“Realistically it is going to need a miracle for either him or deJong, the only two drivers mathematically still in the championship battle, to overcome the points difference Rogers has accumulated for himself. “
This was the exact quote I used to summarise how I felt the final two rounds of the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup would play out. Sebastian Job had returned to inconsistency in Germany whilst Mitchell deJong’s decent form wasn’t looking strong enough to quell the championship’s dominant force.
The title could be Joshua K. Rogers’ if results went his way at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
PESC, Round 9, Qualifying
At roughly 60 per cent the size of the Nordschleife, the Circuit de la Sarthe still put the field under immense pressure with minimal chances to grab the best grid slot possible.
It was therefore no surprise that Rogers thrived in the pressure cooker to bake up his fifth pole position of the season. 10 points immediately bagged. Job also bagged qualifying points and would start directly behind the Australian from P3. For Mitchell deJong, however, the day did not start with such fortune as he would have to start his day from the fourth row.
Charlie Collins will look back on his rookie campaign with plenty of fond memories, a front row start here alongside the potential champion elect a strong contender for the best. Dayne Warren also remained a threat from P4; the only time the Australian hasn’t qualified inside the top five this season being Imola.
The third row presented two nice stories to round off the session recap as Jamie Fluke made his second top five appearance of the season and home hero Jeremy Bouteloup found himself within sight of the podium alongside the North Irishman.
PESC, Round 9, Sprint Race
A multitude of draft opportunities led pundits to believe that the racing would be extremely tight at Le Mans and clearly the leading pair of Rogers and Collins held mutual feelings with a clean getaway being succeeded by strong teamwork on the opening lap. The hope of this would be to break away from the chasing pack and to effectively secure a top two finish early on.
To have a plan was one thing, but to execute it here was another. By the time Rogers was heading through Mulsanne in the lead? The rest of the pack had already caught up through the inescapable slipstream. With their one real hope of a quiet race gone, all began to settle in for the remaining two laps. Any and every result could be obtainable, good or bad.
A calm second lap followed but the final lap, as somewhat expected, delivered on the spice. Job made a move on Collins into the second Hunaudière chicane and showed the young Brit the cold shoulder on exit of Mulsanne. Next was the lead and Rogers was forced to concede into Indianapolis.
The Australian masterfully worked his way back through the Porsche and Corvette Curves however and managed to convert pole position into yet another victory. Job had tried his utmost but still wasn’t good enough to stop Rogers whilst Collins could consider another podium a job well done.
PESC, Round 9, Main Race
Le Mans brought with it the special addition of a standing start across both races and based on the Feature launch it was evident that Mitchell deJong had been practising. From P3 his catapulted his way up into 1st catching both Bouteloup and Pinto off guard. The American knew he’d require a win and precious favours from Lady Luck to give himself a fighting chance at the final round in Monza.
Pole sitter Pinto would slip behind home hero Bouteloup though his start would not be as poor as Sebastian Job’s who slipped back from P7 to 10th on the road. Tommy Østgaard and Zac Campbell would soon be overcome though it was surely still frustrating to, once again, see Rogers ahead of him succeeding with one place gained off the start.
Further up the road, a scary moment for Pinto saw the Portuguese fall out of the podium places with Warren stepping in. This would lead into a mass shift of positions on Lap 2 although the resulting changes would be rather crucial in the context of the overall championship with deJong retaining the lead but Rogers gaining positions over Collins and Warren.
With Pinto also losing out to the championship leader, Job had clearly seen enough. Elbows came out with Warren and Kevin Ellis Jr. both feeling his frustrations on Lap 3. Then came Lap 4 and a moment of madness. Six cars stormed towards Indianapolis with less than a second covering them all. Whilst all of them played relatively safe, a seventh entered the fray and did not. Taking to the grass in an attempt to muscle his way into the lead fight, Job ended up colliding with Bouteloup on a straightaway.
Job was out of the title fight with retirement on Lap 5 and Rogers was now in direct competition with his stablemate and title rival deJong for victory not just for the race but for the championship possibly. Collins, running in 3rd, ran himself out of Feature Race win contention going far too wide and deep into Mulsanne.
Then came the chaos and ultimately the straw that broke the championship fight’s back. Østgaard, from nowhere really, put himself in the frame and briefly took the lead into Indianapolis before deJong grabbed it back on exit of Arnage. However, heading into the Porsche Curves for the final time, the slightest of contact from the Norwegian onto the rear left of the American’s car sent deJong flying into the gravel traps.
More carnage ensued on exit of the Corvette Curves initiated unintentionally by Campbell which saw a desperately unlucky Pinto spin into the jaws of the chasing pack and robbing him of a podium. Fluke was first on the scene and was unfortunate to be so losing a second top ten result of the day.
But it was another win for Joshua K. Rogers and the final nail in the coffin for anybody who dared challenge his supremacy in 2021. The Australian had won the title with one round left to go!
It would have taken a brave person to bet against Rogers taking his second Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup title at even as early as the halfway stage of the season. With half the pole positions on offer taken and almost half the wins available his, he is a deserving winner once again.
Immediate reaction to the event was a rather mixed affair based on who you talked to or followed.
Zac Campbell showed great sportsmanship in his Bose Post-Race Show interview by suggesting that the podium money he had earned would go to Diogo Pinto instead who the American had felt he had wronged.
There were social media grumblings from Sebastian Job though with the Brit stating on his official Twitter account “when you are against six people all teaming up against you, you have to try a risky move. Unfortunately didn’t work out this time but can say I tried.”
The Red Bull Racing Esports driver went on to imply that despite there being no Teams’ championship, he was always fighting against the odds and that the series should perhaps look to discourage organisation entries of more than two pilots.
April 24th will be something of an end of season party now that the title fight is over with Monza, Italy our final leg of the journey.
PESC, Round 9, Results
- J. K. Rogers – 3 LAPS
- S. Job – +0.093
- C. Collins- +0.564
- D. Warren – +0.840
- J. Fluke- +1.126
- M. deJong – +1.404
- J. Bouteloup – +2.311
- D. Pinto – +2.919
- J. K. Rogers – 6 LAPS
- T. Østgaard – +0.513
- Z. Campbell – +1.962
- M. Sirica – +3.149
- K. Ellis Jr. – +3.517
- M. Krönke – +4.784
- D. Williams – +4.869
- J. Bouteloup – +5.321
Points’ standings after 9/10 championship rounds
- J. K. Rogers – 590
- M. deJong – 407
- S. Job – 389
- K. Ellis Jr. – 349
- D. Warren – 342
- C. Collins – 334
- T. Østgaard – 313
- Z. Campbell – 311
- M. Benecke – 271
- G. Carroll – 257
Images provided by Porsche Newsroom media portal.