Being the second-to-last round of this phase, the fifth round of ESL Racing Series MAPFRE prompted lots of action on-track among the 33 cars that took the green flag. The tricky Sebring International Raceway and the take-it-easy approach of the drivers also made for a positional race up front, on which Erhan Jajovski prevailed, netting his second win to solidify Team Vires at the top of the standings.
Jajovski started second behind the pole-sitter, Polish driver Kuba Brzezinski (Williams eSports), but a perfect start put him in the lead, while also fending off a even greater start by David Greco (GSR SimRacing), although the Italian’s only gain was over Petar Brljak (NetRex Grand Prix). Back in the pack, while two of the Spanish stalwarts in this competition, Aday Coba (Vodafone Giants) and Borja Millán (Team Huanaco), were losing every chance at a good result in the first laps, Marc Pérez got up to fifth place after a great start, but the MSi eSports driver soon fell to seventh again later in the lap against rookie Devin Braune (ACR Zakspeed) and Yuri Kasdorp (Veles SimSport). All of them had overtaken Kevin Siggy Rebernak (Edge eSports), one of multiple victims in the first turn bottleneck.
Fuel and tyre saving wrote the screenplay during the first half. As they had shown in qualifying, Jajovski and Brzezinski had much more pace than the rest of the field, and duly pulled away running close to each other, while Greco was trying to contain a large train of drivers with sub-optimal pace. Contrary to previous belief, every driver was able to execute a one-stop strategy, with most of them pitting past the halfway point. It was then when the established order began to crumble.
Jajovski and Brzezinski were serviced on the same lap, with 18 minutes on the clock, and the North Macedonian stayed in front, slightly increasing his gap in the following laps to gain full control and netting a much-deserved win. Behind the leaders, the battle for 3 rd place was reactivated when Greco lost four places at once, at the same lap on which most drivers elected to pit. During the pit stops, Braune, who was subbing for the successful Risto Kappet at ACR Zakspeed, lost five extra seconds, which also translated to lost places when he rejoined the track.
That way, Kasdorp reeled in on Brljak, until he got past with 8 minutes left on the Ullmann straight, the Estonian having gained five places to stand at the third spot of the podium. After his stop, Greco got back in front of Pérez, and was able to brush the pressure off from the Spaniard in the waning laps to get back into the top 5, in a crucial duel with potential implications as for which teams could complete the roster in the grand final.
Daniel Kiss (NetRex) was able to get pass Siggy Rebernak despite pitting a lap later, but that didn’t stop the Slovak from getting 7th place back. The top final top 10 spots saw a no-holds-barred duel between Ádám Pinczés, his teammate Braune and Nikodem Wisniewski (Williams eSports), which was decided on the final lap when a successful attack by Braune made the Polish driver lose an additional two spots, giving ACR Zakspeed the last two places in the top 10. Vodafone Giants, on their part, had lots of downsides that could compromise their qualifying, especially with an incident-filled race by Pablo López, which couldn’t make up the penalty that erased his 3 rd best time in qualifying.
As it stands, there’s only one race left to set in stone the final team line-up for ESL Racing Series MAPFRE on-site finals, scheduled for March 16 at the Motor Sport Institute (MSi) in Madrid. The litmus test, the last challenge for our contenders, will be on the tortuous Hong Kong Street Circuit, driving the famed Formula E cars.
Even with 100% electrical open-wheel cars, that sounds great, isn’t it?