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Esports

Ellis Jr. steps up as past champions encounter Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup trouble

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup Kevin Ellis Jr. winning Interlagos

The Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup is back again for another season featuring, as always, a ten-round calendar and some of the best that iRacing has to offer. Seeing the earliest start to a season in series history, reigning champion Sebastian Job was ready to reignite his bitter rivalry with Joshua K. Rogers – the original owner of the virtual crown he now wore.

Plenty other names from 2020 would make their return such as Spaniard Alejandro Sánchez and 2019 runner-up Maximilian Benecke. Kevin Ellis Jr. would also be making a return after a slew of top four results in the middle of last year. The calendar would see a new track to open up the season however adding an element of the unknown to launch the season with.

The track in question? The daunting Interlagos.

PESC, ROUND 1, QUALIFYING

Taking every single pole position on the table in 2020 barring two, it was no surprise to see the ‘King of the Supercup’ back at it again despite the new venue. A 1:33.988 was enough to see Rogers fend off countryman Dayne Warren to form an all-Australian front row.

Not having won a race since Belgium 2019, Tommy Østgaard would be licking his lips at such a good starting position of P3 whilst Martin Krönke was also dreaming of 2019 – the German won back-to-back races at Mid-Ohio though suffered a disappointing drop in form last season.

It was a particularly worrying session for 2019 champion Job, who found himself almost seven-tenths off the pace and down on row six of the starting grid for the first race. Not having won in the final two rounds of 2020, the Red Bull Racing Esports driver would be hoping that the evening would have better news to come.

PESC, ROUND 1, SPRINT RACE

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup Joshua Rogers leading Interlagos

An incredibly clean start ensured that not too much drama unfolded over the first lap of the season until some of the backmarkers got caught up in a middle sector incident. Not that Rogers minded at all; a strong launch would allow him to get down to the tough business of trying to build a gap over Warren.

Further back, Job hardly made any progress over the first half of the race and had to lean on support from fellow Red Bull driver Graham Carroll who had fought his way up to join Job on the cusp of the top ten. On lap five though, the swarm behind consumed him and he’d end up losing three positions into Decida do Lago. Thankfully, his task was successful having given Job a two-second buffer to work with.

With two laps to go, an important battle raged with pole position for the Feature Race placed in focus as the prize. After a mediocre Qualifying, Sánchez waged war on Holland’s Mack Bakkum for almost two full sectors before finally taking 8th for himself.

It was more of a frustrating political debate for the win however; tense but with no real change. Despite having Warren and Østgaard as shadows for the entire ten lap distance, Rogers converted pole into his first win of the campaign. An extremely measured drive.

  1. J. K. Rogers – 10 LAPS
  2. D. Warren – +0.082
  3. T. Østgaard – +0.280
  4. M. deJong – +2.293
  5. M. Krönke – +2.778
  6. C. Collins – +2.937
  7. K. Ellis Jr. – +3.944
  8. A. Sánchez – +5.252
  9. M. Bakkum – +5.913
  10. Z. Campbell – +6.596

PESC, ROUND 1, MAIN RACE

Porsche Tage Heuer Esports Supercup Kevin Ellis Jr Interlagos

Double the race distance, double the fun? For most drivers, there would simply be relief that another first lap brought barely any major dramas; even less so than the Sprint. Warren has the worst start of the podium sitters from the first race, losing a position to both Østgaard and Rogers who had already sliced his way up to sixth.

The Australian wasn’t done there with Mitchell deJong falling victim to the reigning champion just two laps later into the Senna ‘S’. Such a strong start was surely playing on the minds of those out front. Charlie Collins was a pup amongst hounds as the only rookie in the top three; both drivers ahead had at least one race win to their name.

Just one lap later, Rogers was up yet another place with Krönke unable to fend off an irresistible assault into the first turn. This was looking like a very Senna-esque drive so far from the #92 car and most would have been forgiven for thinking that a double win was there for the taking.

Kevin Ellis Jr. had done enough waiting, however, catching Sánchez napping with a sublime move around the outside of turn one, completing the overtake into Decida do Lago. Recognising the shift in momentum, Rogers attempted to take advantage but could not dispose of a stubborn Collins driving beyond his experience.

Sadly for the young Brit, his talent would run out at the worst time with a slow-down penalty ultimately giving Rogers a podium position. More good news was to come with Race 1 rival Warren plummeting down the order after squeezing Benecke a little too aggressively into Pinheirinho.

All that progress would come to a screeching halt on lap eight though and from a mistake all of his own doing. In incredibly rare scenes, the Australian attempted an undercut on Sánchez into Ferradure and clipped the curb spearing him into the Spaniard and ultimately ruling both out the running for big points.

Two drivers’ losses were another driver’s gain and Ellis Jr. couldn’t believe his luck sitting on a 1.2-second gap to the chasing field. To add to hopes of victory were the wildcard of rookie Zac Campbell having a blinder of a race in 4th and Tommy Østgaard spinning after defending too hard into the Senna ‘S’.

Tension would soon rise again with five laps to go as a four-way battle for victory started to flare up into a seven-car cavalcade. Sadly it would, once again, be Collins that blinked first losing the rear of his Porsche into Ferruda with Ellis Jr. and deJong in combat ahead.

After a fantastic two lap shootout, Ellis Jr. ran across the line victorious in the PESC for the first time since Watkins Glen 2019. Max Benecke had a quietly brilliant race which saw him go from outside the top eight to a surprise 2nd on the line whilst deJong would be left exhausted to return to the paddock with 3rd.

  1. K. Ellis Jr. – 20 LAPS
  2. M. Benecke – +0.823
  3. M. deJong – +0.846
  4. Z. Campbell – +0.943
  5. M. Krönke – +1.389
  6. D. Pinto – +1.723
  7. M. Bakkum. – +2.357
  8. G. Carroll – +3.370
  9. M. Gade – +3.370
  10. T. Østgaard – +7.876

Looking Forward

Right up until the Rogers/Sánchez incident it seemed obvious to all that 2019’s winner of the Porsche Esports Supercup would be on top exiting this year’s season opener. As it so happens, Kevin Ellis Jr. finds himself in that position just four points clear of the impressively consistent Mitchell deJong. The American caught something which was lacking for others though, with Job having an event to forget and Rogers with a rare mistake, perhaps we shouldn’t wait too long for a recovery from both.

The second round will take place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in a week’s time on 16th January 2021.

  1. K. Ellis Jr. – 64
  2. M. deJong – 60
  3. M. Krönke – 54
  4. M. Benecke – 53
  5. T. Østgaard – 48
  6. Z. Campbell – 48
  7. D. Warren – 44
  8. M. Bakkum – 40
  9. J. K. Rogers – 38
  10. D. Pinto – 38

Images provided by Porsche Newsroom media portal

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