ESL R1 is a brand-new racing esports championship, set to kick off in 2023 with two seasons. It has the potential to shake up the virtual racing scene, here’s why…
What is ESL R1?
ESL R1 is a virtual racing championship, utilising Rennsport, that mixes in-person LAN events and online racing to crown an esports victor.
What is the event format?
There will be two seasons of ESL R1 for 2022, Spring and Fall. The Spring season consists of nine rounds, the first two in-person during the IEM Expo Katowice in Poland – predominately an event for fans of, and competitors on, CS:GO.
Each individual round will consist of seven races in a knock-out system, similar to that tested at the Rennsport Summit 1 in May 2022: Four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a final.
Preceding each race is a qualifying session to set the grid. Those who finish each race below sixth position are eliminated and cannot progress further in that round.
Each race lasts 20 minutes. Tyre wear and fuel consumption are active, but there are no pitstops.
At the end of the season, the top 24 drivers will progress to the ‘Major’, aka grand final, to determine the ESL R1 Spring champion.
In the Spring 2023 season, the Major will be held at a second Rennsport Summit in Munich, Germany, 27th-28th May.
For the Fall 2023 season, the major will be held at the DreamHack Winter event in Jönköping, Sweden, 23rd– 25th November. This is an existing gaming event, where titles such as Fortnite, Rainbow Six and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are played competitively.
“I don’t want to tell everything yet, but there are some things going on there with the set design,” said Roger Lodewick, President of Sports Games at EFG (ESL FACEIT Group) to Traxion.GG.
“I think this is really impressive and I think it also shows the overall ambition that we have ESL R1, what we want to do with this league with this tournament, it’s really going to be impactful.”
- Four drivers per team
- Seven races per round, knock-out system
- Top six in each race progresses
- Four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a final
- 20-minute races
- Tyre wear and fuel consumption, no pitstops
Which teams have entered?
The initial 12-team entry list is a mixture of existing sim racing teams and ESL esports teams who are new to sim racing. The latter are known primarily for competing on platforms such as CS:GO, Valorant, Rocket League and Halo.
It’s expected that teams such as MOUZ, FURIA, Heroic and FaZe Clan will hire existing sim racing talent to head their line-ups. G2 Esports has already been present in sim racing, focussing mainly on Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Some teams, such as BS+Competition, Petronas, Williams and Coanda are also car manufacturer-backed outfits, with BMW, AMG and Porsche involved. FaZe Clan also recently announced a Porsche partnership.
Below is the full teams list, with each team set to enter four drivers, but announcing their talent at a separate date.
- Apex Racing Team
- BMW M Team BS+Competition
- FaZe Clan
- G2 Esports
- Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports Team
- Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports
- Porsche Coanda Esports Racing Team
- R8G Esports
- Team Redline
In the initial Spring Season, there are eight partner teams and four wild card teams. It’s not yet clear if the wildcards will be swapped for the Autumn Season.
Which drivers will be participating?
As Traxion.GG published at the start of January, it’s expected that former Team Redline driver and reigning BMW Sim GT champion Maximilian Benecke and former Porsche Coanda driver Tommy Østgaard will be on the grid.
48 drivers will line up for this inaugural season, we’ll be updating you with who signs up as each team announces its line-ups.
What platform does ESL R1 use?
ESL R1 uses the upcoming sim racing platform for PC, Rennsport. It’s an all-new title, scheduled for public release at the end of 2023, developed by the Competition Company GmbH. It was unveiled in 2022 and will work through closed and open Betas in 2023.
Who is ESL?
Formerly known as Electronic Sports League, the ESL is a German esports organisation body and production company known for the ESL Pro League, utilising several gaming titles such as tactical first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, plus real-time strategy titles StarCraft II and WarCraft III.
It was purchased in 2022 by the Savvy Gaming Group, for $1.5 billion.
How big is the prize pool?
The total prize pool for 2023 is €500,000 – which is unprecedented in sim racing. The exact breakdown of this is not yet known.
Which cars are used in ESL R1?
The following GT3-specification cars will be used in ESL R1:
The Rennsport platform also has the older 991 configuration 911 GT3 and the electric Porsche Mission R available, so far, but it’s not been announced they will be used for competition.
Which tracks will be used in ESL R1?
As it stands, the track choice is moderate for the Rennsport platform, with the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg the principal circuit so far alongside the Goodwood Hillclimb.
However, Spa-Francorchamps has also been announced and more will be unveiled as the season progress.
ESL R1 2023, Spring Season calendar
- 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 – 8th May 2023
- ESL R1 Spring Major, Rennsport Summit, Munich, Germany – 27th-28th May 2023
ESL R1 2023, Fall Season calendar
- Season launch, online – TBC August 2023
- ESL R1 Fall Major, DreamHack Winter Jönköping, Sweden – 23rd-25th November
Where can you watch ESL R1?
Update, 11:31 am, 23rd January 2023 – The total prize pool in this article was updated following clarification from the organisers.