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Mobileye GT WCE Europe Sprint Series: Blajer prevents Houben from being third winner in 2023

Things looked rosy for Tinko van der Velde in the Europe Sprint Series. A win in the opening round seemed at least backed by a podium finish in France. David Tonizza had other ideas.

Tonizza, leading the Dutchman, was turned around following a controversial overtake. Van der Velde’s punishment was swift and painful; Due to his penalty, he failed to achieve a top five finish.

That left the constant George Boothby at the top of the standings, with Tonizza some fifteen points behind; A lucky man who recovered as well as he did in the race.

The starting grid went across the northern border to Spa-Francorchamps for the third of five races. Boothby would certainly be aiming for their first win of the season, while the likes of van der Velde and Tonizza would be looking to make up lost ground.

qualifying

In the previous qualifying none of them could have done well. The highest placed, van der Velde, finished in fourteenth place. Tonizza and Boothby were a miserable 21st and 26th respectively.

Mercedes-AMG machines dominated the top of the time. Dominik Blajer was on pole alongside stablemate Dáire McCormack.

unicorns of love filled the second row; Niklas Houben third and Michael Tauscher fourth. Kamil Pawlowski was unlucky not to beat Tauscher to this position in the end and to repeat the young German’s lap time.

Vojtech Fiala was on pole position in the silver class and finished ninth. Only Mikhail Statsenko stood between him and his closest rivals Marco Jonkers and Danila Cherepenin.

race

The sun had set when the lights turned green – a unique addition to the spectacle. However, visibility was still good enough to avoid incidents, although caution was jettisoned on Lap 1.

A massive incident occurred on the Eau Rouge involving a third of the field, although the biggest skirmish was yet to come. A slipstream down the Kemmel Straight was thrown into chaos when Pawlowski smashed into McCormack’s back, knocking the Irishman out of contention for the podium.

Fiala was by far the biggest beneficiary, rising from ninth to fourth by the end of the opening sector. He lined up behind Houben, who had fallen back behind Tauscher through Les Combes.

Boothby, who was involved in the chaos at Radillion, took early retirement. This of course meant that the top three could make serious strides in championship history by the end of the race as both van der Velde and Tonizza were struggling.

Further investigation into the incident that thwarted McCormack’s efforts yielded an interesting find. Although it was Pawlowski’s car that ran into the Mercedes, it wasn’t him who made the mistake.

Instead, Maciej Malinowski – the previous race winner – caused the bloodbath and was penalized with a fifteen-second time penalty.

After a quarter of the race win, the two Unicorns of Love swapped positions again. It was a relatively easy pass for Houben down the Kemmel Straight, and Tauscher offered little resistance.

Together with Blajer, the top duo quickly moved away from third place. Houben chased for several laps and pulled the trigger on his mandatory stop practically at halftime.

Left to his own devices for one lap, Blajer’s stop came one lap later and one lap late. Houben’s undercut was a miracle and gave him the lead through Les Combes.

Fiala had gone the other way and eventually fell behind Pawlowski, Statsenko and Bastian Richter with nineteen minutes to go. Cherepenin was now directly behind the class leader.

Slowly but surely the Williams and UOL machines closed again. Blajer was on the hunt for victory and made his first attempt at overtaking. Just outside of Turn 7, the Pole was back in the lead at the end of Turn 9, albeit with Houben breathing down his neck.

Nonetheless, his control of the situation proved impeccable. He passed the checkered flag and took his first victory in the PRO class.

Fiala had also recovered on the home straight. After losing all those positions and getting caught in the clutches of his biggest threat, the Czech pilot had passed everyone except Richter, who himself moved up to a strong fourth place.

PRO CLASSIFICATION

  1. Dominik Blajer – 1st – 26 laps
  2. Niklas Houben – 2nd – +0.662
  3. Michael Tauscher – 3rd – +3.795
  4. Bastian Richter – 4th – +12.293
  5. Mikhail Statsenko – 6th – +13.918

silver classification

  1. Vojtech Fiala – 5th – +13.340
  2. Danila Cherepenin – 9th – +17.370
  3. Marco Jonkers – 10th – +17.791
  4. Dario Iemmulo – 13th – +24.371
  5. Luis Fleischer – 16th – +33.734

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