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First blood for van der Velde in sprint opener of GT World Challenge Esports Europe 2023 | traction

The first round of the 2023 Mobileye GT World Challenge Esports Europe Sprint Series was set to take place in the Italian temple of speed – Monza.

James Baldwin, champion of the last two seasons, had opted to sit out the 2023 series meaning the way was clear to put a new name on the GTWC Esports Europe Sprint Trophy. And there was no shortage of applicants.

Williams Esports looked particularly strong in preseason thanks to a Pro class driver line-up featuring Tinko van der Velde, Dáire McCormack, Dominik Blajer, Dennis Schöniger and Charlie Crossland.

George Boothby took on the team leader role at Veloce Esports in one of the new Ferrari 296 GT3s (featured in Assetto Corsa Competizione’s recent 2023 GT World Challenge DLC pack), while Automobili Lamborghini Squadra Corse looked impressive in the hands of Luca Losio and new signing David Tonizza.

Of the 2023 competitors, Dáire McCormack appeared to be at his best thanks to his overall win in the ACC-powered Logitech McLaren G Challenge. Not only that, the Irishman has already won the hotly contested ESL R1 competition twice. Of course he would hope to go one better than his second-place finish in the 2022 championship.

However, Monza has a habit of producing unexpected results.


Given the Italian setting, it was a trio of Ferrari 296 GT3s at the front of the grid, with van der Velde taking pole from Boothby. Third place went to Silver Category competitor Valentin Barrier, followed by Tonizza, who finished fourth overall on the grid.

Further back, Crossland finished seventh, McCormack ninth and Blajer 13th in his Pro class debut. The Pole had comprehensively won the silver class in a TRITON Competition Bentley Continental in 2022 and made a solid start to his first pro season.


In the opening changes, the front of the field made a clean break from the Prima Variant chicane, with Boothby taking the lead from van der Velde. Behind him, Tonizza edged out Barrier in third, with a small gap opening up between the Frenchman and Mikhail Statsenko’s Pro Audi R8 LMS Evo II in fifth place.

However, Van der Velde was in an optimistic mood and aimed for Boothby to take the lead. The pair had broken the tow to Tonizza behind them and broke away from the field.

For this season, new pit stop rules meant drivers had to change all four tires at their single, mandatory stop, meaning the minimum pit lane time for any car would be 30 seconds. In previous seasons, drivers only had to stop for a liter of fuel to pit, leading to convergent strategies between drivers.

Assetto Corsa Competizione, Monza, SRO Esports 2023

Committing to stopping for new tires therefore opens up more undercut and overcut opportunities, with riders able to push harder with lower fuel levels. That was the theory, at least, and drivers had a twenty-minute window mid-race to pit.

pit stop phase

Dominik Blajer blinked first and pitted as quickly as possible. He was hoping to undercut the cars in front, but it was a risky strategy as tire wear at Monza is offset by the drop in fuel load, meaning lap times are often quicker at the end of a stint than at the start.

Blajer finished 31st, just ahead of the fast Luca Losio, who was frustrated in the slipstream of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

As the field neared the half-time mark, the leaders caught up with the backs of the field, giving van der Velde a tiny opportunity to launch an attack on first position. Boothby, realizing he was certain to lose time if he crossed the rear markers, headed for the pit lane, leaving van der Velde to attempt the overlap in traffic.

Assetto Corsa Competizione, Monza, SRO Esports 2023Boothby jumps to the pit lane

Surprisingly, van der Velde jumped over Boothby after her pit stops and squeezed back onto the track just ahead of the Ferrari. Blajer and McCormack, on the other hand, had gained positions and worked their way up to 11th and 6th place respectively.

In the opposite direction went Valentin Barrier, who had dropped to seventh place and was now just three seconds ahead of second-placed silver rival Dario Iemmulo.

The battle for the podium spots had now stabilized, with the battle for fourth place taking center stage between Crossland, Statsenko, McCormack and Barrier.

Tinko van der Velde, Williams Esports, Monza, Assetto Corsa CompetizioneImage courtesy of Tinko van der Velde/Williams Esports

Statesenko and McCormack both made successful moves at Crossland while Barrier, not content with his comfortable lead in the Silver class, passed the struggling Englishman with about five minutes to go.

In the end, van der Velde Boothby showed superior pace and took a deserved win while Tonizza drove a smooth race in third place. Statsenko and McCormack finished fourth and fifth, with Barrier finishing sixth and first Silver.

Ferrari had won both classes convincingly on home soil at Monza; can the prancing horse be reined in at Paul Ricard on May 24th?

Assetto Corsa Competizione, Monza, SRO Esports 2023


  1. Tinko Van Der Velde – Ferrari 296 GT3 – Williams Esports Razer
  2. George Boothby – Ferrari 296 GT3 – Veloce Esports
  3. David Tonizza – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 – Automobili Lamborghini Squadra Corse
  4. Mikhail Statsenko – Audi R8 LMS Evo II ITB – Sainteloc Racing
  5. Dáire McCormack – Mercedes-AMG GT3 2020 – Mercedes AMG Team Williams Esports


  1. Valentin Barrier – Ferrari 296 GT3 – YAS Heat Esports
  2. Dario Iemmulo – Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 – VS Racing by Ballas
  3. Vojtech Fiala – Porsche 992 GT3 R – Williams Esports Fanatec
  4. Michael Romagnoli – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 – Absolute Res-Tech by Acelith
  5. Tommy Razeyre – McLaren 720S GT3 – SDL eSports by Logitech G


  • May 3 – Monza
  • May 24th – Circuit Paul Ricard
  • 21 June – Spa Francorchamps
  • July 19 – Nurburgring
  • August 23 – Barcelona

Prize pool: €18,500

Featured image courtesy of Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS

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