But the event itself impressed most of all, with untested sim RENNSPORT proving to be robust enough to stand up to the rigours of a professional sim racing competition. The circular stage in the IEM Expo Hall in Katowice, Poland also wowed onlookers, with a slick broadcast entertaining thousands of online viewers.
The teams spoke positively about the organisation of the event, but there were a few outfits and drivers with something to prove in the second round of the series. Those suffering misfortune included the likes of Kevin Siggy, Dáire McCormack and Autosport’s Esports Driver of the Year 2022 award winner, James Baldwin. They were eager to make amends.
Another talking point was the dominance of Audi-driven cars in yesterday’s final, with seven out of the top 10 representing the Ingolstadt marque. Mercedes-AMG, Porsche and BMW had their work cut out to get on terms.
Jeffrey Rietveld started from where he left off yesterday, as he snatched pole position and took the win in the first quarter-final race. In fact, the top six in qualifying all finished in the qualifying spots. This underlined the importance of the one-shot timed session that decided the grid before every race.
The second quarter-final saw the top four positions filled out by each of RENNSPORT’s four manufacturers. It was a heartening point given the apparent advantage Audi had the day before.
This time, Dayne Warren in the Porsche Coanda Esports car exorcised the demons of his Spa capitulation and took pole position and a win, with Erhan Jajovski’s R8G Esports Audi in second. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports’ James Baldwin found some redemption by finishing on the final step of the podium.
The final two finishers, BMW M Team BS+ Competition’s Rainer Talvar and Heroic’s Tuomas Tähtelä, kept the crowds entertained by engaging in an overly-aggressive battle. This led to some steward intervention afterwards, however.
FURIA’s Felipe Baptista had a moment on lap one of the third quarter-final, resulting in a colossal crash which badly affected BMW’s Nils Naujoks, Luke Bennett of Team Redline and Patrik Holzmann’s MOUZ Audi. He would later receive a 15s slow-down penalty for his role in the incident.
G2 Esports’ Isaac Price continued his all-action performance in Round 1 by tagging Nikodem Wisniewski during the first lap melee. Despite a penalty, Price finished in sixth place, just ahead of the understandably aggrieved Pole.
FaZe Clan’s Tim Jarschel impressively took the win, getting the esport giant’s championship back on-track.
Redline’s Kevin Siggy took pole position from Coanda’s Joshua Rogers in quarter-final four, but the roles were reversed in the final results. Rogers again looking impressive. Round 1 winner Max Benecke was a subdued sixth, however, while AMG-Mercedes Williams Esports’ Dáire McCormack qualified for the semis in fourth. The Irishman going some way to make up for his early elimination yesterday.
Semi-final 1 looked set to be epic given the top six qualified within a tenth of a second of each other. Redline’s Rietveld was the pole-winner on this occasion, with Bono Huis surprisingly in last position for Mercedes-AMG, less than seven-tenths off Rietveld.
The Dutchman flew out of the starting blocks while second-placed Jajovski faltered, immediatley dropping him into the pack. Dayne Warren tried to go side-by-side with the Macedonian at Turn 1 but tagged the R8G Audi, sending both into a spin and out of the competition.
Warren’s trip over the inside kerbs at the first turn unsettled his car but stewards deemed he was at fault, giving him a five-second penalty.
The battle for sixth proved to be the highlight of the race as Eamonn Murphy, Mack Bakkum, Kevin Ellis Jr Baldwin, Philip Denes, Huis and Jajovski all vied for track space. Ellis Jr, Murphy and Denes went three wide into the stadium section with Murphy inevitably ending up in the gravel.
On the following lap, Denes was spun around by Bakkum, making it two BMWs out of contention. Bakkum would receive a five-second penalty for his troubles, with Denes being hit with a drivethrough, eliminating BS+ Competition from the day’s action.
Baldwin and Ellis Jr broke away to claim fifth and sixth, with Rietveld, Marcell Csincsik, Moritz Löhner and Redline’s Enzo Bonito taking the first four spots respectively.
Rogers and Benecke secured the front row in the second semi-final, both underlining their race-winning potential. Siggy took an impressive third, putting the disappointment of yesterday behind him in fine fashion.
As is now traditional with ESL R1’s semi-finals, the battle for sixth position was action-packed. FaZe’s Tim Jarschel threw it down the inside of McCormack into the Sachs hairpin, tagging the back of the Mercedes in the process. He was ordered to return the position but was spun around by Joni Törmälä as he slowed up, prompting a five-second penalty for the Finnish G2 driver.
Out front, Rogers dominated to win by over four seconds, followed by Benecke, Jiri Toman, Marko Pejic, Siggy and McCormack in the qualifying spots.
The twelve finalists had been confirmed; three Redline drivers and two each from Mercedes-AMG, MOUZ and R8G. Apex Racing Team, Porsche Coanda and Williams each only had one competitor.
The two dominant performers of the day – Rietveld and Rogers – were finally head-to-head. However, it was first blood to Rogers as he snatched pole position, with Rietveld struggling down in ninth. Alongside Rogers was Mortiz Löhner, no doubt eager to grab another win for MOUZ. Surprisingly, James Baldwin would start last of all, a far cry from his recent dominance of Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Off the line, Rogers moved into an unassailable lead, the Australian having too much consistent pace for his competitors. Löhner held a close second with Csincsik third. Ellis Jr followed behind, holding off the attentions of Redline’s Siggy in the opening exchanges.
And that’s how they finished, with Siggy somewhat adrift of the top four by the race’s conclusion.
Fellow stand-out driver Rietveld had a torrid final, dropping to the back of the pack, while Baldwin climbed up to ninth. Round 1 winner Benecke ended a successful weekend in Katowice by taking a solid seventh-placed finish.
Marcell Csincsik had an understated but very impressive LAN event, being the only driver to claim two podiums from two finals, with Löhner also scoring heavily thanks to second and fifth-placed finishes.
The question of Balance of Performance would rear its head again, however, with six of the 12 finalists driving Audis. It mattered little to Josh Rogers, though, as he was the stand-out driver of the day. And, remarkably, Rogers was the only Porsche pilot to make the final.
“I’m lost for words! It was a very stressful race. Mortiz put the pressure on all the way through and I just tried to keep it cool,” said a gleeful Rogers.
“I pushed the tyres too hard at the start and from the midpoint of the race I was really struggling but I managed to bring it back a little at the end and maintained the gap. Now we go into the online season and try to carry the momentum through,” he continued.
ESL R1, Spring Season, Round 2 final results
- Joshua Rogers – Porsche 911 – Porsche Coanda Esports 13 laps
- Moritz Löhner – Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II – MOUZ +0.468s
- Marcell Csincsik – Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II – R8G Esports +1.572s
- Kevin Ellis Jr. – Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II – Apex Racing Team +1.815s
- Kevin Siggy – BMW M4 GT3 – Team Redline +7.722s
- Enzo Bonito – BMW M4 GT3 – Team Redline + 8.810s
- Maximilian Benecke – Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II – MOUZ +9.22s
- Jiri Toman – Audi R8 LMS GT3 evo II – R8G Esports +10.916s
- James Baldwin – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports +11.161s
- Marko Pejic – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports +11.595s
- Dáire McCormack – Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo – Mercedes-AMG Williams Esports +11.871s
- Jeffrey Rietveld – BMW M4 GT3 – Team Redline +11.932s
Images courtesy of ESL R1