Tinko Van Der Velde produced a beautifully controlled drive to snatch victory in the opening Mobileye GTWC Esports Europe Sprint Series round of the season, the Williams Esports Razer driver making his performance around the pit stop count.
Likewise, a clever drive from Valentin Barrier secured him a clear victory in the Silver class. He chose his battles wisely and romped home to the first class victory of the season.
Van Der Velde qualified his Ferrari 296 GT3 on pole, but was powerless to prevent Veloce Esports’ George Boothby slipping into the lead at Curva Grande after the two had run door-to-door through the first chicane, with Boothby just finding the inside line on corner exit.
Initially, Barrier held a superb third place behind the two leading Ferraris, but soon opted to ease the pressure from the charging Lamborghini of David Tonizza by allowing the Pro class runner through to concentrate purely on building his own advantage in the Silver class.
Up front, Boothby continued to lead by around half-a-second and, despite racing with a hand injury, appeared to have the edge on Van Der Velde as the pit window approached. Boothby was the first of the two to make his mandatory stop, diving into the pits as the leaders began to hit backmarker traffic, whereas Van Der Velde opted to stay out and try to work his way through the pack ahead.
It looked like an error on paper, but Van Der Velde made swift work of the lapped cars, completed his pit stop a lap later and managed to rejoin with an advantage of 0.9s over Boothby when the true order shook out. From that moment on Van Der Velde was in complete control, eventually stretching his advantage to 3s at the flag.
Boothby was a comfortable second, with Tonizza an equally secure third for Automobili Lamborghini Squadra Corsa. Mikhail Statsenko brought the ITB Saintéloc Racing Audi R8 LMS Evo II home in fourth at the flag, but was docked five seconds post-race for aggressive driving during a tight fight, dropping him back to sixth.
Dáire McCormack’s Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports car then moved up to fourth, making it three different marques inside the top four.
Barrier celebrated the Silver class victory in fifth for YAS Heat Esports, well clear of his closest class rival, Dario Iemmulo, who finished ninth overall in the VS Racing by Ballas Lamborghini Huracan.
Charlie Crossland was seventh overall for Williams Esports Fanatec, ahead of Kamil Pawlowski in the ITB Thrustmaster Racing Audi. Dennis Shoeniger rounded out the top 10 overall in the second Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports car, but only just after surviving a last-lap battle with Grantas Kareckas’ Veloce McLaren.
A time penalty for contact during the first stint looked to have denied Vojtech Fiala a chance at the final step of the Silver class podium, but he fought back from the delay superbly to eventually pass Michael Romagnoli’s Absolute Res-Tech by Acelith Aston Martin during the closing stages to snatch the place back.
The next round of the Mobileye GTWC Esports Europe Sprint Series takes place at Circuit Paul Ricard in France on Wednesday, May 24.