4 July 2023
McCormack stars at the stops to claim breakthrough SRO Esports SIM Pro Series Powered by RAFA Racing Club victory at Spa
- Dáire McCormack scores huge win for Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports
- Tobias Gronewald moves Unicorns of Love into the championship lead with second
- Inaugural RAFA Racing Wildcard drivers impress after public qualifying
- RESULT: SRO Esports SIM Pro Series Powered by RAFA Racing Club, Spa
- STANDINGS: SRO Esports SIM Pro Series Powered by RAFA Racing Club, After Rd3
Dáire McCormack banished his recent run of bad luck to score a breakthrough SRO Esports SIM Pro Series Powered by RAFA Racing Club victory at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
As the sun set on the real-life CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa, the Fanatec Arena drew a packed audience for the third round of the season on Saturday evening, and McCormack treated the onlookers to a fine performance, coming out on top of a five-car Mercedes-AMG scrap for victory that swung his way during the pit stops.
The returning Tobias Gronewald was a close second, with the result being enough to move Mercedes-AMG Team Unicorns of Love into the de-facto championship lead with two races remaining this year.
McCormack turns the tables as Mercedes-AMGs run clear
If you had to pick a winner after qualifying, chances are they would have been a Mercedes-AMG driver as the top five grid slots were all occupied by either Williams Esports or Unicorns of Love-run entries, with UoL’s Gronewald securing pole by 0.045s from Williams driver Dominik Blajer.
Fired up by his breakthrough victory in the Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint Series round held at Spa recently, Blajer made a strong start to challenge Gronewald around the outside at Eau Rouge at the start, but Gronewald asserted himself into Les Combes as the Mercedes-AMGs behind him settled into formation.
A train of Gronewald, Blajer, Monza winner Tobias Pfeffer, McCormack and Niklas Houben soon formed, with nobody able to pull a decisive advantage early on. Gronewald did manage to edge two seconds clear when Pfeffer began to pile the pressure on Blajer for second, but the tipping point would come during the mandatory mid-race pit stops.
Of the top five, McCormack was the first to stop when the pit window opened, meaning he benefited from both a quiet pitlane and a clear out-lap.
Blajer, Pfeffer and Houben all pitted as one later on, with Houben attacking the pit entry enthusiastically and almost clattering into the rear of the other two. The pressure-cooker situation led to an array of pit stop errors, as some lost time by stopping short of their pit boxes, and others simply endured slower stops.
Gronewald pitted last but had his own sluggish stop. That, combined with a rapid out-lap from McCormack, helped the Williams Esports Mercedes-AMG vault from fourth into a 2.6s lead by the time the order shook out. Gronewald pushed hard to bring the gap down, but couldn’t reel in McCormack enough as he held on to grab a win that will serve as a huge boost, moving Team Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports up to fourth in the points.
Gronewald’s second place ensured Unicorns of Love opened a 10-point lead at the top of the standings. The team came into the race weekend level at the top of the championship with Williams Esports, but Blajer could only manage fourth place, despite his promising early pace. Pfeffer completed the race podium to put Mercedes-AMG Esports Team HRT by UoL third in the standings.
Houben was fifth, ahead of Daniel Savini, who had the honour of being the best non-AMG driver home in his Jean Alesi Esports Team Porsche 992 GT3 R. Gregor Schill was seventh for BMW M Team BS+Competition, just ahead of Maciej Malinowski, who put in a star performance after making it through public qualifying to join the grid aboard the RAFA Racing-backed McLaren 720S GT3. Malinowski pulled off some stunning overtakes on his way to eighth.
Several big-hitters had issues, chiefly Circuit Paul Ricard winner David Tonizza. He started just 14th in the Automobili Lamborghini Esports Team Huracan and was then hit left, right and centre, leaving him a disappointed 18th. Ferrari’s drivers ran well early on before Jordan Sherratt suffered a big accident at Raidillon that put his car out and Chris Harteveld was denied a top-10 finish by a penalty for contact. Online series star George Boothby was 20th after a spin and a handful of penalties in the McLaren Veloce 720S. The second RAFA Racing Wildcard qualifier, Valentin Barrier, ran inside the top 10 but was set back to 17th by a penalty for contact.
The next round of the SRO Esports SIM Pro Series Powered by RAFA Racing Club takes place at the Nürburgring in Germany on July 29/30.