Arthur Kammerer, who was involved in much of the late race action. Tinko van der Velde (Williams Esports Bentley) and James Baldwin (Veloce McLaren) were the next classified Pro drivers, the latter after receiving a post-race penalty following a three-wide move that gained him two places.
Dominik Blajer (TRITON Racing Bentley) claimed an impressive Silver class victory having spent the entire racing mixing it with the Pros, sometimes risking his class lead in the process. Robbie Stapleford was the next best Silver driver and was on a charge during the latter stages, but could not do enough to catch Blajer. Fabien Piffet completed the class podium in the Team Fordzilla Bentley, completing a very successful day for the British brand.
There was hard luck for Luca Losio (Mobileye x Jean Alesi Esports Academy BMW), who had made strong progress up the field from 11th on the grid after taking the decision to stop early. The Italian was running in sixth spot late in the race, defending from a gaggle of cars behind, only to be tagged and sent spinning off the road. This dropped him down the order, though penalties saw him classified ninth among the Pro runners.
Indeed, Losio's intelligent positioning in defence is likely to earn him a nomination for the Mobileye Innovation Award, which recognises drivers for their innovative and inspirational manoeuvres. This will be chosen by a fan vote on Thursday, with three moves up for the award. Mobileye has also partnered with SRO to give fans the opportunity to win a VIP weekend at a Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS event or a simulator coaching session with a top SRO Esports driver. For further information and to enter, click here.
Organised by SRO Motorsports Group and Ak Esports in partnership with Mobileye, Fanatec, Kunos Simulazioni, Pirelli and The Sim Grid, the Mobileye GT World Challenge Europe Esports Championship utilises the unmatched simulation of Assetto Corsa Competizione. The next event on the SRO Esports schedule will be the Mobileye GT World Challenge Asia Esports Championship opener at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (13 April).
The European campaign continues next month with another 60-minute race at Zandvoort (4 May). After a double Bentley win at Misano, the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG will fancy their chances of revenge at sweeping track amid the North Sea dunes.