NGK & NTK Esports Cup: Round 3 Review – Imola

February 3, 202411 min read

The NGK and NTK Esports Cup has a new points leader.

After a disastrous Race 2 at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari from Visceral Esports driver Vince Peeters, Alexander Thiebe took over the lead in the championship standings on Feb. 2. Thiebe won both races at the 3.6-mile circuit, the first of which by just 0.063 seconds.

“It was really, really, really good. I didn’t expect (today’s performances) to be like that to be honest,”

Thiebe’s comments on RaceSpot TV’s post-race coverage.

Thiebe’s outright pace at the track became a talking point early. The URANO Esports driver stunned himself in qualifying by setting a pole time of 2:03.868, a full four-tenths of a second quicker than Gal Valero and Nikolas Nolde.

“My qualifying lap was really good and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the gap. I felt like it was a good lap, but I thought it was maybe like a tenth of a second faster than second place, but I was a bit wrong.”

Thiebe’s comments on RaceSpot TV’s post-race coverage.

Race 1 Recap

Race 1 turned out to be one of the most exciting races of the season.

After a clean start for most of the field, Thiebe, Nolde, and Valero went right to battling up front. With drivers having a lot of draft heading down Variante Bassa, the three drivers kept swapping the top spot on the track every chance they could.

After eight minutes of racing, Nolde took the lead for the first time with the help of draft. Thiebe immediately fought back in the next sector after getting a push from Valero heading into Tosa.

By the midway point of the race, Thiebe, Valero, Nolde, Peeters, Alessio Bender, Tamas Simon, Yuanxi Lin, and Norbert Leitner had pulled away from the rest of the field by more than three seconds.

Even then, the race featured several minutes of side-by-side drafting and passing in Sector 1, sometimes with six drivers fighting at once.

“Race 1 was really tough. We were fighting so hard. Shoutouts to the others – Vince (Peeters), Nikolas (Nolde) – it was really, really nice. It was super tough to defend. I was always on the limit and the others too. I can’t help but say a big thank you to Gael (Valero) and the others. They kept it so safe and so fair. It was really enjoyable.”

Thiebe’s comments on Race 1 Victory on RaceSpot TV’s post-race coverage.

The race came down to the wire – not just on the track, but on the clock.

With how intense the racing was for the lead, there was some confusion on when iRacing would throw the white flag or checkered flag. As drivers set up for what ended up being the white flag lap, no one seemed to want to make a pass just in case.

The entire lead pack stayed single file on the final lap until the run out of Rivazza. Valero, who had been riding in second place throughout the lap, poked his car to the left of Thiebe, trying to get the edge at the stripe. Instead, Thiebe held onto the win by three-quarters of a car length.

During post-race coverage, Valero confirmed to RaceSpot TV that he knew it was the final lap. The difference between the race having an additional lap or finishing at said lap was within two seconds, according to Valero.

“I’m hot. I’m very heated. I was way above the temperature that my body is supposed to be before, so I need to go have a shower very soon and then put on a pair of pants, you know, I played the game and I didn’t win.”

Valero’s comments on Race 1 on RaceSpot TV’s post-race coverage.

Nolde, Simon, and Peeters rounded out the top five.

Race 2 Recap

Race 2 had a completely different tone to Race 1. With the whole field inverted, Sergi Maturana, Mergim Aliu, and Gary Lin led the field to the green flag. In the midpack, things immediately got wild.

While battling for ninth place, Michael Haflidason helped spark the biggest crash of the day after trying to dive alongside Mario Vehlgut heading into Tamburello. Vehlgut, committed to the corner already, turned early to set up his corner apex, slamming into the door of Haflidason.

The contact sent Haflidason spinning across the track, right into the path of Peeters. Multiple other drivers, including Sophie Aeronwen, Daniel Muth, Norbert Leitner, and Harry Fox, all crashed behind them as everyone tried to check up. This proved to be one of the largest multi-car incidents of the season, and one stewards kept a close eye on post race.

Then, minutes later, Peeters’s race officially came to a close. The championship contender checked up for a very loose Leitner in Acque Minerali. As he lifted off the gas, he was hit by Simon, sending him into the wall to the left of the corner exit. It was his first DNF of the season.

As the contenders from Race 1 tried to dodge the carnage, Aliu and Maturana looked to set the tempo up front. Aliu and Maturana traded the lead several times while having a three-second buffer to the pack with under 14 minutes to go.

However, one driver was quicker than the others in that pack: Thiebe.

Thiebe closed the gap to both Aliu and Maturana in under six minutes. Aliu had a slowdown penalty to serve down the frontstretch, making the battle for second place pretty quick. Seconds later, Thiebe used the draft to slip past Maturana to take the lead with under three minutes left in the race.

In the end, Thiebe took the win by 0.787 seconds. Maturana, Valero, Aliu, and Bender completed the top five.

Post Race Penalties

After the event, Race Control had their work cut out to make sense of some of the incidents. They came to the following decisions

It’s now time for everyone’s favourite game to play: Who Gets a Penalty Today!

In all seriousness, here is a rundown of the penalties given by Race Control for today’s races.

Penalties for Missing Pre-Race Drivers Meeting

First, two drivers (Naz Addati and Alessio Bender) have been assessed a two-second penalty in Race 1 for missing the Pre-Race Drivers Meeting.

NFA: Mario Vehlgut

Race Control has ruled No Further Action on a Race 1 incident involving Vehlgut and Car #882 (Szymon Szczuczko). Race Control has ruled the contact as a racing incident.

“Car #882 unexpectedly slowed down at the Apex of Turn 18, catching Car #20 off guard. Despite efforts by Car #20 to decelerate, the collision occurred.”

Race 1 Time Penalty: Mike Barber (10 Seconds)

Race Control has issued a time penalty to Car #32 (Mike Barber) for contact with Car #159 (Artem Makarov).

“At the exit of Turn 1, Car #159 was involved in a slight collision with Car #32, deemed a racing incident by stewards. Subsequently, Car #32 failed to adjust speed for the car in front, resulting in another slight collision. Stewards have attributed responsibility to Car #32 and have issued a 10-second penalty.”

Race 1 Time Penalty: Mario Vehlgut (5 Seconds)

Race Control has issued a five-second time penalty in Race 1 to Vehlgut for contact with Car #87 (Daniel Muth).

“Car #20 failed to provide sufficient room to Car #87 at the Apex of Turn 12, resulting in contact that forced Car #87 onto the sausage kerb. This incident caused both cars to go off track, resulting in the loss of multiple positions. Stewards have assigned responsibility to Car #20 and imposed a five-second time penalty.”

Race 2 Time Penalty: Michael Haflidason (15 Seconds)

The Big Crash in Race 2 has led to a 15-second penalty for Car #81 (Michael Haflidason).

“Car #81 failed to maintain sufficient overlap with Car #20 (Mario Vehlgut) at Turn 18, resulting in slight contact. Despite regaining overlap on the straight due to late braking, stewards attribute fault to Car #81 for causing the collision. Also, the stewards noticed that the Car #81 failed to hold his brake after the incident as indicated by race control in the pre-race meeting.”

Race 2 Time Penalty: Naz Addati (10 Seconds)

Car #45 (Naz Addati) has been issued its second time penalty of the round for an incident in Race 2 involving Barber.

“Car #45 collided with the rear of Car #32, causing the latter to spin. Stewards determined that Car #45 is responsible for the contact and issued a 10-second penalty.”

Watch Race On Demand

The next round of the NGK & NTK Esports Cup will take place at the virtual Hockenheimring’s National A layout on Feb. 16, 2024.

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Justin Prince

Justin Prince

My name is Justin Prince. Since 2018, I have been broadcasting races with RaceSpot TV. I also have experience calling several iRacing World Championship Series over the past seven years. However, I also have more than 10 years of freelance reporting/journalism experience with various groups and companies.


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