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Race report: Esports WTCR ace Bánki gets his break at Spa


Race report: Esports WTCR ace Bánki gets his break at Spa

Bence Bánki boosted his hopes of winning the Esports WTCR title from RaceRoom Racing Experience courtesy of two strong race results at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Driving for Dörr Esports, Hungary-born Slovakian Bánki took the Race 1 victory ahead of team-mate Max Pfeifer before he completed the Race 2 podium on the back of another strong showing by the Audi driver.

But while Bánki was able to celebrate his impressive Race 1 performance, Adam Pinczes could reflect on a fine final-corner move that was just enough to beat Martin Barna to first place in Race 2 after the Hungarians had circulated in formation for much of the 10-lap counter during their lead battle.

Meanwhile, there was a first current Esports WTCR Championship podium for Italy’s Alessandro Ottaviani, who placed third in Race 1 ahead of multiple champion Gergo Baldi from Hungary.

It was a tough race night for Jack Keithley and Petr Pliska, who shared the wins in the Esports WTCR season-opening event on the Nürburgring Nordschleife last month. 

Retrospective driving penalties not only demoted Keithley (Williams Esports) down the order in the first race of round one and hand victory to Bánki in the process, the Briton was also prevented from taking part in Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps qualifying and was forced to start at the back of the pack in the first Spa race. 

Having posted the fastest leaderboard time with a 2m29.501s the frustration was obvious. Nevertheless, he charged through from P32 to P13 in Race 1 before taking P12 in Race 2 after twice being penalised.

After finishing sixth in Race 1, Team Fordzilla driver Pliska crashed out of Race 2 following contact with Baldi at the Bus Stop chicane, with Baldi being dropped down the finishing order as a result of a penalty.

Pfeifer tries hard but can’t keep team-mate Bánki at bay in opening contest

Max Pfeifer made his intentions known by claiming pole with a 2m29.639s best lap for Dörr Esports. But Bence Bánki made the better getaway from the front row of the grid and capitalised on his inside line at La Source to snatch the lead from his team-mate as Gergo Baldi and Alessandro Ottaviani battled for third.

Pfeifer briefly got back ahead of Bánki exiting Les Combes on the opening lap and Baldi also attempted to gain a position, clashing with Ottaviani on the entry to the Bruxelles right-hander where Bánki managed to repass Pfeifer for top spot. Elsewhere, Petr Pliska and Dávid Nagy were in a fight for sixth, while Ottaviani briefly edged into second at Pfeifer’s expense exiting the Bus Stop chicane but couldn’t make the move count as contact sent Juan Manuel Gomez into a spin.

With Pfeifer and Ottaviani battling for second, Bánki seized his opportunity to make a break out front, although with Ottaviani under pressure from Baldi on lap two, it wasn’t long before Pfeifer was back in the chase for first position as Gianmarco Fiduci joined the battle for third in fifth place.

Pfeiffer continued to put Bánki under big pressure and squeezed ahead at the Bus Stop chicane on lap nine, only for Bánki to respond and retake the lead at La Source starting the last lap. Pfeifer gave his all at the Bus Stop for the final time of asking, having set the fastest lap during his race-long charge, but Bánki held on for victory. Ottaviani took third ahead of Baldi with Fiducci a distant fifth ahead of Pliska.  

Axel Vermeylen finished seventh followed by Adam Pinczes in eighth and Martin Barna ninth following contact with Kodi Nikola Latkovski at the Bus Stop on lap two.

James Montgomery completed the top 10 to secure pole position for the partially-reverse-grid second race. The British driver had been eighth but slipped to P10 at Pouhon on lap three before a mid-race battle with Latkovski developed. Meanwhile a slow-down penalty restricted Nagy to P11 as Latkovski settled for P12.

Pinczes leaves it late to beat Barna to top spot in Race 2

James Montgomery took full advantage of his pole position to lead Martin Barna and Adam Pinczes into La Source. Petr Pliska demoted Axel Vermeylen for fourth at Bruxelles while Gianmarco Fiduci and Gergo Baldi battled for position as Dávid Nagy dropped back during a frantic opening lap.

Barna drew alongside Montgomery at La Source on lap two with Pinczes and Pliska running side by side down the hill to Eau Rouge. Although Montgomery remained in front through Raidillion and onto the Kemmel straight, he couldn’t fend off his Hungarian rival for much longer and the lead was Barna’s before the leading pack reached Les Combes with Pinczes following through into second. 

With Montgomery and Pliska scrapping for third, Baldi was able to close up and demoted Pliska for fourth on the charge to Blanchimont. But just as Baldi was sizing up Montgomery for third at the Bus Stop, contact between him and Pliska sent the latter skating off track. Baldi’s exit was compromised and Fiduci seized his opportunity to move into fourth behind Montgomery with Baldi fifth and Bence Bánki up to sixth from 10th on the grid.

Montgomery’s tenure of third lasted until lap four when Fiduci got by heading to the Bus Stop chicane and the Jersey driver would fall to sixth behind Bánki and Max Pfeifer on lap five. A slow-down penalty would leave Baldi outside the top 15.

Not content with fourth, Bánki now started to close on Fiduci for third with Pfeifer in tow to create a big battle for the final podium spot on lap six. The charging Bánki snatched third from Fiduci at Les Combes on lap seven but an attempt by Pfeifer to demote Fiduci failed. 

Fiduci fought back, however, and, by lap eighth, was putting the pressure on third-placed Bánki. He made a move for the position at La Source on lap nine but Bánki resisted. Pfeifer then tried to get ahead of Fiduci at the Bus Stop at the end of the lap. Despite contact, Fiduci stayed in front until La Source on the final lap as Pfeifer got ahead. 

But Fiduci wasn’t done and pulled off a spectacular move for fourth on the inside through Eau Rouge only for Pfeifer to reverse the positions at Malmedy. However, when the German ran wide exiting the right-hander, further contact followed approaching Bruxelles where Fiduci reclaimed fourth.

Out front, the battle was similarly intense between Barna and Pinczes. Pinczes made his move entering the Bus Stop on the final lap. Although he appeared to run too deep, the Arnage Competition driver was able to recover and beat Barna (M1RA Esports) for victory in a sensational drag race to the line.

Bánki took a fine third ahead of Pfeifer, who collided with Fiduci at the final turn. That left Alessandro Ottaviani to claim fifth ahead of Florian Hasse. Fiduci took the flag in seventh but a penalty dropped him to ninth behind Vermeylen and Montgomery with Pavel Mukonin P10.

What’s next? 

Macau’s legendary Circuito da Guia street track hosts the third Esports WTCR race night from 19h30 CET on Wednesday February 22. For more on Esports WTCR, including the provisional standings, go to: https://www.wtcr-esports.com






Back by popular demand: New-look Esports WTCR is go!

13th October

Back by popular demand: New-look Esports WTCR is go!

Part of a long-term and successful alliance with RaceRoom Racing Experience, Esports WTCR is the perfect platform for simracers to experience doorhandle-to-doorhandle FIA World Touring Car action and also get the opportunity to race against some of the real-life WTCR stars who compete online from time to time to keep in competitive shape. SHOOT-OUT FORMAT SET The return of Esports WTCR begins with a three-round Shoot-out consisting of the usual time attack/qualifying phases and multiplayer races. Racers can select the liveries of Audi, CUPRA, Honda and Hyundai cars competing in the 2022 WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup and compete on three tracks, Nürburgring GP Strecke, Hungaroring and MotorLand Aragón, as follows: Round 1: Nürburgring GP Strecke (new to Esports WTCR) Leaderboard opens: October 14 Leaderboard closes: November 13 Live stream race day: November 16 Round 2: Hungaroring Leaderboard opens: October 14 Leaderboard closes: November 20 Live stream race day: November 23 Round 3: MotorLand Aragón Leaderboard opens: October 14 Leaderboard closes: November 27 Live stream race day: November 30 The top 20 teams after three rounds choose their own liveries, but incorporating existing sponsor and partner placement, for the main season kicking off in January 2023. The deadline for livery design submissions is January 3. FIVE ALIVE FOR EXCITING CHALLENGE The five-event main season, featuring a maximum of 32 drivers on the grid for each race, including the 20 permanent esports drivers who qualified through the Shoot-out, will take place as follows: Round 1: Nürburgring Nordschleife Leaderboard opens: January 9 Leaderboard closes: January 22 Live stream race day: January 25 Round 2: Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (new to Esports WTCR) Leaderboard opens: January 22 Leaderboard closes: February 5 Live stream race day: February 8 Round 3: Circuito da Guia, Macau Leaderboard opens: February 5 Leaderboard closes: February 19 Live stream race day: February 22 Round 4: Suzuka Circuit Leaderboard opens: February 19 Leaderboard closes: March 5 Live stream race day: March 8 Round 5: Track to be selected by Esports WTCR competitors via an online vote during Round 2 and 3 of the 2023 main season On January 25 the vote will open for all Esports WTCR competitors. The vote will close on raceday of Round 3 and announced during the Round 3 livestream. Leaderboard opens: March 5 Leaderboard closes: March 19 Live stream race day: March 22 All event racedays will be streamed live on RaceRoom’s and WTCR’s social media channels. A €10,000 prize pool is provided by long-term WTCR series partner KW Suspensions. Jean-Baptiste Ley, WTCR Director, Discovery Sports Events, said: “As we wait with great anticipation for the season-deciding WTCR races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in November, the new-look Esports WTCR will create plenty of excitement and interest within the online racing community − which continues to expand around the globe − and among WTCR fans and motorsport fans as a whole. We’ve seen just how high the level of simracers is and, through Norbert Michelisz, the 2019 King of WTCR, we know what’s possible when drivers who have excelled racing virtually get the opportunity to race for real. We thank our partners at RaceRoom Racing Experience for all their work and expertise behind the scenes and we can’t wait for the online battles to begin.“ Holger Stangl, Head of RaceRoom Events and Esports, said: “Touring cars have a long tradition in RaceRoom. I believe through the long-term relationship with the WTCR, RaceRoom is actually able to offer the best possible realism of virtual touring car racing out there. I am very excited about the upcoming new official Esports WTCR season. Together we have chosen a great selection of tracks and participants can look forward to a sporting format that will be new to the Esports WTCR. We hope to bring more continuity for drivers and spectators through a partially fixed starting grid, giving the top esports teams great team exposure and still giving everyone the chance to join in and reshuffle the championship at any stage. So I can only encourage everyone to join in and become part of this thrilling Esports WTCR season ahead of us.“ Esteban Guerrieri, WTCR race winner for Honda-powered ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport and prolific online racer, said: “For me racing can be anywhere, on the race track or on the simulator behind the computer. But the fact that you are racing challenges you in the same way, the mental focus, the intensity, the pressure of competition, whatever you need to do to be fast and to be consistent it’s the same approach for racing on the track or in simracing. It’s great and I really like it. It’s good for anyone who wants to compete and have the feeling of competition. Esports WTCR is a great way to do it at a high level and I really enjoyed the championship we did with the simracers in 2020 because the challenge was really high to try to be close to them.“
Back by popular demand: New-look Esports WTCR is go!