Upcoming sim racing platform Rennsport’s partnership with ESL looks set to shake up the racing esports driver market, with several top talents thought to have signed with squads new to the virtual motorsport scene.
When we visited the Rennsport Summit in May 2022, we knew it was serious. A brand-new sim racing start-up does not hire a venue for three days and invite the best esports drivers to test a Pre-Alpha version if it’s not confident.
Further evidence of this was born out on the 1st January 2023 when multiple professional esports drivers announced they would be leaving their existing teams.
Traxion.GG understands that several high-profile drivers have signed to ESL-affiliated teams, either effective at the start of this year, or after the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual.
ESL is a German esports production company and competition organiser, founded in 2000. It runs events primarily for fantasy battle arena and first-person shooting platforms, but will move into sim racing through an exclusive partnership with Rennsport.
In a shock move, Maximilian Benecke has departed Team Redline and is rumoured to have joined an ESL outfit. The Max Verstappen-affiliated squad won the 2022 Autosport Esports Team of the Year, thanks in part to Benecke winning the BMW Sim GT Cup.
Known for being the first driver ever to hit an iRating of over 11,000, he has been participating in Le Mans Virtual Series 2022-23, driving the #1 Redline LMP, currently heading the standings.
His participation in the championship-deciding 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, 14th-15th January, is now in doubt.
“More information regarding the new team will be published very soon,” said Benecke on social media.
Colleague Patrik Holzmann has also departed the team.
“Exciting times ahead, can’t wait to share it,” read his social media statement.
Another driver poised to move is Norwegian Tommy Østgaard, leaving the recently formed Porsche Coanda Esports Racing Team, having only inked a deal to be part of Stuttgart’s works team in May of last year – following a long association with Coanda.
“I’ve decided to take a new exciting opportunity in 2023, meaning I am parting ways with Porsche and Coanda after nearly five years,” he said via Twitter.
He couldn’t comment to Traxion.GG at the time of publication.
Traxion.GG sources have indicated that senior sim racing team managers and production personnel have been approached alongside drivers, highlighting the initiative’s commitment.
“At least one of our drivers has been signed by an ESL team that is new to sim racing,” said a prominent esports team manager to Traxion.GG.
“They usually compete in CS:GO and League of Legends tournaments with huge prize pools and high production value.
“I think this could change the sim racing scene, bringing a new approach is exciting but it could also have big implications for existing teams.”
Rennsport is set to have a Closed Beta soon, before a final release towards the end of 2023. Throughout the year, there are plans to run esports events with ESL.
“Within this month, Rennsport, along with the ESL, will announce a big sporting activity,” said Rennsport’s CEO and co-founder Morris Hebecker to Traxion.GG when asked about the driver news earlier today (2nd January 2023).
“This was also already hinted at during both of the RENNSPORT Discord Community Sessions.”
“We are just finalising the league we plan to start in February next year,” said Hebecker during one of the aforementioned Discord calls in December 2022.
The date for the first ESL Rennsport competition is expected imminently, alongside its format and broadcasting platforms. It is not yet clear if the drivers will focus purely on Rennsport, or can compete elsewhere too. The full line-up of competitors is expected in due course.