G2 Esports pitches itself as ‘The Most Entertaining Esports Organization in the World’, so its sim racing division – G2 Sim Racing – has a lot to live up to.
After its lineup was revealed ahead of ESL R1’s first round as support for the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ESL Pro Tour event in Katowice, Poland, G2 Sim Racing released a rather unorthodox but humourous video showing its five drivers (Joni Törmälä, Robbie Stapleford, Isaac Price, Eamonn Murphy and Sebastian Job) up to various hi-jinks.
These include Price being led to his sim rig by a concerned nurse, Zimmer frame in tow, playing up to his status as one of the most experienced sim racers around (Price is a sprightly 29 years old, incidentally, making this writer feel very old) as well as Murphy dropping an f-bomb while berating young 17-year-old Stapleford’s driving performance. (Murphy is the stand-out actor in the two-minute clip, incidentally, unless that’s genuine rage?)
And the whole operation is masterminded by Head of Sim Racing at G2 Esports, Nathan Tague.
Tague, who also takes a starring role in the G2 Sim Racing promo, assumed his role in December 2021, and has overseen vast roster changes leading up to the team’s latest sim racing venture: ESL R1.
G2’s ESL ambitions
“Our aim coming in [to ESL R1] was to get as many drivers into the semi-finals as possible because those are the top 24 positions. And those are the ones that get you to the Major at the end of the year,” said Tague to Traxion.GG in Katowice, outlining the team’s aims for this season.
ESL R1 was announced this year as the biggest event in sim racing esports history, with a total prize pool of €500,000. It attracted some of the biggest teams across all esports; including FaZe Clan, Heroic and, of course, G2 Sim Racing.
The competition was also set to showcase Rennsport; the newest sim on the market, and a huge talking point in the community because of its sudden rise to prominence. Although still in an early alpha build, it forms the basis for ESL R1.
How Rennsport would perform in a professional esports context was therefore unknown ahead of ESL R1, as apart from some relaxed multiplayer racing at the Rennsport Summit back in 2022 there hadn’t been a public showing of the sim in action.
Rennsport in action
So, in Tague’s opinion, how have Rennsport and ESL R1 performed thus far?
“I honestly think it’s gone as well as it could possibly have gone,” explained the team’s lead.
“I mean, I know there were a few misgivings when Rennsport was first announced: you know, ‘NFT game’, all this rubbish.
“But I hope that today’s broadcast has done a lot to allay those fears.”
This echoed the sentiment of Morris Hebecker, CEO and Co-founder of Rennsport about its much-debated NFT functionality – Rennsport isn’t an NFT or blockchain-influenced platform, for the record).
“The game’s fantastic. It looks great. The broadcast has been really good. And I think taking the traditional esports approach to it [is better] than the same old sim racing stuff that we’ve been doing now for the past 16 years. I think it’s refreshing,” Tague continues, sensing a greater opportunity to promote G2 Sim Racing’s activities.
“That’s the thing that I’ve really taken away from this: the interviews. We’re seeing more of the personality of the drivers, we’re able to build stories and narratives around them and that’s what we need.
“That’s what’s going to carry the sport forward. People buy into the teams; the personality and charisma of the drivers.”
And details like this matter to G2, as although Rennsport does not feature detailed car set-up options at this stage, the team’s approach to using MOTEC data has led to some interesting distinctions from its BMW-driving opponents.
“There is no kind of set-up work other than the very basic kind, [like] brake bias and traction control settings. But you’ll be surprised at how much you can still mine from the data. Things like optimal shift points [for example],” explained Tague.
“While we’re driving exactly the same car to [Team] Redline, we’re not using traction [control]; they are. They’re shifting up to sixth [gear]; we’re not.”
This highlights the lengths ESL R1 teams need to go to find that extra unit of performance, something he attributes to the hard work of Engineer Nick Deeley.
A tough start
Unfortunately, the G2 Sim Racing squad endured a tough start to its ESL R1 campaign in Katowice, with Isaac Price’s seventh-place finish in Round 1 representing the team’s best result (and only final appearance of the weekend).
Round 3 went a little better, however, with Eamonn Murphy and Joni Törmälä emerging as respective eighth and ninth overall. Round 4 again proved to be a tricky encounter, with G2 only having one semi-final representative.
However, Stapleford was unlucky to experience a game crash while in a strong position in the quarter-finals, which could easily have led to a strong overall result owing to the pace of the BMW M4 GT3 in the hands of Team Redline and Nils Naujoks of BMW M Team BS+ Competition.
Although results have not been forthcoming, the team has exhibited strong pace on occasions, with incidents not falling their way – take Joni Törmälä’s unlucky exit in the semi-finals at Round 4 as an example.
G2 has kept their sense of humour, however, by filling up its virtual trophy cabinet on Twitter with milestone achievements such as “First Team to get a Qualifying Ban” and “Best Livery Trailer”. It’s an approach sure to engage fans and propel the team to new heights of popularity when the results do eventually arrive.