Race report: Keithley, Pliska shine to share the Nürburgring Nordschleife wins in Esports WTCR
Jack Keithley and Petr Pliska were the winners on a thrilling night of Esports WTCR action from RaceRoom Racing Experience on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Briton Keithley (Williams Esports) made his bold final-lap overtake count to win the opening Esports WTCR race on the toughest track of them all before Team Fordzilla’s Pliska triumphed in the reverse-grid second race.
Dörr Esports’ Hungary-born Slovakian Bence Bánki, who topped the points after the pre-season Shoot Out series and qualified on pole position, finished second in Race 1 followed by Hungarian multiple Esports WTCR champion Gergo Baldi (M1RA Esports). Juan Manuel Gomez flew the Argentine flag in fourth after starting second, with Gomez’s fellow Team Fordzilla driver Gianmarco Fiduci in fifth for Italy.
Starting third on the reverse-grid Race 2, Italian Pliska moved to the top of the order at the end of the two-kilometre-long Döttinger Höhe straight on lap one and was never headed, pulling out a winning margin of 2.74s over Germany’s Florian Hasse (Dörr Esports). Fiduci completed the Race 2 podium after contact with Hasse’s team-mate Tim Jarschel at the final Hohenrain corner. Jarschel recovered spectacularly to keep the closing Baldi at bay for fourth.
Keithley beats pole-sitter Bánki to Race 1 victory
Bánki was the driver to beat at the start of Race 1 with Gomez, Keithley – racing a CUPRA as WTCR legend Rob Huff – Baldi and Fiduci in hot pursuit as Hasse and Jarschel made contact in their battle for ninth.
Dávid Nagy (M1RA Esports) was soon putting Fiduci under pressure for fifth while Gomez made his victory intentions known with an attempted pass on Bánki at the end of the Döttinger Höhe on lap one.
It wasn’t long before a five-car battle for the lead had materialised, and Gomez appeared to have the better of Bánki as he latched onto the rear bumper of the first-placed Audi. But before Gomez had the chance to duck out of Bánki’s slipstream and pass, Keithley charged into second and almost completed a double overtake with a move on Bánki.
Keithley did get ahead of Bánki with a fine pass at Turn 1 with Gomez trying to go from third to first on the exit of the corner. Bánki briefly got back ahead of Keithley, and after several touches and half-passes, Keithley, who set the fastest race lap, snatched a lead he wouldn’t relinquish as the charging field swapped the Grand Prix circuit for the Nordschleife with Gomez losing out to Baldi in a similarly forceful exchange.
Hungary’s Martin Barna charged through from the lower reaches of the top 20 to finish P14 with Jarschel grabbing the reverse-grid pole for Race 2 by finishing P10, one place behind Hasse.
Charging Pliska takes Race 2 glory
Jarschel capitalised on starting at the front to lead through the opening sequence of corners, but Hasse was ahead by the chicane. And there was more woe for Jarschel when a mistake on the Nordschleife let in Pliska for second, albeit after light contact between the pair. Second then became first for CUPRA-driving Pliska when he edged ahead of Hasse through Tiergarten before the end of the first lap.
Nagy was next to demote Jarschel with a pass for third, but he couldn’t make it stick as a mistake allowed Fiduci to snatch fourth with Nagy dropping to fifth, while Jarschel held on to third. This squabbling for position allowed fastest lap-setter Pliska and Hasse to pull clear, while Baldi demoted Nagy for fifth.
Baldi almost snatched fourth from Jarschel after the German lost out to Fiduci’s final-corner move but he settled for fifth with Pliska winning ahead of Hasse and Fiduci. Keithley finished P10 behind Barna, Gomez slipped to P12, while Bánki took important points in seventh behind Nagy. Replay the Nürburgring Nordschleife action HERE.
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is next up on the Esports WTCR schedule from 19h30 CET on Wednesday February 8. For more on Esports WTCR, including the provisional standings, go to: https://www.wtcr-esports.com
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