Round six of the 2023 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup and the All-Star-Series took place on Saturday, April 8th at Watkins Glen. Unlike the last time the series visited the venue back in its inaugural season in 2019, the short Classic layout was utilized for the event. With its few corners and multiple long straights, it meant that drivers were constantly engaged in slipstream battles.
Gustavo Ariel scores his sprint race victory
In qualifying, it was 2020 PESC champion Sebastian Job (GB/Oracle Redbull Racing Esports) who came out on top, beating Zac Campbell (USA/VRS Coanda) and Charlie Collins (GB/VRS Coanda) to pole position by a mere nineteen and forty-one thousandths of a second respectively. Lining up in fourth on the grid for the eleven lap long sprint race was Gustavo Ariel (BR/TXC Racing by TK).
As the lights went green for the first race of the evening, it was Zac Campbell who got the best launch, allowing him to take the lead from Sebastian Job before they had to brake for the first time. Once the field had successfully negotiated turn one, the slipstream battles commenced immediately. An early casualty of those was Charlie Collins, being sent into the barriers after contact with the then fifth-placed Diogo C. Pinto (PT/Team Redline). In a similar fashion, Kevin Nielsen (DK/FYRA Simsport) was dropped out of a promising eighth place after a collision with Bobby Zalenski (USA/VRS Coanda) on lap six.
At the head of the field, Zac Campbell and Sebastian Job were swapping positions throughout the race, with both Gustavo Ariel and Diogo C. Pinto right behind the two. On the penultimate lap of the race, Campbell made a mistake, going wide in turn five, which dropped him to fourth. On the final lap, Pinto and Job were battling for the lead on the run towards the same turn, but made contact on the straight, sending Pinto hard into the wall and dropping him to the back of the field. That contact also meant that Job was delayed enough to allow Gustavo Ariel to slip through and to score his first sprint race victory. Sebastian Job finished second, though a last corner tangle between him and Zac Campbell meant that it was championship leader Jordan Caruso (AUS/Altus Esports) who stood on the final step of the podium. Eighth place and as a result pole position for the twenty-two lap long main race, went to Alejandro Sánchez (E/Stormforce Racing ART).
Zac Campbell returns to victory lane in the main race
Sánchez got off the line well, keeping the lead in the opening laps. The Spaniard found himself under attack from the VRS Coanda trio of Bryn Collins (GB/VRS Coanda), Bobby Zalenski and Zac Campbell right away, being passed by Bryn Collins and Campbell on lap three. In the meantime, Sebastian Job had also joined the lead train after he overtook Alessandro Bico (IT/Williams Esports) for fifth, though Job and Bico both dropped back from the group ahead when the Brit dropped a wheel on the grass entering turn six on lap seven. However, things didn’t remain that way for too long.
Only two laps later, Bryn Collins and Alejandro Sánchez battled for the runner-up spot which Sánchez had just retaken earlier that lap. Then Bobby Zalenski joined the fight, making it three-wide on the approach to the final corner. As so often, three into one didn’t work out, contact was made between Zalenski and Sánchez, allowing the chasing Sebastian Job to leapfrog into third, right on the back bumper of Collins. On lap ten, Zalenski made contact again, this time with the rear of Alessandro Bico’s car, sending him wide which dropped him into the mid-field. As his pursuers were occupied with tripping over one-another, race leader Zac Campbell pulled away from the pack.
The American wasn’t able to keep that buffer for long though, as the slipstream allowed everyone to catch back up before the final few laps of the race, setting the stage for a four-way fight for the main race win between Campbell, Sebastian Job, Bryn Collins and Bobby Zalenski. While he was challenged for the lead by Job multiple times in the final stages, Zalenski’s and Collins’ constant fighting stopped him from taking the place, enabling Campbell to take his first main race win since the season-opener at Hockenheim. Job also lost out in another last-corner squabble against Bryn Collins for second, which cost him enough momentum to drop back to fifth. Bobby Zalenski won the drag race to the checkered flag against Alejandro Sánchez for third position. Diogo C. Pinto went on an impressive damage limitation run in the main race, making it from 26th to twelfth while a late race move from Irishman Oscar Mangan (IRL/Altus Esports) capped off his gain of 13 positions across all 33 racing laps run that evening.
Casey Kirwan and Christian “keny500” Ortega on top in the All-Star-Series
In the All-Star-Series, it was the final time this season the content creators went racing with the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. As always, there were plenty of thrills and spills throughout their 14 and 22 lap long races. The second race in particular being especially action-packed.
Casey Kirwan was on pole position once again, being joined by Christian “keny500” Ortega this time. That’s the order in which both passed through turn one at the start of the sprint race, with Indy 500 star Tony Kanaan, who returned to the series for the event, slotting into third. Joining them were Pablo “ThePulpoLopez” Lopez and Dave “DaveCam” Cameron. Roughly half-way through the race, Ortega was challenged by multiple drivers at once, causing him to lose multiple positions on the run between turns five and six. The remaining quartett of Casey Kirwan, Dave Cameron, Tony Kanaan and Pablo Lopez fought it out for the win, though in the end, Casey just managed to cross the finish line first, less than a second ahead of Cameron in second and Kanaan in third.
Lyubov “LoveFortySix” Ozeretskovskaya and Emily “Emree” Jones started the twenty-two lap long main race from the front row after both had issues at the end of the previous sprint. On their first run through the fast turn five, Jones made a mistake and ran off the circuit, costing her time and multiple positions. Simultaneously, a spinning Oliver “BasicOllie” Furnell behind took Pablo Lopez, Javier “Stradi” Soto and Jaroslav “Jardier” Honzik with him. Ozeretskovskaya held onto the top spot until with eight laps to go, as the chasing pack finally had caught up. She started battling for the lead with Tyson “Quirkitized” Meier and a recovering Casey Kirwan, but a collision between Meier and Kirwan removed all three from the equation for the win. That left it to Christian Ortega, Xabier “Heikki360ES” Sánchez, Matt Malone and Daniel “Dan_Suzuki” Sosulski to fight for it instead, with Ortega just about coming out on top ahead of Sosulski when all was said and done.
Next Up: Spa-Francorchamps
From one classic racing venue to the next as the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup heads to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the seventh event of the season. The circuit, often dubbed the “Ardenne rollercoaster”, is one of the few circuits to have featured in every season of the virtual one-make cup, and with such iconic corners as Eau Rouge and Blanchimont, it’s not hard to see why. Not only does it make for a great driving experience, but Spa seldomly hosts races that aren’t worth watching, so tuning into the livestream on April 22nd at 21:00 CEST should once again be absolutely worth it. An hour before the main show gets underway, the content creators of the All-Star-Series will take to the track with the legendary Porsche 911 RSR. To also catch that, simply make sure you already start the stream up an hour earlier, 20:00 CEST.