Maciej Malinowski completed a dream week for Veloce Esports by coming out on top of an action-packed second round of the Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint Series at Circuit Paul Ricard, beating his team-mate George Boothby after late drama.
Malinowksi was the chief beneficiary of contact between David Tonizza’s Lamborghini and championship leader Tinko Van Der Velde in the Williams Esports Razer Ferrari, which opened the door for both Veloce drivers as Malinowski snuck past and then George Boothby was elevated to second when Van Der Velde collected a hefty penalty. Having also won the recent Mobileye Intercontinental GT Challenge Esports Bathurst 12 Hours, it’s safe to say that Veloce has enjoyed a decent week…
Valentin Barrier continued his superb start to the season in the Silver class by fighting back from a tough qualifying to celebrate a second victory and build his gap in the championship standings.
A combination of an ultra-tight field and the long straights of Circuit Paul Ricard produced a classic slipstreamer of a race, with three different drivers taking a turn in the race lead, and the entire lead pack being separated by fractions of a second.
Quite how tight the race would be was emphasised by the qualifying result, where Boothby grabbed pole from Tonizza and Van Der Velde as the top five were covered by just 0.017s, and the top nine by less than 0.1s. And when the lights went out, Boothby did just enough to fend off Tonizza through the first sector, but couldn’t build the early gap he’d have liked.
When Tonizza got a strong draft down the Mistral Straight on lap five, Boothby ran wide at De Beausset and Tonizza was through. Soon after Van Der Velde drafted past Boothby on the Mistral to establish the top three.
Van Der Velde then honed-in on Tonizza, repeatedly attacking the Lamborghini until the pit window opened and the championship leader was the first to stop, while Tonizza stayed out to try and overcut his challenger.
Tonizza completed his mandatory stop a lap later and things couldn’t have been closer when he rejoined, with the Huracan just getting up to speed as Van Der Velde’s Ferrari tried to slip down the inside. The two ran together through the first sector, before Tonizza just edged ahead again.
However, with a lap of extra heat in his tyres, Tonizza had no answer when Van Der Velde got a tow down the Mistral and became the race’s third different leader. From there, things seemed set, until Tonizza regrouped and attacked again with just a few minutes left. His pressure looked to have paid off when Van Der Velde ran deep into Signes, allowing Tonizza up the inside, but contact between the two as they ran through De Beausset sent the Lamborghini spinning down to fifth, and earned Van Der Velde a 30-second penalty that would eventually drop him down to 14th. And Veloce capitalised in the finest way.
The team had already shuffled its drivers before the incident, with Boothby allowing the then-faster Malinowski past to allow him a shot at attacking the top two. When they collided, Malinowski picked his way through to secure the win, with Boothby picking up second – and the championship lead – after Van Der Velde’s penalty.
Mikhail Statsenko was third in the ITB Saintéloc Racing Audi, with Tonizza fourth. Grantas Kareckas was fifth for Veloce with Dennis Schöniger rounding out the top six for Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports.
After qualifying, few would have bet on Monza winner Barrier claiming a second Silver victory, yet a superb charge up the order turned the tables in the race.
Barrier started just 22nd on the grid, some 13 places behind class pole-man Daniil Tylyk, but a clean start and superb race pace soon brought Barrier into the mix. He was soon into third in class and pressuring Tommy Razeyre’s SDL eSports by Logitech G McLaren for second. After the pit window, Barrier managed to find a way past for second, and then zapped by class leader Tylyk, pulling as much as a 2.5s gap to control the closing stages and take the flag in 12th overall in the YAS Heat Esports Ferrari 296.
Tylyk was second on the road for SMP Racing Esports, but a post-race 30s penalty for contact dropped him back to 11th. That elevated Vojtech Fiala’s Williams Esports Fanatec Porsche to the runner-up spot. Fiala had come out on top of a superb late fight with Dario Iemmulo to score the final class podium spot. Iemmulo himself was then docked a few seconds after the race for his part in a clash. That moved him down to fourth in the final order, behind Danila Cherepenin in the SMP Racing Esports Mercedes-AMG. Michael Romagnoli (Absolute Res-Tech by Acelith Aston Martin) and Leo Boulay (Race eSport Team Mercedes-AMG) completed the top six.
The next round of the Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint Series takes place at Spa-Francorchamps on June 21.