Part of a stand-alone event in Riyadh, $1,000,000 is up for grabs for esports teams that have taken part on the inaugural ESL R1 season so far. Once again using the work-in-progress Rennsport platform in GT3 cars across four tracks, four days of live-streamed racing would determine who would take home on of the largest prize pools in sim racing history.
Day one witnessed over seven hours of practice, qualifying and racing to whittle down the drivers to just 12 for day two – during which championship-style points were awarded after each round. The second day then placed the remaining competitions into an open-ended race structure.
All 12 entered each race with points awarded based on finishing positions. Reaching 80 points enabled ‘finalist mode’, at which point, the first person in that mode to then win another race became the drivers’ champion.
Days three and four will be for the teams’ championship competition separately.
In the end, it culminated in an eight-lap shot-out at the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit with three drivers in the finalist mode: Maximilian Benecke for MOUZ, Jeffrey Rietveld for Team Redline and Joshua Rogers for Porsche Coanda.
The Porsche driver was the first competitor to make it into finalist mode after four races, shortly followed by the two other contenders.
Of those, only Rogers had prior experience of being in contention for an ESL R1 title, having also made finalist mode back in June at the Munich-based Spring Major.
He promptly placed his 911 GT3 R on pole position ahead of Rietveld’s BMW and Benecke’s Audi. However, at the begging of the race, ran deep into the opening Haug-Haken corner, allowing the Redline driver into the lead. For third, Benecke fought off Rietveld’s team-mate Kevin Siggy.
One lap later, Rogers sought to make amends, trying a move around the outside of the first corner. Rietveld tried to hold on, however, as they ran side-by-side through the Mercedes Arena. Contact between the two lead cars tipped the Porsche into a spin before they made the Valvoline-Kurve.
Benecke snatched the lead and then disappeared off into the distance to claim an emotional $100,000.
Of the drivers who didn’t make it into the final day, G2 Sim Racing’s Isaac Price was knocked out following a questionable penalty, which the British driver’s team manager Nathan Tague labelled as “the worst penalty call I’ve ever seen.”
Spring Season title contender James Baldwin was one of only two AMG-GT3s to make it through, alongside Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports Team driver Jakub Brzeziński. Sadly neither would shine on the day, with Baldwin’s Mercedes-AMG Petronas finishing in eight, and Brzeziński 10th.
Winner of the Spring event, R8G Esports’ Marcell Csincsik, put in another strong performance, finishing fourth overall this time.
“I knew my pace was good, it improved a lot over the past couple of weeks,” said winner Benecke.
“…It comes down to so many small details… I’m quite happy with that, and I think Jeffrey [Rietveld] and Joshua [Rogers] deserved this as well.”
ESL R1 Gamers8 2023 drivers’ championship standings
- Maximilian Benecke
- Jeffrey Rietveld
- Joshua Rogers
- Marcell Csincsik
- Jiri Toman