Despite Williams Esports drivers Jack Keithley and Martin Štefanko coming close, it was Bence Bánki and Mumbai Falcons who took the E1 Championship titles.
Here at Traxion.GG, we love taking a look at as many different sim racing championships as our wonderful team can keep track of.
Today, we cover the E1 Championship for the first time; a blooming, single-seater championship held on RaceRoom Racing Experience using its X-22. The platform appears to be enjoying a resurgence of late with the Esports World Touring Car Cup also set to return after a year’s absence.
We join E1’s latest season at its conclusion. On the line, a share of the $13,000 drivers’ championship prize pool – $5,000 set to go to the winner. As for the teams’ title, $3,000 would be split between the pair who scored the most points of the season’s duration, the lion’s share of a $7,000 total.
As far as the format goes, E1 Championship doesn’t throw up too many surprises. The ten-minute qualifying session is your first chance to score points on the evening with five given out for pole position down to one for fifth.
Two races follow – one Sprint and one Feature with a top ten reverse grid. The aforementioned eWTCR points format makes a return as the top fifteen finishers are rewarded for their efforts. Two Fastest Lap points are also on offer.
Both title races appeared to come down to two sets of drivers heading into the final round at Imola. Mumbai Falcons had the reigning champion, Muhammed Ibrahim, on its books, yet it was his teammate Bence Bánki who led his competition by almost twenty points.
In between those two was the Williams Esports pair of Jack Keithley and Martin Štefanko.
“We’ll give it everything as always and hope for the best,” said Štefanko pre-race.
“We are delighted with how the season has gone so far so, hopefully, we can bring both championships home.”
So of all the people to take pole position for Race 1, nobody wanted it to be Bánki. The Slovakian was in fine form blitzing everyone by a quarter of a second. Ibrahim was nowhere in sight whilst Keithley and Štefanko could only grab third and fifth on the grid respectively.
Muhammed Thasbeeh of Team Flash would join the fun on the front row.
A slow start for the pole sitter was punished. Thasbeeh swept around the outside of Tamburello to swipe the lead away whilst Naquib Azlan was the greatest benefactor of poor launches for the Williams duo and Kalen Chin.
Mistakes plagued Keithley in particular over the first couple of laps, seeing the Brit drop behind both Inigo Anton and the aforementioned Chin.
Thasbeeh’s early advantage was reeled back in over the ensuing ten minutes but the next major overtake would see Štefanko finally allowed to pass his teammate. The dividends were immediately apparent as Anton could not hold the Czech pilot behind for long. Chin was dispatched shortly thereafter.
Bánki had never appeared fully comfortable in second, failing to catch Thasbeeh convincingly and struggling to keep Azlan behind. The Malaysian’s persistence finally paid off on the penultimate lap with Bánki simply unable to quell his tenacity.
Whilst Thasbeeh cruised home to his second win of the season, the championship leader was left sweating thanks to a storming Štefanko almost pipping him to third at the line.
The lead of the second race would be Mihai Neg’s for all of a second. His launch was abysmal and he plummeted down to eighth. Salt was rubbed further into this wound as a total mess at Tamburello saw the majority of the field pick up damage of some sort.
The incident was sparked by Ibrahim, catching the back of now first-placed Julian Kunze following a bumpy trip across the kerbing.
Keithley’s first race performance now appeared to be a graceful mistake despite the obvious drawback. He sliced through the carnage into a multi-second lead as Kunze behind struggled for rear-end grip.
Štefanko was not having such a stress-free experience. Stuck in 13th position, he was helpless to avoid a spinning Lance Lau and was sandwiched in by the unfortunate Josh Purwien.
Mercifully for the likely champion elect, Bánki has remained intact through the opening-lap melee. Manoeuvring his way up to fourth, Keithley needed to take the fastest lap on top of a win to even be in with a chance of achieving the title.
Those hopes were dimmed further halfway through the contest as the Slovakian engaged Nabil Azlan for third.
During an elongated pitstop phase, drama emerged in a crescendo of absurdity. First, a drivethrough penalty for Kunze after speeding in the pitlane. This favoured Bánki more so than Štefanko and Williams Esports thanks to the greater points differential between positions.
Then came the truly extraordinary pictures of Keithley spinning at the Alta chicane before grinding to a halt on the pit straight – his fuel tank fully spent.
Utterly distraught, the Brit was forced to retire whilst Bánki locked in a podium spot barring unpredictable variables.
Williams would have the last laugh in the race, an exquisite double overtake from Štefanko earning him the race win, yet Mumbai Falcons and their new lead driver enjoyed the spoils of a hard-fought war.
“I’m overjoyed,” said Bánki
“I had a very good qualifying, and otherwise I played it safe. I’m very, very happy to win the championship.”
E1 Championship Grand Final Race 1 results
- Muhammed Thasbeeh – Team Flash – 16:00.909
- Naquib Azlan – SEM9 +2.319
- Bence Bánki – Mumbai Falcons +3.104
- Martin Štefanko (FL) – Williams Esports +3.255
- Kalen Chin – Blackarts Racing +4.474
- Inigo Anton – Team Flash +5.067
- Jack Keithley – Williams Esports +6.003
- Muhammed Ibrahim – Mumbai Falcons +6.506
- Julian Kunze – Apex Racing Academy Brunei +10.522
- Mihai Neg – Virtualdrivers by TX3 +16.414
E1 Championship Grand Final Race 2 results
- Martin Štefanko – Williams Esports – 30:07.500
- Naquib Azlan – SEM9 +1.173
- Bence Bánki – Mumbai Falcons +2.677
- Nabil Azlan – SEM9 +5.293
- Inigo Anton – Team Flash +12.019
- Russel Reyes – JMX Phantom +20.257
- Mihai Neg – Virtualdrivers by TX3 +23.722
- Jyn Mazvilton – Safe House +25.955
- Julian Kunze – Apex Racing Academy Brunei +28.224
- Daniel Finney – DDF Racer +49.387