Dominik Blajer takes victory for Williams Esports Razer in thrilling third outing
- Valentin Barrier’s 100% record in Silver ended by rival Vojtech Fiala
- Key championship contenders hit trouble as Boothby non-scores
- RESULT: Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint Series, Spa
- STANDINGS: Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint Series, Rd 3
Dominik Blajer celebrated his breakthrough Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint Series victory during a turbulent race at Spa-Francorchamps, in which the majority of the championship leaders hit trouble.
Last season’s Silver champion Blajer came out on top of a frantic two-horse race with Mercedes-AMG Esports Team HRT by UOL driver Niklas Houben to secure his first Pro class victory in fine fashion, and in doing so catapulted himself into the championship chase.
Spa wasn’t kind to any of the championship contenders heading into it, with points leader George Boothby suffering an early retirement, David Tonizza being mired in traffic and Maciej Malinowski being caught up in a strange accident exiting the pitlane. Even former runaway Silver Class leader Valentin Barrier endured a tough time, losing his points lead after a costly accident opened the door for Vojtech Fiala to pounce.
Blajer aims high as Boothby heads home
In truth, this race couldn’t have gone much better for Dominik Blajer, who came out on top of the usual ultra-tight qualifying battle to snatch pole position by a mere 0.065s from a field where 0.2s covered the top 12.
In contrast to the opening two rounds where Ferraris have been strong, the fast sweeps of Spa favoured the front-engined Mercedes-AMGs, and they locked out the front two rows of the grid, with Blajer ahead of Dáire McCormack, Houben and Michael Tauscher. Ferrari’s lack of pace was best illustrated by Tinko van der Velde only starting 14th, and Boothby way down in 26th after a disastrous qualifying. Tonizza too struggled, starting 21st in his Automobili Lamborghini Squadra Corse Huracan.
Blajer held the lead when the lights went out, but there was soon drama behind him as McCormack was nerfed out of second after contact with Kamil Pawlowski – an incident that earned the McLaren a time penalty. But far worse happened further back. Boothby was eliminated after being caught in the middle of a multi-car accident sparked when Hugo Colot’s RACE Esports Team Audi was shuffled wide and spun back across the track as the pack headed to Raidillon. A heap of cars came to grief, with Boothby being the most notable. The championship leader was out on the spot.
Up front, Houben had worked his way into second and was pressuring Blajer constantly until the pit window opened and he dived in first to make his mandatory stop. Blajer had only held a gap of a few tenths when he stopped a lap later, and when he rejoined Houben was
already up to speed and completed the undercut by drafting past on the Kemmel Straight. However, Blajer wasn’t done, and he spotted a gap a few laps later up the inside into Les Combes, went for it and made it stick. Once ahead again, he managed to carve out a six-tenth advantage, which he held to the flag to take a brilliant win.
Houben was second, with Tauscher third and Bastian Richter making it a Mercedes-AMG top four. Mikhail Statsenko did his usual brilliant job of staying out of trouble in the ITB Saintéloc Racing Audi to grab fifth, and with it is now tied with the non-scoring Boothby at the head of what suddenly looks a much tighter championship.
And that was heled by other frontrunners having their own issues. Circuit Paul Ricard winner Malinowski was taken out of contention when he accelerated out of the pits after his stop only to find a slow-moving Ferrari in his way – the resulting contact ruining both cars’ races. Tonizza made some progress to bag points for 12th in class, but perhaps the biggest mover was van der Velde, who fought to seventh in class to haul himself back into third place in the championship, just one point ahead of both Tonizza and Blajer.
Barrier’s run ends in the barriers as Fiala breaks through
Coming into Spa it was looking tough for anybody to overhaul Silver championship leader Valentin Barrier after two perfect performances, but his run came to a crashing halt, literally, as Vojtech Fiala produced a superb performance to net both the win and the points lead.
Ferrari’s qualifying deficit hurt Barrier, who could only line up 29th overall and eighth in class, whereas Fiala stormed to class pole and a spot on the overall fourth row. From there Fiala was a constant within the lead pack, running as high as fourth overall by the time the pit window opened, and then bringing his Williams Esports Fanatec Porsche 992 GT3 R home fifth overall to take a clear category win.
Danila Cherepenin (SMP Racing Mercedes-AMG) got close to the Porsche after the pit window, but couldn’t match Fiala’s pace over the second half, eventually finishing four seconds and a handful of places further back in second in class. Marco Jonkers (West Competition Racing Mercedes-AMG) completed the class podium ahead of Dario Iemmulo (VS Racing by Ballas Lamborghini) and Luis Fleischer (Team ONE · FF Porsche). Michael Romagnoli lost time when his Absolute Res-Tech by Acelith Aston Martin was tagged into a spin at the Bus Stop early on, but he recovered to take seventh in class.
Barrier simply had a nightmare. While he managed to escape much of the chaos at the start to make up some ground, he couldn’t escape a car that had spun and beached at the apex of Raidillon as he came up Eau Rouge flat-out in the darkness. The resulting contact led to an early pit stop to assess the damage. He finished two laps down, but did at least score some points for 12th in class, but not enough to prevent Fiala steaming into a 16-point championship lead.
The next round of the Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint Series takes place at the Nürburgring in Germany on July 19.