Baldi edges closer to Esports WTCR title glory with Nordschleife double
Gergo Baldi took a major step towards winning the 2020 Esports WTCR Championship following a consistent display of stunning pace at a virtual Nürburgring Nordschleife last night as his main title rivals Bence Bánki and Dávid Nagy lost ground.
Hungarian Baldi, in a digital Hyundai i30 N TCR from the M1RA Esports team, now has a 50-point advantage over Bánki (Red Bull Racing Esports / Lynk & Co) heading to the series-deciding triple header at Circuit Zolder this Sunday (November 29) when 75 points will be up for grabs.
Even though he trails team-mate Baldi by the same amount, Nagy has claimed two wins compared to Baldi’s six, meaning he would lose the title on countback should he manage a victory triple at the Belgian track in his Audi RS 3 LMS.
Race 1 recap: Nagy steals it on the Döttinger Höhe
Baldi set the tone for race night by clocking the pole position at the 25.378-kilometre track with a half-second margin over Bánki, while Nikodem Wisniewski (Williams Esports / Audi) took third to make up for a difficult Esports WTCR season so far.
Wisniewski immediately jumped Bánki at the start but his hopes of a strong finish were quickly extinguished when he was tapped at Turn 1 and spun off the track.
Nagy capitalised by sneaking through into P2 and followed Baldi by heading clear of the rest of the field with Bánki struggling to remain on terms.
Behind them, Bence Zsupanek (M1RA Esports / Audi) was holding an impressive P4, followed by the Lynk & Co of Kirill Antonov (LADA Sport ROSNEFT eRacing) and Gianmarco Fiduci (Team Fordzilla).
Antonov showed plenty of determination by trying to overtake at the Mutkurve, but was forced to hold station behind Zsupanek.
On the Döttinger Höhe, Nagy was right behind Baldi, but opted not to go for an overtake as, further back, Viktor Ban (Ballas Racing Team) crashed heavily and tore the front end from his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris.
Jack Keithley (Williams Esports / Hyundai) was the driver on the move on lap two, passing Martin Barna (Triple A Esports / Audi) for seventh.
By now Bánki was slowly getting caught by Zsupanek, while Nagy had his sights set on victory.
Baldi went defensive on the Döttinger Höhe, moving from side by side to break the draft. But it was to no avail as Nagy completed the pass before the Hohenrainschikane. Baldi tried to hit back before the finish line but Nagy held on as Bánki rounded out the podium ahead of Zsupanek and Antonov.
Race 2 recap: Baldi in control, Antonov on form
Zoltan Csuti (M1RA Esports / Audi) was a surprise pole-sitter for Race 2 after benefitting from team-mate Baldi’s tow. Baldi took second with Antonov, who was also part of this qualifying train, in third. Bánki was fifth with Nagy lining up in seventh.
Although Csuti led initially, a mistake on the Grand Prix loop let in Baldi, who was already in the lead coming out of the hairpin, while Antonov made a bold pass around the outside of Csuti through the Schumacher-S.
Csuti tried to retaliate the place but immediately lost another position to Martin Barna, while Beau Dixon’s (VP Gaming / Lynk & Co) debut ended in the gravel trap at the NGK chicane.
Out on the Nordschleife, Antonov stayed with Baldi for the first half of the lap, but then made a mistake, which cost him the crucial draft and left Baldi clear out front on the Döttinger Höhe.
Csuti tried to pass Barna, but clipped a kerb and suffered a high-speed moment, dropping to P7 in the process.
Bánki was the next to try an overtake on Barna, which resulted in a four-wide scrap with Adam Pinczes (Triple A Esports / CUPRA) and Nagy also part of the battle.
Csuti, meanwhile, dropped even further back to P9 behind Keithley and Zsupanek, who tried to pass Keithley at the final chicane on lap two, but got onto the grass. He made contact with Keithley, who was instantly collected by Csuti and retired, while Zsupanek dropped down to P14.
Nagy’s pass on Pinczes for fifth place provided the main action on the final lap, as Baldi took the win ahead of surprise podium finishers Antonov and Barna. With Bánki finishing fourth and Nagy fifth, Baldi took a big step towards the title.
Elsewhere, Mihai Neg (Absolute Motorsport / CUPRA) managed to secure a top 10 on his Esports WTCR debut.
Race 3 recap: Baldi unstoppable, Pinczes strikes for P2
Baldi took a narrow pole ahead of Csuti and Antonov, with Bánki fourth.
A poor start from Csuti immediately left him exposed to Antonov’s advances, while Bànki making it three-wide at T1. Csuti dropped down to P7, but Nagy, who was behind him, was held up and dropped to P9.
Baldi spent the opening two laps extending his lead over Antonov, who was running ahead of Bánki, Pinczes and Barna followed by Fiduci, Keithley, Nagy and Zsupanek.
Although the first two laps had been relatively calm, the battles got more intense on the final lap. After being hit by Csuti through Steilstrecke, Fiduci spun off. But the real drama was to come.
Nagy clipped the back of Keithley at Pflanzgarten and spun at high speed, went into the side of Zsupanek – who managed to get his Audi back under control after going on the grass – and then hit the wall hard, ending his title hopes.
On the Döttinger Höhe, Pinczes and Barna battled and closed up to Antonov and Bánki. Antonov tried to close the door, which forced Pinczes onto the grass, but the Hungarian remained flat out and made it through.
Barna clipped Antonov, which almost sent both of them off, but they stayed on and even finished ahead of Bánki with Baldi winning ahead of Pinczes, Antonov, Barna and Bánki.
Baldi edges closer to the title
While Baldi’s 50-point margin over Bánki and 75-point advantage over Nagy puts him in the clear in his title quest, the battle for P4 is much closer. Florian Hasse (EURONICS Gaming / Honda) still holds fourth after a tough round, albeit by only three point ahead of Fiduci and four in front of Antonov and Pinczes.
A virtual Circuit Zolder hosts the 2020 Esports WTCR Championship decider from 19h00 CET on November 29.
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