After nine exciting online rounds, the stage was set for the final of the Mercedes-AMG eRacing Competition at the Hockenheimring. 18 RaceRoom simulators were built up in the Mercedes-AMG hospitality, right next to the start-finish straight of the real Hockenheimring. Illustrous guests walked through the halls, from DTM legends like Klaus Ludwig and Bernd Schneider up to a certain Sebastian Vettel – but on Friday evening, it was time for new stars:
Of course, the six fastest eRacers were present: Jack Keithley dominated the online season, but the reigning champion Tim Heinemann and the experienced Julian Kunze are always strong on live events. With Kevin Siggy Rebernak, Jaroslav Honzik and Florian Hasse, there were three further debutants in the race, all fighting for the AMG Driving Experience prizes.
Six further drivers qualified for the Gamesworld Rookie Competition, challenging each other for a taxi ride in a real DTM car. Daniel Schön, Moritz Löhner, Markus Schönfelder, Philip Matzick, Sascha Gemeinhardt and Sergij Frühauf were on the grid, and despite being in a “rookie” competition, it was clear that they would be fierce competitors for the top positions in the overall classification too.
The DTM drivers showed up prepared as well. Lucas Auer had already proven his skills in the online championship, but Edoardo Mortara and Robert Wickens also made a good impression in practice. Gary Paffett, Paul di Resta and Maro Engel had a little bit of trouble adapting to the simulators, but they still mixed it with some drivers of the Gamesworld Rookie competition.
Over 100 guests were watching the race live in the hospitality, and in order to bring the action to thousands of people online, a professional camera and broadcasting crew were ready. German TV presenter Thore Schölermann was the host, and in the commentary booth, it was the British voice of DTM, Dave Richardson, alongside regular eRacing commentator Robert Wiesenmüller. The real action was on track though, and with only 30 minutes of practice, 10 minutes of qualifying and 20 minutes of racing for the drivers, the ability to adapt was key.
In qualifying, Tim Heinemann adapted to the new circumstances the fastest and immediately set the pole position time. But Jack Keithley was right on his tails, less than a tenth behind. Julian Kunze was in third for most of the session and was even setting faster sector times than Heinemann, but right before the end, Kevin Siggy Rebernak took third position away from him. Florian Hasse was fifth ahead of the fastest driver of Gamesworld Rookie classification, Moritz Löhner, who outqualified Jaroslav Honzik. Sascha Gemeinhardt was in eighth place, right in front of the two fastest DTM drivers, Robert Wickens and Edoardo Mortara.
Heinemann got off to a good start, while Keithley was overtaken by Rebernak into the first corner. But the Englishman was recovering well and set a stunning pace early on in the race, looking even more impressive than online. Behind the leading trio, Kunze dropped back after an incident with Honzik. Florian Hasse and Moritz Löhner capitalized and battled for fourth position. Robert Wickens meanwhile was still the leading DTM driver, well inside the top 10.
Keithley managed to get past Rebernak quickly again and reeled in Heinemann. On Lap 5, Heinemann was completely out of shape in the first sector, apparently with steering issues. Keithley and Rebernak tried to make a move into the hairpin, and there was contact. Keithley lost out the most, spinning and picking up damage, as Rebernak took the lead. From that point onwards, there were two main battles in the race: Heinemann and Rebernak fought for the lead, while Hasse and Löhner were competing for the final spot on the podium.
Heinemann retook the lead into the hairpin, and from this point onwards, the race was about DRS. Rebernak stayed patient for the beginning, but two laps before the end, he overtook Heinemann down the back straight. This meant that Heinemann had the DRS available on the final lap, and the German didn’t pass on the oppurtunity, retaking the lead already in the first sector. Heinemann won the race and the title, ahead of Kevin Siggy Rebernak and Moritz Löhner, who also won the title of the Gamesworld Rookie Competition. Florian Hasse was fourth and the final driver to win a AMG Driving Experience. Honzik took fifth place ahead of Julian Kunze and Jack Keithley, who set the fastest lap of the race. Markus Schönfelder was in eigth after a strong performance, ahead of the two fastest DTM drivers, Robert Wickens and Lucas Auer.
This concludes the 2017 season of the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport eRacing Competition. We would like to thank all drivers, fans and partners for making this possible. Simracing is moving closer and closer to real motorsports, and these events give a big stage for our passion. And with all the experience gained, we can only hope for an even bigger and better 2018 season.