Defending champion Sebastian Job took both race wins in a busy weekend in the Porsche Esports Supercup.
The seventh of the ten-round championship took the racers to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, with Joshua Rogers, the 2019 champion, holding a comfortable lead over his team-mate Mitchell DeJong in second. In fact the top two also split the front row of the grid between them, by the tightest of margins. Rogers, who’s qualified on pole more times in PESC than every other driver put together, beat DeJong by just 0.001 seconds. Charlie Collins was a tenth further back in third, with Job alongside him, 0.166s behind Rogers.
A relatively calm start saw everyone make it through the first few turns unscathed, with Job sneaking ahead of Collins into Eau Rouge. However that wasn’t going to last for long.
Job was nipping at the heels of both Rogers and DeJong through Les Combes, finding his path blocked no matter where he went. On the approach to Bruxelles he went for the inside line, only for DeJong to cover it off a fraction too late. The slightest of contacts between the two saw the American driver lose control and cannon straight into Rogers ahead of him; the top two in the championship were now the bottom two in the race.
The six-lap sprint race was now in Job’s hands, but on the very next lap it was Collins in the lead as he used the slipstream on the long run from La Source to Les Combes to get past his fellow Brit. That looked like it could be the theme for the race, but Job seemed content to hold station in second – as did Alejandro Sanchez, Jeremy Bouteloup, Dayne Warren, and Ayhancan Guven behind – passing up the opportunity to repeat the move all race long. That was, of course, until the final lap. Collins saw it coming and went defensive down the Kemmel Straight, but ultimately couldn’t do much about the Red Bull car. Though he was able to stay in touch for the closing half of the lap, the race was Job’s.
With PESC’s reverse grid rule for the feature race, it was Zac Campbell – eighth in race one – starting from pole ahead of Jeff Giassi, and like race one it was an incident-free start until Les Combes. Guven had split the two leading cars, but found that three into one just doesn’t go. The first contact was with Giassi on the inside, followed by Campbell on the outside, sending Campbell off and Guven spearing back across the track, where he collected both Giassi and Warren. Bouteloup found himself held up by Campbell returning to the circuit, and the end result was the front three from race one – Job, Collins, and Sanchez – coming out of the melee as the front three again.
Sanchez had the initial lead, but it wasn’t long before Job used the slipstream at Kemmel to hit the front. Surprisingly though, it was Collins who next took the lead, passing both at the same spot on lap five, but a lap later Collins was down to ninth. Job made an error braking into Les Combes, pushing Collins through the chicane escape road. That triggered an automatic slow-down penalty which saw the rookie tumble down the order – and Job was quick to apologise after the race.
That left Job and Sanchez to pull away at the front, and they soon broke the slipstream, building a three-second gap. The action then was all behind them, as Maximilian Benecke took third from Tommy Ostgaard, despite a very robust defence, while Collins managed to recover up to fifth. With two laps to go, Job let Sanchez through at Les Combes, clearly planning to make the same move on the last lap rather than wait for the Spaniard to do it to him. That was exactly what happened, but Sanchez wasn’t giving up the place without a serious fight. Job had to defend at Bus Stop, giving Sanchez the inside line for the left-hander, and the two came out door-to-door. However Job had the traction and just beat Sanchez to the line by 0.148s.
Further back, championship leader Rogers managed to make it to 13th place for some useful points, and despite everything that happened has actually extended his championship lead to 99 points. That’s because DeJong also had a bad weekend, picking up just one point for his 25th place finish in the feature race. Job’s double win means he now replaces DeJong as the nearest challenger to Rogers, but a likely qualifying ban for the Red Bull driver at the next round at the Nürburgring means that will probably all change again in two weeks’ time.
Formula E Accelerate was back in action this week too, and there was a new name on the top step of the podium. Red Bull Esports F1 driver Frederick Rasmussen claimed pole position and the race win in the Saudi Arabia round at the Diriyah ePrix circuit, to take his first ever race win in the series and maintain his third place overall.
Rasmussen started ahead of Kevin Siggy Rebernak, with points leader Erhan Jajovski in third, and for much of the opening exchanges, they largely held station, as did Bono Huis and Graham Carroll in fourth and fifth. It wasn’t until the closing stages that things heated up as Siggy – keen to close the gap on Jajovski in the standings – opted for a rather unwise dive at the chicane. Contact was inevitable, but Rasmussen escaped almost unscathed. Instead, Siggy, courtesy of a mild spin, lost out to Jajovski.
The result means that the top three in the championship stay as they were, but are almost 40 points clear of fourth after four races. Jajovski still leads the way on 86, with Siggy on 74, and Rasmussen on 67, with one regular round and the double-points grand final remaining.
IndyCar has announced a second season of its pro esports series, IndyCar iRacing Challenge. Like NASCAR’s equivalent event, the series will see the professionals who race in the IndyCar series taking part in virtual races, and last year’s events proved entertaining if controversial - with the final race at Indianapolis itself featuring some very bad behaviour indeed.
There’s only three races planned this year, with the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course on March 18th, the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval on March 25th, and a fan-voted track on April 1st. Once again, the driver line-up includes Indy 500 winners Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Simon Pagenaud, along with series champion Josef Newgarden, and current drivers like Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou. Romain Grosjean, who has his own esports team, will make his virtual IndyCar debut too, ahead of his first real race later this year.
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