Williams Esports teamwork seals 1-2 finish in 6H NURBURGRING
In the first ever Creventic race around the famed Nurburgring Nordschleife, the Williams Esports team put on an impressive display of teamwork to beat their competition to the top two steps of the rostrum in the GT3 class. The purple-fronted BenQ-sponsored #55 Porsche 911 GT3 R of Vasilios Beletsiotis and Atte Kauppinen lead home its white-fronted Chillblast-sponsored #5 sister car of Daniel Pásztor and Louis Nahser, after spending the entire race tied together as one, never being separated by more than a second. Their closest challenger in third place was the #89 BMW M4 GT3 of BS+COMPETITION, with Felix Quirmbach and Nils Koch keeping the pressure on the Williams duo all race long but ultimately coming just 6.5 seconds short of victory.
The day started strong for the Williams duo in qualifying. Pásztor, the first GT3 class driver to set a lap time in the – unique for this race – one-shot qualifying session, put down a marker that proved too high for the rest of the field to beat. The front row was locked out by both Williams Esports Porsches with Beletsiotis just 0.26 seconds down on Pásztor. Nick Schulte-Wissermann qualified the #24 GSR x IPR by ACV Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO to a season-best third place on the grid, ahead of a quartet of BMWs lead by the #96 BMW Team BS+Turner of Ruben Bonga. The last car to qualify, championship leaders MSI eSports with Cristian Lamela, failed to set a lap time and as a result faced an uphill battle to defend their title aspirations having to start from P13 on the grid.
As the race started, a pattern quickly started to emerge. The two Williams Esports cars worked together to pull away from the field, bumpdrafting down the Dottinger Hohe and swapping places every few laps to make sure the fuel burn remained equal between the two cars. Behind them, the #89 BS+COMPETITION BMW lead the charge, and at times looked like they would lock onto the back of the two Porsches in front. The chasing pack produced some great racing in the first hour of the race, but slowly lost its members, as one by one they hit trouble. The Green Hell was ruthless, and small mistakes were being punished with race-ending damage for a number of teams. Notably, two of the chasing BMWs met their demise at Mutkurve as contact between two GT4s caused cars to be strewn across the track, and both the #46 Biela Racing Team EURONICS and the #96 BMW Team BS+TURNER M4 GT3s had no chance to avoid.
But it was not just contact and crashes that claimed competitors, mechanical unreliability also reared its head. After 100 minutes into the race, and having recovered to an impressive sixth place already, Cristian Lamela in the #14 MSI Porsche started to lose time. The Spaniard was stuck in third gear, and had to recover back to the pits from Bergwerk, which meant being limited to 180 kph for over half a lap around the almost 26 km long track. Earlier in the race, Manuel Scoli in the Juncos Racing eSports Aston Martin Vantage GT4 had already lost his brake pedal going into T1, and only narrowly managed to avoid late stand-in Fraser Williamson in the SRC Mivano Corse Mercedes-AMG GT4. The Mivano GT4 coincidentally was one of the only Italian-flagged entries that was able to complete the race without any internet issues, with one of the major Italian ISPs causing trouble for a number of teams and drivers.
Ultimately, just 8 of the 14 GT3 starters finished on the lead lap. Among those who hit trouble was the GSR x IPR Lamborghini, that was enjoying a season-best run in the top 5 after its strong qualifying, a mistake in Mutkurve forcing a lengthy pit stop. Another of those who hit trouble was the MSI Porsche. Apart from the shifting problem earlier in the race, there was a further incident that would threaten the championship challenge of the Spanish squad. Contact with the #455 HydroRace Geodesic Racing GT4 during an overtake attempt through the Stefan Bellof S caused heavy damage to the blue Porsche, which would not return to the track after being recovered to the pits. Lamela and Dani Elgarbay had completed enough laps to be classified, but only in 11th place, which means just 5 points compared to Williams’ 20 points.
In the championship, it is the #55 Williams crew who take control with an 11 point margin over the MSI team after their challenging day. A third top 5 finish for the #45 Biela Racing BMW sees them climb to third place in the standings and take over from their sister car as the lead challenger for the Biela team, a further 19 points behind MSI. The #89 BS+COMPETITION BMW crew also replace their team mates in the standings, jumping up to fourth place from tenth with a first podium finish of the season for the car. The two Porsches of Team75 Bernhard by SimRC and HAVU round out the top 6 – critical for those looking to return to the series next season – with the second Biela and BS+ entries dropping to seventh and eighth with two goose eggs next to their names.
In the 992 class, the championship drama started in qualifying already, with contenders URANO eSports HEINEKINGMEDIA qualifying on pole but receiving a 20 second penalty for the race after Alexander Thiebe left pit lane a few seconds too late to start his qualifying run. So while they did start the race from pole position and lead the early part of the race, they were facing a deficit as soon as the first pit stops were completed. Championship leaders Team75 Bernhard by SimRC qualified on the front row alongside URANO, with two season-best qualifying performances on the second row. Marcos Saavedra qualified the Aurys Rincon x IRS #985 to an impressive third place, with Jeremy Lamier in the #944 Wave Italy Racing Team entry just two tenths behind in fourth place. Newcomers to the series Phoenix Racing eSport – with plenty of experience around the Nordschleife – made their intentions known with Raphael Rennhofer qualifying the green and black Porsche #905 in fifth place.
After URANO eSports served their penalty, it was the #975 of Team75 Bernhard by SimRC that took contro, with Jürgen Frank and Marvin Strehl never looking back. Apart from relinquishing the lead during pit stop sequences, they looked unbeatable. The German team already were the championship leaders coming into the race, and with this victory they cement themselves as favourites going into the final race of the season. Behind them, Phoenix Racing eSport used their Nordschleife experience to maximum effect, and came home in second place, beating Puresims Esports’ third place at Monza for a best result in the first race for a team this season. Despite a ten second penalty for contact with the Puresims Esports #416 GT4, Asetek Simsports Visceral managed to take home a third place finish after running their tyres to the limit of what is possible, having to control their pace on the final lap to prevent a failure.
As in the GT3 class, attrition was high in the 992 class. After just 5 laps, the class had lost 4 of its contenders, among which the Aurys Rincon x IRS #985 which had qualified so strongly. Marcos Saavedra had collected too much damage after several incidents for the car to continue. Other early retirements included Scott Michaels in the #933 SRC Mivano Corse (contact with the wall at Breidscheid), Tim Matzke in the #978 Maniti Racing (contact with Yoann Rouyer in the #960 Sabelt ESPORTS), and Matias Birk in the #914 ATRS eSports (contact with the wall at the entry to the Nordschleife).
So far this season, it had been a four-way fight for the title in the 992 class. This race, it became a three-way fight. With the #998 Apex Racing Academy entry not taking the start, is it now between #975 Team75 Bernhard by SimRC, #911 URANO eSports HEINEKINGMEDIA, and #996 Asetek SimSports Visceral at the top of the standings. With their victory, the #975 crew extends their championship lead of the URANO team to 8 points, with the Visceral team just two points further back. In fourth it is still the Apex Racing Academy entry – such was the gap between the top 4 and the rest of the field – but with a no score this round they are 22 points behind third place. Sabelt ESPORTS and the returning Williams Esports round out the top 6.
For the longest time in the race, it looked like this part of the race report would be the same as it has been this season so far. The #490 Mercedes-AMG Team URANO eSports GT4 had a solid lead over the rest of the field, and looked set to take another victory. But with an hour and twenty minutes to go Dylan B Scrivens put two wheels in the grass as he approached the crest at Schwedenkreuz and turned into the high speed sweeper, unsettled the rear of the red Mercedes-AMG GT4, and found himself hitting the Armco with considerable speed. Enough to force a lengthy pit stop for repairs, which meant that for the first time this season, they would not be scoring a victory. A chance then, for URANO’s championship rivals, to close the rather large gap that had formed in the standings.
Luckily for them however, all of their closest rivals had already hit trouble earlier in the race. Second-placed Sabelt ESPORTS and fourth-placed CSRA by Entropiq were involved in a crash at Mutkurve that also involved the #417 Puresims Esports entry, as well as the #46 and #96 BMW GT3s, while the #439 SRC Mivano Corse team had to replace one of their drivers last minute due to the Italian internet outages, which compromised their pace. Fifth-placed Puresims Esports #416 ended up on top of the barrier on the outside of Pflanzgarten after contact with the #996 Asetek Simsports Visceral, and sixth-placed SCK Racing found the Armco at Hatzenbach after contact with the #24 Lamborghini.
Ultimately it was Impulse Racing in their #457 Mercedes-AMG GT4 who came through and took their first victory of the season. Sven Groot and Timo Heyden had managed to survive the Green Hell, and in what was meant to be a development season to learn the GT4 class, took an unexpected but deserved victory. In second place came home pole sitters and early leaders SimRC in the black and yellow Aston Martin Vantage GT4, following an impressive recovery drive after Corentin Guinez was hit into the wall by the #417 Puresims Esports at Metzgesfeld an hour into the race. The #455 HydroRace Geodesic Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Leon Erger and Øystein Herfjord rounded out the podium after a battle with the #481 Torque Freak Racing entry. Despite Fraser Williamson having very little preparation, the SCR Mivano Corse #439 crossed the line in fourth place, and debutants Scuderia Volpe Competizione with François Lerose and Aymeric Van Grieken completed the top 5.
All this means that the Mercedes-AMG Team URANO eSports loses just one point of their championship lead, which now sits at 27 points over SRC Mivano Corse. Impulse Racing jump up to third place after their victory, and Sabelt ESPORTS drop from second to fourth. SimRC rounds out the top 5, and sits just three points short of the podium: Impulse, Sabelt and SimRC have 53, 52, and 50 points each. A podium for the #455 HydroRace Geodesic Racing team means that they are promoted to sixth place in the standings.
Coming into this race, the top 4 in the TCR standings were ostensibly tied with the top 3 all on 66 points, and fourth place on 65. So whatever happened in the race, the gaps in the standings would open up. The first strike went to SimRC, with Nathan Amess qualifying his Honda Civic Type R on pole by over a second from Ross Marcfarlane in the fellow Honda from Puresims Esports. While the front row consisted of championship contenders, the next spots did not. Jan Böhl qualified the Impulse Racing Hyundai Veloster N TCR in third place, and the two newcomers to the grid in the TCR class completed the top 5. Naveed Hussain qualified in fourth place for Wave Italy Racing Team, and Javier Berenguel in fifth for FastRepair Motorsport Simufy. The two remaining championship contenders, MSI eSports and Team Heusinkveld, failed to set a lap time and had to start from the back row of the grid.
To their own surprise, the SimRC Honda pulled away from the field behind them and continued to do so for near enough the entire race. Nathan Amess and and Kieran Harrison proved to be the class of the field and came home to take the victory over 80 seconds ahead of Puresims Esports in second place. They were shadowed by the Impulse Racing Hyundai for the entire race, Jan Böhl and late replacement Robin Monster never letting the white, blue and black Honda out of their sight. Monster had to replace Martijn Asschert, who despite not living in Italy also suffered internet outages. They were the only two left standing of what started as a five car pack, but in a similar story to the other three classes, attrition was high and one by one, members of the pack dropped out. Mirroring the qualifying result, Wave Italy Racing Team and FastRepair Motorsport Simufy had successful debuts and finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Notably, Team Heusinkveld and MSI eSports, the two championship contenders alongside SimRC and Puresims, both hit trouble. Marcel Tie’s race in the Team Heusinkveld Hyundai came unstuck as early as lap one, as they were caught out by a recovering Steen Ledger in the Puresims Honda through Schwedenkreuz. Tie had to take avoiding action, lost control coming over the crest, and hit the wall at Aremberg rear first. The German was able to limp back to the pits, but from there it was a race to recover whatever positions they could. One of those positions was almost that of the MSI eSports Hyundai, which on lap 28 blew its engine after Victor Lobato spun and damage the nose of the TCR five laps earlier. Ultimately, both teams came home seventh and eighth in class.
All this means that SimRC now hold a massive three point lead in the standings over Puresims Esports, who jump up to second place. MSI eSports’ and Team Heusinkveld’s poor results mean that they now sit 11 and 12 points back from SimRC respectively. Impulse Racing in fifth has closed the gap to the leading four, they are now just 11 points behind Team Heusinkveld. Despite a poor race for Carbon Simsport, they hold on to sixth place after Full Send Racing and Maniti Racing did not start the race.
Reactions of the winners:
Vasilios Beletsiotis (#55 Williams Esports BenQ): “It was a pretty solid team effort by all of us. Both of our cars had good pace and we had an incident free race, which was the key to winning it. From our point of view, the race couldn’t have gone any better! From the beginning we managed it well. After the first lap we immediately had a gap and from there on we did some good fuel management and traffic management, and just in general good race management. So all in all it couldn’t have been better for us.
After this race the hopes for the title are pretty high, but of course we need to stay cool. Barcelona is a different track and everything can happen there since it’s a 12 hour race. So we have to reset our mind now and start working on the next race pretty soon, and then do the same job as we did today. Then I think we can win the championship.”
Jürgen Frank (#975 Team75 Bernhard by SimRC): “We had a good idea what was going on with the strategy, except with the Visceral car. They had a bit of a special strategy when they shortfuelled after the first stint. It was clear that they would go with 8 laps every stint, but what they did with the tyres was very good and they had a really good pace but in the end their tyres gave up.
You always have to be confident that you can do well, but as we all know, the other teams are quick as well and also want to win the title, so we will give our best in Barcelona and try to bring home the trophy.”
Sven Groot & Timo Heyden (#457 Impulse Racing): “It was amazing to cross the line in P1. If someone would have said this would happen at the start of the race, I would have said no, go away, leave me alone. But this is amazing. I mean, it’s the Nordschleife, you can be P1 on the last lap and a minute ahead, and something can still happen. It just amazing to survive, we had a lot of luck. I had to change my underwear at some points, but it’s just unbelievable to win.
As Sven mentioned, it’s very nice to finish in first here, especially at the Nordschleife. The Nordschleife is our team base and our home track so to say. Everyone knows how difficult it is to finish a race here, and to win it is an amazing feeling. It’s actually the first victory for us in the 24H SERIES in GT4 in our first season, it’s amazing.”
Kieran Harrison & Nathan Amess (#176 SimRC): “We weren’t expecting to win by this much. We were stunned the whole race by our pace. We race a lot of these teams around this track regularly, and it’s normally really close, so I don’t know. Maybe we just nailed the setup, or something else, I don’t really know how to explain the pace but it was really good today all race.
We’ve put ourselves in the best situation for the championship. It’s win or risk losing the championship next round regardless, but after a performance like today our confidence is at an all-time high. We were very similar with MSI and Heusinkveld going into this round, and those guys didn’t have such a good day, so while we haven’t wrapped it up yet, we have had a better day than some of our rivals.”
TFRLAB provide a Laptime Summary for each of the 24H SERIES ESPORTS races. If you want to have a closer look at the data from this race, check out their Laptime Summary here: TFRLAB | Laptime Summary
Wnat to watch the race back? Find the full broadcast provided by RacespotTV here: Race Replay
Liking these pictures? VCO took way more! Find them all here: VCO Content Database
Looking for the full race results? Find them here: Race Results
And what about the championship standings? You can find those here: Standings
- eNASCAR College iRacing Series Race Preview: Darlington
- This Week in iRacing: February 20-26, 2024
- Job takes four in a row, Webster scores first Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup feature win at Le Mans
- THIS WEEK: iRacing Bathurst 12 Special Event
- 2024 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup Race Preview: Le Mans