The second round of the top-split PC PSGL Season 31 saw reigning champion Jarno Opmeer hit back at doubters in emphatic fashion.
The Premier Sim Gaming Leagues circus headed off to the Circuit of the Americas for the second round of Season 31. After a difficult opening round, the reigning champion Jarno Opmeer got his season back on track with his first PSGL victory since COTA in S30, holding off a late charge from last week’s race winner, Bari Boroumand.
The Iranian was the fastest in the dry conditions in the latter stages but could not make up the ground he lost in the wet conditions to the two-time F1 Esports Series Pro Champion. Thomas Ronhaar joined his fellow Dutchman on the podium after a strong showing in Austin, Texas.
There were not the same number of shocks in Q1 as in Bahrain, but another Mercedes out in Q1: this time, Opmeer’s teammate Dani Moreno after seemingly having a technical issue.
The Spaniard was joined in the drop zone by the Aston Martin duo of John Evans and Simon Weigang, Daniele Haddad, and fellow countryman Samuel Bean.
With the calibre of the field, there were always going to be high-profile names missing out on the final part of qualifying and Marcel Kiefer and Jake Benham could not reach Q3 for the second week in a row.
Alvaro Carreton surprisingly missed out after showcasing good pace in Q1, joining Patrik Sipos and Piotr Stachulec in the Q2 elimination zone.
After being comfortably through in the first two sessions, five drivers had two fresh tyres in the bid for pole position. Frede Rasmussen set the benchmark with Ronhaar on the front row heading into the final dash for pole.
Fabrizio Donoso was third after the first runs but dropped down the order after invalidating his lap in the first sector with his teammate and two-time F1 Esports Champion Brendon Leigh, only managing sixth at best on his final run.
Wilson Hughes, who impressed in Bahrain despite being hit by Leigh, initially went onto the front row before Boroumand raised the benchmark by over two-tenths of a second.
Tormula slotted in behind Leigh, but it was heartbreak for Boroumand’s teammate Blakeley as he invalidated his final run and would start tenth.
Matthijs Van Erven produced an impressive lap to move into the top three but swiftly dropped to fourth as Opmeer joined his S28 title rival on the front row.
His Veloce compatriot and 2022 Pro Exhibition champion Thomas Ronhaar shocked the viewers with an incredible lap to snatch pole away from Boroumand.
Despite the wet start, multiple strategies were in play as the rain looked set to ease off towards the midway point of the race: Donoso, Carreton, Kiefer, Evans, and Sipos took the risk and began the race on the intermediate tyres.
When red turned to black for the race start, the drivers off the racing line got brilliant launches as Boroumand took the lead into Turn 1 from Ronhaar whilst Opmeer moved ahead of his 2020 and 2021 F1 Esports title rival Rasmussen: the Dane retired early on due to a sound glitch.
Those on the intermediates knew their initial grip would cause them to struggle, but they needed to stay out of trouble with Donoso dropping seven places by the end of the second sector.
Opmeer made a simple move on Ronhaar into the first corner on the second lap and began to chase down the Iranian in the McLaren.
Van Erven, like Rasmussen, was suffering from a sound glitch, and the Dutchman and Tormula dropped back from the leading contenders early on: overtaken by the Scottish duo of Hughes and Blakeley, respectively.
The rain eased earlier than expected, and it was time for the intermediate tyres, with Opmeer taking the gamble on the sixth lap, causing mayhem in the pitlane.
Crucially for Opmeer, he was ahead of the drivers who started on the intermediate tyres and could push with a clear track.
Ronhaar, Hughes, Van Erven, and Tormula filtered out between the train of drivers on old intermediates headed by the Chilean, Donoso: Veloce’s academy driver eventually passing him on Lap 13.
The clear track was critical for the Dutchman, and he delivered the undercut he needed on his out-lap to move clear of Boroumand and into the net race lead.
Whilst one McLaren was fighting for the win, the other was affected by an in-game glitch with his MFD not changing and his pit crew putting him onto wet tyres. The Scotsman had to pit again for the intermediates meaning he was out of contention to add to the points he earned from last week’s podium.
Opmeer stretched his lead up front whilst the race entered a short lull. No one could get close to an overtake other than two-time PSGL race winner Brendon Leigh, who was putting on a show in front of 6000 viewers.
In the space of five laps, F1’s first two-time F1 Esports champion moved from 11th to fifth with a series of bold overtake, including an incredible move at Turn 17 on Hughes.
The rain disappeared, and the crossover hit with nine laps remaining, meaning Boroumand had to close over five seconds to catch up to Opmeer.
The conditions were still tricky on the greasy surface, as Benham and Carreton found out: the Haas driver nearly spun the car on the pit exit and the Williams veteran lost the car out of Turn 8.
As the laps began to tick down, the Iranian was catching by around half a second a lap despite having slight rear wing damage: a complete swap from the wet phase as both seemingly went different ways on strategy.
Further back, Moreno made moves after opting for fresh soft tyres instead of the mediums after being knocked out in Q1. The Spaniard briefly moved up to seventh before slithering back down the field as he hit the cliff on his tyres.
Back to the fight at the front, Boroumand edged closer and closer but could not get the DRS on the final lap, and the Flying Dutchman brought it home to take his first win of the season to close the gap to 10 points in the championship fight.
Ronhaar held off Donoso for the final spot on the podium, with Leigh completing the top five with an impressive fight back in the wet conditions.
Hughes missed out on sixth to Kiefer, who also chose the soft tyres at the end. Tormula, Haddad, and Benham completed the points positions after the latter picked up a 5-second penalty for spinning on the pit exit.
Make sure to tune into the third race of Season 31 at Austria next Wednesday at 7pm UK on the PSGL YouTube Channel.
PSGL S31 Round 2: Race Results
- Jarno Opmeer – 28 laps
- Bari Boroumand +0.974
- Thomas Ronhaar +10.892
- Fabrizio Donoso +11.583
- Brendon Leigh +17.021
- Marcel Kiefer +19.278
- Wilson Hughes +20.418
- Joni Tormula +22.703
- Jake Benham +28.861
- Daniele Haddad +29.008