Just a few weeks after the announcement of the ESL R1 series, 12 teams and 48 drivers head into the IEM Expo at Katowice for the opening two rounds of the season. The Polish tournament provides the only double header of the season as well as the only LAN event before May’s Spring Major in Munich.
The new ESL R1 series will see a mix of different teams and drivers with a variety of backgrounds — all vying for the championship and a share of €225,000.
Each round will feature seven 20-minute races and 12 drivers per race, with this weekend’s opening two rounds taking place live from the IEM Expo in Poland.
The format sees four races, each with 12 drivers. The top six will progress through to the semi-finals, where the top six from each battle it out in a final sprint race.
Points will be earned for each driver and team, with the top 24 drivers at the end of the season invited directly to the 2023 Spring Major at the RENNSPORT Summit in Munich.
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Australia won’t be missing out, with two drivers in Josh Rogers and Dayne Warren representing Porsche Coanda Esports.
Porsche Coanda Esports has entered their crème de la crème to drive the Porsche 911 GT3R. Headed by Rogers and American driver Mitchell deJong, who are both fresh off a second place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual last month, the team will be keen to put their best foot forward once again representing the Porsche brand.
As tradition states, FURIA are bringing the Brazilian flair to R1. The all-Brazilian line-up will be led by Porsche Esport Supercup and former Team Redline driver Jeff Giassi.
Giassi will be the experienced head in an otherwise young Brazilian team who will bring some furious action to the track with their BMW M4 GT3.
Apex Racing Team have stuck to their roots, announcing that four of their iRacing stars will be driving their Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Frenchman Yohann Harth is joined by the three Brits of Peter Berryman, Kevin Ellis Jr and Jamie Fluke. One of the most consistent teams across the whole driver line-up, Apex Racing will be looking to add to their iRacing Daytona 24 Hour class win in January.
The team from the north arrived in the form of Heroic. The Norwegian organisation picked up some of the best virtual driving talent from Scandinavia.
Tommy Ostgaard comes across from Coanda Esports to spearhead the line-up. Joining him will be former Coanda teammate Oskar Biksrud, former Fyra Simsport driver Mikkel Gade and ex-KOVA driver Tuomas Tahtela. The four will be piloting the Porsche 911 GT3R.
BMW factory team BS+ Competition will be relying on a mix of experience from other sims. Most of their drivers have an iRacing background in the form of Ryan Barneveld, Phil Denes and relative newcomer Rainer Talvar.
There is a hint of Assetto Corsa Competizione experience in the team with former G2 driver and ACC legend Nils Naujoks also part of the squad.
It’s a similar case for Team Redline. Luke Bennett comes across from iRacing, while Kevin Siggy and Jeffrey Rietveld both have rFactor 2 experience.
The team leader for Redline is Enzo Bonito, who adds yet another sim to his impressive career repertoire. The experienced Italian will captain his young team forward in their BMW M4 GT3.
Williams Esports have a mix of old and new. Kuba Brzezinski and Nikodem Wisniewski join forces once again. The powerhouse Polish duo will once again be the headliners for their team, leading the younger pair of Dennis Schoniger and Daire Mccormack in their BMW M4 GT3.
Former F1 and current Indycar driver Romain Grojean’s R8G Esports will be wielding the Audi R8 GT3 just like they did at the iRacing Daytona 24 Hour.
The experienced hands of Risto Kappet and Erhan Jajovski are joined by the younger but equally safe hands of Jiri Toman and Marcell Csincsik. All four drivers recently competed in the Le Mans Virtual series where the team showed glimpses of speed. They will be hoping to build upon this going into ESL R1.
The Mercedes-AMG factory team have gone with pure experience for their line-up. 2019 World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin has come across from Veloce Esports to join the German manufacturer.
Joining him is five time Formula Sim Racing World Champion Bono Huis, Porsche Esports Supercup race winner Graham Carroll and Race Sim Studio Champion Marko Pejic.
G2 Esports left it until the last minute to reveal their line-up mixed up with youth and experience. Isaac Price and Joni Tormala are both long-time iRacing stalwarts who bring years of experience.
Eamonn Murphy joins the team after showing impressive pace in Assetto Corsa Competizione along with Robbie Stapleford who joined G2 when they returned to sim racing in April last year. G2, a BMW partner team, will of course be using the BMW M4 GT3.
MOUZ have decided to not die wondering with their entry into sim racing. One of the stronger line-ups going into the Spring season headed by the highest rated driver in iRating in Maximilian Benecke.
If that wasn’t enough, fellow Germans Moritz Lohner and Patrik Holzmann, as well as Dutch driver Yuri Kasdorp, should see this squad fighting for positions at the top. The German organisation have decided that the Audi R8 GT3 will be their weapon of choice.
And finally, FaZe Clan — with a surprise fourth squad member.
FaZe definitely has the most surprising line-up when it comes to ESL R1. Lucas Mueller and Tim Jarschel both come across from Dorr Esports where they raced a variety of sims. Ulas Ozyildirim is the Haas F1 Esports development driver who comes from R8G Esports to join FaZe.
Completing the quartet is three-time Call of Duty World Champion and 2020 X Games gold medalist Ian “Crimsix” Porter.
The most successful Call of Duty competitor in the franchise’s history, Crimsix announced his retirement from the FPS in September 2022.
Citing a “generational gap” that proved too much to overcome, Crimsix added in his retirement that he would be “fully committing to myself and the exact things I want to do”.
As FaZe has recently partnered with Porsche, it’s no surprise that the organisation will be using the Porsche 911 GT3R.
This weekend sees the opening rounds of ESL R1 kick off live from the IEM Expo in Katowice.
Races are set to begin Saturday at 12pm CET (10pm AEDT), with the round final wrapping up by 7pm CET (5am AEDT).
Saturday’s opening round sees drivers navigate the hallowed Spa-Francorchamps, with Hockenheim the site for Sunday’s second round.
Further tracks for later rounds this season are yet to be revealed.