Round 1 of ESL R‘s 2023 Fall Season marked a spectacular return for the Rennsport-based series, with G2 Esports’ Sebastian Job putting in an impressive performance to emerge winner after a pulsating last-lap battle with Dáire McCormack and Spring Season champion Marcell Csincsik.
The drivers – all competing for a share of the Fall Season’s €225,000 prize pool – headed to Spa-Francorchamps for Round 2, with the likes of Porsche Coanda’s Dayne Warren and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports’ James Baldwin looking to make up for disappointing Round 1 results.
Unfortunately for Baldwin, he was knocked out at the quarter-final stage, succumbing to an incident early on. ESL R1’s brutal knockout format and short races meant there was no way back for the Brit with Round 1 winner Job scraping through in fourth position.
Warren made short work of qualifying for the semis by finishing second behind Maximilian Benecke, who would prove to be a force to be reckoned with throughout Round 2.
In terms of form, two teams got all four cars into the semi-finals: R8G Esports and Porsche Coanda Esports. Benecke pipped G2’s Isaac Price to pole in semi 1, with the ever-consistent McCormack placing third. Reigning champion Csincsik was under pressure in fifth, however.
The race was a surprisingly sedate affair, with Price dropping down into fifth after being jumped by McCormack, Kevin Ellis Jr. and Csincsik in quick order. Behind, Warren lost out to R8G’s Erhan Jajovski for the final qualifying position after a superb overtake into Les Combes, marking another disappointing result for the rapid Aussie.
Sebastian Job continued his Round 1 form by taking pole position for semi-final 2, ending up nearly a tenth of a second clear of Coanda’s Josh Rogers. Spring’s regular season champion Luke Bennett was fourth for Team Redline, with the ever-impressive Jiri Toman in third for R8G.
Off the line, Job and Rogers were nose-to-tail, with the Porsche driver capitalising on a great run along the Kemmel Straight to move ahead at Les Combes. Toman jumped Bennett for third while Thibault Cazaubon and Enzo Bonito remained in their fifth and sixth qualifying positions.
The first five positions were largely static until the end of the race, but the fight for the final qualifying position between Bonito, Caique Oliveira, Yoann Harth and Nikodem Wisniewski was an intense one, after a series of paint-swapping manoeuvres on lap three.
Harth would exit the battle at La Source on the following tour after a mistake under braking, leaving Wisniewski free to claim sixth on the road, which became 10th after penalties were applied – allowing Oliveira into the final.
Job and Toman had an entertaining scrap on the penultimate lap too, eventually leading to Bennett jumping Toman and onto the podium. Interestingly, all four of R8G Esports’ drivers made it to the final, equalling Williams Esports’ feat from Round 1.
Job and Benecke were the pace-setters in qualifying for the final, Job edging the German by half a tenth to take pole. Jajovski, Ellis Jr. and McCormack were all within a tenth in third, fourth and fifth positions respectively.
And the race was an equally tight affair, as Benecke launched attack after attack on Job but finally got through on lap four after some light side-by-side contact. Both drivers continued, with Benecke able to control the race from the front.
Job was under severe pressure from Jajovski behind, with the Macedonian launching a failed attack on the final lap. McCormack passed Ellis Jr. for fourth late on with Toman following at close quarters.
Benecke took the win on the road but was later penalised by the stewards for the incident with Job, some would say harshly given the circumstances. The MOUZ driver was demoted to eighth afterwards.
Round 3 is set to take place at the Hockenheimring on the 21st and 22nd September, and on this form it would be a brave person who bets against Sebastian Job taking a hat-trick of wins.
ESL R1 Fall Season Round 2 results
- Sebastian Job, G2 Esports, BMW M4 GT3, 15:54.360
- Erhan Jajovski, R8G Esports, Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II, + 1.065s
- Dáire McCormack, Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports, Mercedes-AMG GT3, + 1.205s
- Kevin Ellis Jr., Apex Racing Team, Mercedes-AMG GT3, +1.595s
- Jiri Toman, R8G Esports, Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II, + 1.924s
- Josh Rogers, Porsche Coanda Esports, Porsche 911 GT3 R (992), + 2.332s
- Marcell Csincsik, R8G Esports, Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II, + 2.548s
- Maximilian Benecke, MOUZ, Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II, + 0.000s
- Luke Bennett, Team Redline, BMW M4 GT3, + 3.539s
- Thibault Cazaubon, R8G Esports, Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II, +3.977s
- Caique Oliveira, FURIA, BMW M4 GT3, + 4.550s
- Isaac Price, G2 Esports, BMW M4 GT3, + 5.074s
ESL R1 Fall Season 2023 calendar:
Round 1: 31st August – 1st September, Monza Round 2: 7th-8th September, Spa-Francorchamps
- Round 3: 21st-22nd September, Hockenheimring
- Round 4: 28th-29th September, Nürburgring
- Round 5: 5th-6th October, Monza
- Round 6: 26th-27th October, TBA
- Round 7: 2nd-3rd November, TBA
- Round 8: 9th-10th November, TBA
- ESL R1 2023 Fall Major: 24th-26th November, TBA
Images courtesy of ESL R1