Red Bull Esports driver Joni Tormala won the second round of the GT Pro Series on rFactor 2 held at the Nurburgring GP circuit, as Formula 1’s Max Verstappen was stymied by a pair of penalties.
With the championship points tally being determined by the best five race results of the six races, Verstappen – making his first appearance – still had a chance to go for the championship win heading into this round.
In a closely-fought battle for pole position in qualifying, Kevin Siggy got the better of then-championship leader Erhan Jajovski by only six thousandths of a second.
In the opening sprint race though, Jajovski got a better exit out of the final corner and used the slipstream from the back of Siggy’s McLaren to ride alongside him around the outside of the first corner, which then became the inside line for the two left-handers. This gave Jajovski the race lead and eventual win.
Nikodem Wisniewski tried to capitalise on a frustrated Siggy and follow Jajovski through in the following turn but didn’t have the space to do so.
With the top 10 finishers in the sprint race having their places reversed for the starting grid of the main race, a lot of the on track action in the sprint duly took place in and around 10th place.
Firstly Team Redline driver Kevin van Dooren was spun around by Manuel Biancolilla after the Dutchman made a move down the inside for ninth place.
Then in the final three minutes Verstappen tapped the back of Wisniewski’s Williams Esports squadmate Kuba Brzezinski, which sent the latter spinning and gave Verstappen 10th and provisional pole for the main event.
However, a post-race penalty for the collision demoted Verstappen to 27th place, which is where he lined up for the main event.
That meant Nuno Pinto inherited pole position with Biancolilla second, Tormala third and All Star Battle race winner Jernej Simoncic in fourth.
Seconds after Pinto decided to floor it on the rolling start and get things underway, Biancolilla got spun around at the final chicane and didn’t even get the chance to fight for a podium finish.
Pinto’s choice of when to get up to racing speed caught a lot of drivers off guard, and so the early battles were not for first or second, but third place instead.
A three-wide battle unfolded between Simoncic, Wisniewski and Hany Alsabti down the start finish-straight. Alsabti had the tight inside line and took third place, while the defending Simoncic was forced to the outside and fell down to fifth.
The fiercest fight was between Joonas Raivio and Rudy van Buren, who pushed each other off the track on separate occasions. And when van Buren pushed Raivio into the gravel on the exit of the Turn 7 hairpin, Raivio re-joined the track and took the racing line, forcing sprint race winner Jajovski off the track.
Jajovski made an initially clean re-entry onto the circuit, but was soon tagged by faster-moving cars who were caught out by the speed difference. The contact happened at the high-speed Schumacher S complex, meaning the Jajovski had no hope of regaining control of his BMW before it made contact with the barrier. The Triple A Esports man retired off the back of that collision.
Further down the order, Verstappen had soared through the pack, moving up 14 places in only six minutes. He then even fought his way up to 10th place, but by that point he had already been given another drive-through penalty. After serving it, he chose to end his running in the race early.
Unsighted on the livestream, Tormala overtook pole-sitter Pinto for first just under halfway into the race, and opened up an eventual nine-second race-winning cushion.
Williams Esports driver Wisniewski finished the race in third, while Dennis Jordan was fourth, benefitting from late drama in the battle up ahead.
This came amid Simoncic’s persistent efforts to move up from fifth place at Alsabti’s expense, which culminated in Simoncic powersliding into the first corner and dropping down to eighth.
Clear of Simoncic, Alsabti then came under pressure from Jordan, and he cut in front of his rival on the run to the final corner, moving the rear of his car into the front of Jordan’s and sending himself spinning. Alsabti finished the race in 11th.
Verstappen’s Redline team-mate van Buren received a penalty for clashing with McLaren Shadow driver Siggy, after tapping him into a spin and out of the top 10.
— The Race (@wearetherace) March 16, 2020
The next GT Pro Series race will take place in two weeks time on The Race’s YouTube channel with the circuit being the Virginia International Raceway.
Before then and on Monday next week, the GT Challenge Series, the feeder championship to the Pro Series, will run its race around the Nurburgring.