Williams Esports’ Dáire McCormack took the spoils in Round 4 of ESL R1’s Spring Season in assured fashion. The Irishman pulled off an incredible qualifying lap – the fastest ever seen at Spa-Francorchamps in ESL R1 – to put himself in the best possible position to take Mercedes-AMG’s first victory.
Although the Stuttgart marque tasted victory, it was only its first win of the season, with just a solitary podium courtesy of Nikodem Wisniewski at Round 3 to its name thus far. The Porsche teams were in a similar position too, claiming a single podium slot at the second Katowice round; a win for Joshua Rogers.
Indeed, the official Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports Team languished in the bottom half of the Teams’ standings even with a lineup consisting of top sim racing talents such as Autosport Esports Driver of the Year 2022 James Baldwin, and the evergreen Bono Huis, emphasising the struggles against the Audi and BMW cars.
The question was, could Round 5 at Hockenheimring herald an upturn in fortunes for Mercedes-AMG and Porsche?
Quarter-final 1 saw Round 3 winner – Team Redline’s Luke Bennett – take the win ahead of a resurgent Dayne Warren. The Australian had shown similar pace to his team-mate and countryman Joshua Rogers throughout ESL R1 but had yet to convert this into results.
Marcell Csincsik, lying second in the championship after four rounds, also qualified, with Kevin Ellis Jr. a surprise early elimination for Apex Racing Team.
Quarter-final 2 saw Rogers dominate to breeze through, as both Mercedes-AMG cars strolled through to the semis. Robbie Stapleford was a surprise non-qualifier despite showing strong pace during Round 4.
The big news from the third quarter-final race was championship leader Jiri Toman’s failure to progress. The Czech could only muster ninth in qualifying but made a terrific start to progress to seventh on lap one. Contact during a move for fifth resulted in a slow-down penalty, ending his hopes.
Mercedes-AMG and Porsche continued their charge by getting all four drivers through to the semis, with a one-two for Jakub Brzezinski and Marko Pejic respectively.
FaZe Clan’s professional Counter-Strike player-turned-sim racer Ian Porter showed impressive progress by setting a lap time less than seven-tenths off the race’s fastest.
Quarter-final 4 saw Dáire McCormack put on the first dominant display of the day as he took the win by over three seconds, with Graham Carroll unenviably being the only Mercedes-AMG driver not to qualify for the semis, inversely highlighting Mercedes-AMG’s upturn in fortunes.
Luke Bennett harnessed some of the speed from his Round 3 victory to claim pole position for the first semi-final, sitting alongside Rogers on the front row. The first five cars were separated by less than half a tenth-of-a-second, highlighting once again the competitiveness of ESL R1.
The race was a relatively calm affair up front, with a surfeit of overtaking until the very final lap, where Rogers deposed Bennett for P1. It was a laudable effort given ESL R1 quarter and semi-final races tend to be cagey rather than exciting given drivers only need to finish in the top six to advance.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas’ James Baldwin held third, with Nikodem Wisniewski, Warren and Erhan Jajovski the last of the qualifiers. Marcell Csincsik was disappointed to go home early, his chances of usurping R8G Esports team-mate Jiri Toman in the championship scuppered.
There was drama on lap one of the second semi-final, as the Porsche Coanda cars of Mitchell Dejong and Mack Bakkum sandwiched G2 Simracing’s Joni Törmälä on the exit of the hairpin, leaving Bakkum in the barriers.
Out front, McCormack shadowed Heroic’s Tommy Østgaard, with Pejic, Kevin Siggy, Brzezinski and Törmälä progressing to the final. Törmälä was somewhat fortunate to advance after squeezing Team Redline’s Enzo Bonito under braking for Turn 2, resulting in contact.
It was a tough race for Porsche, as Heroic’s Oskar Biksrud succumbed to a spin on lap one – ironically while trying to fend off Törmälä – leaving three out of the four Weissach machines out of contention. Østgaard’s win would provide some comfort, however.
Despite snatching pole position for the final, Joni Törmälä lost the race lead to McCormack before entering the stadium section thanks to a neat round-the-outside move at Turn 6.
An opportunistic Baldwin also advanced two positions from fifth on the grid at Turn 1, undercutting both Bennett and Østgaard on the run up to Turn 2.
Proceedings remained static for the duration of the race up front, while Dayne Warren and Kevin Siggy provided the entertainment further back thanks to a series of battles. It was McCormack who held his nerve in the lead, finishing six-tenths ahead of Törmälä – a positive turnaround for G2 Sim Racing.
The Porsche and Mercedes-AMG teams would also walk away from Hockenheim with a spring in their steps, representing eight of the twelve finalists (and possibly more if it hadn’t been for a disastrous Semi-final 2 for Porsche).
It was McCormack, however, who was the star of the show, taking his second win on the trot and catapulting him up to fourth in the Drivers’ championship, just 18 points off Jiri Toman in the lead. R8G Esports continued its stint at the head of the Team’s championship, although Team Redline has now closed to within 43 points.
Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports is now third, and on form like this could narrow the gap yet further at Round 6 from the Nürburgring.
ESL R1, SPRING SEASON, ROUND 5 FINAL RESULTS
- Dáire McCormack – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports 16:16.265
- Joni Törmälä – BMW M4 GT3 – G2 Sim Racing +0.669s
- James Baldwin – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports +1.247s
- Tommy Østgaard – Porsche 911 GT3R (992) – Heroic +1.794s
- Luke Bennett – BMW M4 GT3 – Team Redline +2.967s
- Erhan Jajovski – Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II – R8G Esports +3.310s
- Joshua Rogers – Porsche 911 GT3R (992) – Porsche Coanda Esports +3.751s
- Nikodem Wisniewski – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports +4.783s
- Dayne Warren – Porsche 911 GT3R (992) – Porsche Coanda Esports +4.783s
- Jakub Brzezinski – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports +7.638s
- Kevin Siggy – BMW M4 GT3 – Team Redline + 8.837s
- Marko Pejic – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports + 9.208s
ESL R1, SPRING SEASON, DRIVER STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 5
- Jiri Toman – Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II – R8G Esports, 186 points
- Marcell Csincsik – Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II – R8G Esports, 175 points
- Josh Rogers – Porsche 911 GT3R (992) – Porsche Coanda Esports, 175 points
- Dáire McCormack – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports, 168 points
- Luke Bennett – BMW M4 GT3 – Team Redline, 153 points
ESL R1, SPRING SEASON, TEAM STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 5
- R8G Esports, 502 points
- Team Redline, 459 points
- Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports, 392 points
- Porsche Coanda, 325 points
- MOUZ, 324 points
ESL R1 2023, SPRING SEASON – UPDATED SCHEDULE
Round 1, IEM Expo Katowice, Poland, ESL Pro Tour – 11th February 2023 Round 2, IEM Expo Katowice, Poland, ESL Pro Tour – 12th February 2023 Round 3, online – 13th March 2023 Round 4, online – 27th March 2023 Round 5, online – 10th April 2023
- Round 6, online – 17th April 2023
- Round 7, online – 24th April 2023
- Round 8, online – 15th May 2023 (updated)
- ESL R1 Spring Major, Rennsport Summit, Munich, Germany – 3rd-4th June 2023 (updated)
Images courtesy of ESL R1