Imola win puts Joshua Rogers at the top of the leaderboard
Joshua Rogers from Australia has moved into the lead of the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup (PESC) after winning the main race at the Autodromo Internazionale in Imola.
In the sprint race on the virtual version of the Italian Grand Prix circuit, the 2019 PESC champion was narrowly beaten to the flag by arch-rival Sebastian Job. The British Red Bull Racing Esports driver took up the nine-lap sprint from pole position and crossed the finish line in first place at the wheel of his virtual Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. However, in the following main event over double the distance, Job, as the defending champion, spun off the track early in the race. Mitchell deJong (USA/Virtual Racing School), who took up round three of the PESC season run on the iRacing simulation platform as the series leader, fell back to second place in the drivers’ standings after scoring twelfth and seventh place.
Sebastian Job had won the qualifying – over three timed laps – with a gap of 0.196 seconds over Rogers, which handed him his first pole position for the sprint race this season. At the start, the British sim racer made the most of his advantage and held on to his lead after the start. Glued to his bumper right were Rogers (Virtual Racing School), Zac Campbell (USA/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Esports), Yohann Harth (France/Apex Racing Team) and Alejandro Sánchez (Spain/MSI eSports). Maximilian Benecke (Germany/Team Redline) gained one position in the first lap and was running in sixth place ahead of Charlie Collins (Great Britain/Virtual Racing School) and Kevin Ellis Jr. (Great Britain/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Esports). For the points’ leader, DeJong, the weekend started badly: The American qualified a lowly 15th on the grid and had to launch a pursuit through the field. This would ultimately earn him twelfth place.
The top eight jostled in a pack over the entire nine-lap distance, separated by barely two seconds. Despite the slipstream duels, mistakes that would have allowed pursuers to overtake were rare. Accordingly, Job managed to turn his convincing lead into victory over Rogers. Only in the penultimate lap did Sánchez fall back to sixth place, then to eighth – which, in light of the reversed grid order for the main race, turned out to be a tactically clever move. Thus, the Spaniard took up the main event from pole position followed by Ellis, Collins, Harth and Benecke. Rogers lined up on the grid in seventh place, with the sprint winner Job right behind.
This time, the start did not go as smoothly. While Sánchez and Ellis managed to eke out a small lead, defending champion Job was shunted from behind in the first lap which sent him spinning from the track. The British sim racer rejoined the action far down the field in P32.
Meanwhile, Rogers pulled out all stops. The 2019 PESC champion returned from the first lap running in sixth place. After three laps he had overtaken Harth and Benecke, and was working on reeling in the leading pair. At the end of the seventh lap, he was within striking distance of Ellis Jr. Exactly at the halfway mark he catapulted out of his compatriot’s slipstream and swept past. At the very same spot 4.909 kilometres later, it was Sánchez’s turn. Rogers snatched the lead. The lead spot, however, was in hot contention. In the penultimate lap, the Spaniard made a renewed attempt and drove door-to-door with the Australian from the Tamburello turn to the Tosa hairpin. Rogers, however, called up his wealth of experience and defended his lead to the flag.
Fourth place went to Maximilian Benecke, but not without some stiff opposition from Zac Campbell. Behind them, Jamie Fluke (Great Britain/Apex Racing Team) finished in sixth, followed by the former points’ leader Mitchell deJong, Dayne Warren (Australia/DirectForce Pro) and Yohann Harth. Jeff Giassi (Brazil/Apex Racing Team) rounded off the top ten. Sebastian Job saw the flag in 24th place and pocketed the last two championship points.
After the third of ten rounds, the new series leader Joshua Rogers (198 points) has built a gap to Mitchell deJong (161) and Dayne Warren (145). Trailing the leading trio are Maximilian Benecke (139), Kevin Ellis Jr. (127) and Alejandro Sánchez (126), who has made impressive progress after a patchy start to the season. Sebastian Job (109) has shuffled down the order to rank seventh.
Round four next Saturday at the “Home of British Motor Racing”
In just one week, round four of the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup will be contested: This coming Saturday (6 February), the virtual Silverstone Circuit hosts the global esports championship. The 5.891-kilometre Grand Prix circuit has been the venue of many motor racing events since 1947. The Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, run as part of the Formula 1 support programme, has for many years thrilled spectators at the “Home of British Motor Racing”.
At Silverstone, the 40 sim racers contesting the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup will tackle a seven-lap sprint race and a 14-lap main event. In the lead-up, well-known YouTubers from the esport world will pit themselves against each other in two All-Star races. For the first time, the All-Stars will drive the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4.
Comments after the main race
Joshua Rogers (AUS/Virtual Racing School): “In the beginning, I tried to catch the leading group. I probably should’ve been more careful with my tyres because, in the final laps, the rear tyres deteriorated noticeably. All in all, it was a great race and I’m thrilled with the result. I knew this race would be critical for the championship –especially when Sebastian Job got caught up in a collision at the start. On a circuit like Imola, it’s not actually advantageous to lead the field because your rivals can stick to you in your slipstream.”
Alejandro Sánchez (E/MSI eSports): “Josh Rogers and I had a terrific fight. I stuck close to his bumper so that I could make another attempt to get past him in the closing phase. On the penultimate lap, he made a minor mistake, I tried to pass him on the inside – but he exited the corner with more speed, and I didn’t want to risk losing safe points. Second place means I’ve progressed from tenth to sixth place in the overall standings.”
Kevin Ellis Jr. (UK/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Esports): “I tried to conserve my tyres and I waited to the right time to attack, but the track is so narrow. Even when Alejandro Sanchéz took a wider line ahead of me, there still wasn’t enough room. I remained calm and I’m delighted to earn the championship points for third place.”
Imola, sprint race
1. Sebastian Job (GB/Red Bull Racing Esports)
2. Joshua Rogers (AUS/Virtual Racing School)
3. Zac Campbell (USA/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Esports)
4. Yohann Harth (F/Apex Racing Team)
5. Maximilian Benecke (D/Team Redline)
Imola, main race
1. Joshua Rogers (AUS/Virtual Racing School)
2. Alejandro Sánchez (E/MSI eSports)
3. Kevin Ellis Jr. (UK/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Esports)
4. Maximilian Benecke (D/Team Redline)
5. Zac Campbell (USA/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Esports)
Points’ standings after 3 of 10 championship rounds
1. Joshua Rogers (AUS/Virtual Racing School), 198 points
2. Mitchell deJong (USA/Virtual Racing School), 161 points
3. Dayne Warren (AUS/DirectForce Pro), 145 points