Joshua Rogers ended Saturday’s action from Barber Motorsports Park US$1,000 richer after winning the feature race in the inaugural round of the Porsche Esports Supercup, a brand new iRacing World Championship for 40 of the world’s best sim racers.
Rogers qualified first and finished fourth in the 15-minute sprint race before clawing past Fredrik Rasmussen halfway through the 30-minute feature.
“What a race!” the Australian said after the finish.
“That feature was a bit more of a race of attrition compared to the sprint race, but all in all, I can’t be any happier with how it ended up. Huge thanks to Porsche for putting this on, as well as iRacing and all the teams for all the brilliant work this week.”
The new Porsche Esports Supercup introduces a unique format to iRacing World Championship competition, with a maximum of 160 points on the line. The top five drivers in qualifying score championship bonus points, but the top eight qualifiers are inverted for the sprint race, which awards half race points. The finishing order of the sprint race then sets the grid for the feature with no inversion.
The six-figure purse has attracted drivers from both established iRacing teams like VRS Coanda Simsport and Team Redline to squads established by real-world teams like Red Bull and Williams. All in all, the 40 drivers competing in the championship represent 16 different countries across four continents.
Maximilian Benecke came off the grid first in the Barber sprint race thanks to the inversion, but he wouldn’t stay there for long. Rasmussen would slam into the back of Benecke after braking late for a corner and send him off course, dropping the German to the fringes of the top 10. The Danish driver, meanwhile, would find a way to hang on even as Mitchell deJong shadowed him throughout the sprint race. Coming up to the finish, deJong would attempt to slipstream past Rasmussen for the position, only to fall .075 seconds short of the win.
The early stages of the sprint race saw a number of spins and incidents as top racers all looked to make their mark early, but the action calmed down in the 30-minute feature as drivers looked to make more calculated moves. The first half of the feature looked like a natural continuation of the sprint race as deJong continued to pursue Rasmussen, but Rogers got past Jamie Fluke on the first lap to help create a three-car breakaway.
At the halfway point of the feature, Rogers began to make his move. He passed his teammate with 17 minutes remaining, and used Barber’s distinct hairpin twice to pull even with Rasmussen, finally making the pass stick in the chicane the second time. As Rogers pulled away in the top spot, deJong recovered from a mistake to regain third place on Fluke and challenge Rasmussen for second with three minutes remaining. The duo made contact in the chicane, spinning Rasmussen; from there, the sprint winner would take a DNF, and was officially scored 33rd in the feature. Rasmussen’s teammate Sebastian Job would inherit the third spot and ensure that the Red Bull squad would make it to the podium after all.
“Wow, what an event!” deJong said. “Seriously, so much happened. Qualifying wasn’t great, and looking at it in hindsight, my first lap would’ve put me in a really good spot for the sprint race, but I saw it too late. It just goes to show how close the gaps are here, because the level of competition is so ridiculous. I just tried to be patient through the sprint race, made some moves, and came out pretty cleanly, so a big shout-out to the guys that were able to race hard but clean at the same time. These cars have quite a lot of movement around the track, so it’s quite a handful at times.”
“I qualified in second, which put me in seventh for the sprint race, and I just tried to make up a handful of places at the start,” added Job. “I think I got one on the first lap, so not great, but better than nothing. From there, it was just waiting for people to make mistakes. There was really only one opportunity to overtake, and that was in the hairpin, so you just had to be patient. It was very much the same story in the second race, and I think I got lucky with Jamie taking damage late in the race, but I was still very happy to finish third after all that.”
With 142 of a possible 160 points, Rogers will lead the Porsche Esports Supercup field to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in two weeks’ time. One of four United States-based courses on the circuit, Mid-Ohio is a mainstay of the real-world NASCAR Xfinity Series, IndyCar, and IMSA schedules, and its distinctive Keyhole, Esses, and Carousel sections make it a fun yet challenging track in just about any discipline.
“I haven’t personally driven this car around there yet, but I think Mid-Ohio takes some similarities from Barber with its high-speed chicane sections,” Rogers explained. “There are a couple of really high-speed corners, so I think we should feel okay, but at the end of the day, there are some quite different aspects of that track. The way we’re going to have to race there is going to be very different as well, with the long straights to make it easier. We’ll see where it goes!”
Point standings after the first of 10 rounds in the 2019 Porsche Esports Supercup are as follows:
1. Joshua Rogers, 142
2. Mitchell deJong, 124
3. Sebastian Job, 108
4. Jamie Fluke, 101
5. Jeremy Bouteloup, 88
6. Jarrad Filsell, 88
7. David Williams, 74
8. Antoine Higelin, 63
9. Tommy Ostgaard, 63
10. Enzo Bonito, 57