It represents the culmination of a year-long journey.
Although placed in 2023, the Esports Racing World Cup follows up on the 2022 season of VCO’s Esports Racing League. The top twelve teams across the three splits of Spring, Summer and Fall now were pitted against each other in a format not too dissimilar to regular affairs but with a slight amendment.
A double-bracket system sorts out six teams to participate in the ‘Final’ stage. This single, ten-minute race then determines two of these six outfits to progress to the ‘Showdown’; a best-of-three series from which the winner of the day will be crowned.
Twelve overall points are awarded to said victors, one is dolled out to the worst-performing trio of drivers.
Add to this the total prize pool of $50,000 and the knowledge that each day of the tournament features a different sim – you’ve got yourself a spectacle.
The Story So Far
On this first day of action, Assetto Corsa Competizione’s Maserati MC GT4 was to be featured which was particularly good news for Unicorns of Love and Team Redline who eased themselves into the Upper Bracket.
YAS Heat would have fancied its chances but disappointingly fell into the Lower Bracket alongside Apex Racing Team.
Unicorns, Redline and Williams Esports would make up the first half of the Final roster knocking R8G Esports, TRITON Racing and Veloce Esports into the Semi-Final.
R8G and TRITON would bounce back in style alongside BS+ Competition to round out the grid. A disaster for Apex who, despite being favourites in the eyes of some pundits, was truly on the back foot.
Williams and Triton were delighted to occupy the front row through the efforts of Dáire McCormack and Dominik Blajer.
Sadly, neither looked like a strong case to progress by the end of the first lap. Williams’ hopes of progressing were all but dashed almost immediately as McCormack’s closest teammate in Sota Muto was spun at Tamburello.
For Triton, their issue was Jakub Charkot and Mateusz Tyszkiewicz starting so far down the order that it would require chaos in the 10-minute race to lift them to a good enough finishing position.
Unicorns of Love was the best-placed team after qualifying, Bastian Richter and Michael Tauscher third and fifth on the grid respectively. Tauscher lost out early on to Enzo Bonito which was critical for Team Redline’s chances of progressing.
Better news was on the way as R8G’s Florian Lebigre was caught out in close combat into Villeneuve, further aiding the cause.
Enter Carl Jansson. Williams’ third driver had been putting in work, picking up the pieces as others fell around him.
His ninth-place finish, in tandem with McCormack’s victory, was enough to upset the pundits and knock Redline out. Unicorns of Love capitalised on their strong one-lap pace by locking in their Showdown spot without fuss.
Showdown – Race 1
Williams Esports was dead set on capping February off strong. Another pole position of McCormack put them in the best place to take first blood in their best-of-three against the Unicorns despite strong laps from Richter and Tobias Gronewald.
Tauscher was the hero off the rolling start, demoting Muto to fifth and instantly handing over control of the tie to the Unicorns. He also passed Gronewald at a canter, leaving his compatriot to fend off Muto for six minutes. This remained the status quo until the final lap when Muto, in a desperate ploy, was far too aggressive from too far back into Tamburello.
It was a slam dunk penalty against the Japanese driver, confirming Unicorns of Love as the first victors in spite of McCormack’s win on the road.
Showdown – Race 2
What Muto’s transgression also achieved was a reverse grid pole position for Jansson in the second race. Not that Tauscher cared, pouncing on the Swede to claim the early race lead. Behind, however, all was not well for his fellow Unicorns.
Richter had unwittingly drifted across McCormack on the outside line into Tosa. Contact was made and deemed the fault of the Irishman.
Penalty point in hand, McCormack exchanged places with Jansson. It soon became clear that despite his fantastic speed, the Race 1 pole sitter couldn’t catch and pass Tauscher on pure pace. Plan B it was and Jansson switched effectively into an ultra-defensive posture.
Gronewald was not budging though and all seemed lost for Williams until Tauscher ran deep into Rivazza. McCormack seized upon the mistake to win his second race of the Showdown and, in doing so, keep his outfit alive.
Showdown – Race 3
As per the rules, a second Showdown qualifying session was on the docket which played perfectly into Williams’ hands. McCormack led the pack yet again but this time around would have Muto in the rear gunner slot.
Or, at least, that was the plan. Muto just did not react well at all as the lights went green and was swallowed up by rose and black-coloured cars on either side. Before Williams knew it, McCormack had been bullied out of first and was down to third.
The ensuing fallout was not pretty to put it lightly; McCormack was visibly angered during his ultimately successful bid to retake second and Muto panicked to redeem himself.
Mercifully, following an intense stewards’ investigation, the chequered flag result on track proved to be correct with Unicorns of Love taking home twelve World Cup points and $2,500 for the series victory.
A spicy start to one of sim racing’s most intriguing events of the year.
Esports Racing World Cup II 2023, Day 1, Assetto Corsa Competizione runner-up
- Dáire McCormack
- Sota Muto
- Carl Jansson
Esports Racing World Cup II 2023, Day 1, Assetto Corsa Competizione winners
Unicorns of Love
- Bastian Richter
- Tobias Gronewald
- Michael Tauscher