This landmark new esports racing championship on Rennsport has plenty of big name sim racers taking part across all teams. Here are the drivers we know of so far competing in ESL R1.
We are approaching the dawn of a new era for competitive sim racing, with ESL’s upcoming R1 series taking place on the unreleased racing sim Rennsport. Twelve teams of four drivers each will compete in GT3 cars from four prominent German automobile brands Porsche, Audi, Mercedes and BMW.
Drivers will compete in a tournament-style structure across eight rounds, with the best 24 entering into a Major to decide who will be seasonal champion. There will be two seasons in 2023 and across the year, the participants can win the majority of a €500,000 prize pool which puts it only behind F1 Esports in terms of how much is up for grabs.
So with all that in mind, who are the drivers actually taking part? Here are the drivers that are confirmed to be racing in ESL R1.
Established Teams in ESL R1
You simply cannot have an esports racing championship without Team Redline, and they’ve signalled their statement of intent by fielding some of their strongest drivers. Enzo Bonito is pretty much guaranteed to be quick no matter the sim with Rennsport being no exception, and Kevin Siggy is the reigning champion in series on RaceRoom and rFactor 2, both of which are said to drive similar to Rennsport.
Jeffrey Rietveld is next on the team, and he’s a consistent presence next to Bonito and Siggy as they raced together in the VCO Esports Racing League on rF2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione, and also in the V10 R-League. But the final driver on the team is Luke Bennett, typically an iRacing driver but also did Le Mans Virtual and won this year’s race overall.
Next up is former F1 driver turned IndyCar ace Romain Grosjean’s team R8G Esports. They’re relying completely on their rFactor 2 roster with the likes of GTE class Le Mans Virtual winner Erhan Jajovski, Formula Pro race winner Marcell Csincsik and Sim Formula Europe finals champions Jiri Toman and Risto Kappet.
Now we come to Porsche Coanda, with R1 being their only other fully fledged commitment aside from Le Mans Virtual. 2-time Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup champion Josh Rogers has to be considered an early favourite as despite his proven capabilities on many sims, he’s only focussing on the select few.
His teammates are 2-time Australian Supercars Eseries champion Dayne Warren, 2021 PESC runner-up Mitchell DeJong and 2018 iRacing Grand Prix World Championship third place finisher Mack Bakkum. All very capable and proven drivers who will fly the flag high for Porsche in R1.
From one manufacturer-backed team to one fielding their own dedicated sim racing effort, Mercedes have picked up quite the driver. After racing for them in Le Mans Virtual on loan from Veloce, James Baldwin joins Mercedes full time and with three SRO Esports titles, his expertise with GT3 cars will come in handy.
Baldwin will be joined by dominant 2021 Formula Pro champion Bono Huis, former Red Bull PESC racer Graham Carroll and also Marko Pejic who was Huis’ FPro teammate. Overall a very solid line-up for Mercedes.
Next are Apex Racing Team, who are venturing into unchartered territory. Prior to last year, they only ever competed on iRacing. But, thanks to the Esports Racing League, their drivers Jamie Fluke and Yohann Harth have both raced on rFactor 2 and ACC. The other two in their line-up, Peter Berryman and Kevin Ellis Jr, have never raced competitively outside of iRacing, so it will be fascinating to see how they adapt to Rennsport.
Whilst most teams have put all their eggs in one basket when it comes to which sim their drivers typically race on, the striking zebras of BS+ have gone for a wider range. First is Nils Naujoks, a legend in the ESL sim racing scene with five championships from their Pro Series on Live for Speed, and has since found his new sim racing home on ACC.
His teammates have more of an iRacing background, these being Rainer Talvar, Ryan Barneveld and Phil Denes, the latter of whom also competes on rF2. They also have Bruno Spengler on the team, and he’s a real world BMW race driver so when he isn’t busy with racing in the real world, he could also be competing.
Finally for the sim racing background teams, there’s Williams. Inaugural Le Mans Virtual winners Kuba Brzeziński and Nikodem Wisniewski will be joined by former Unicorns of Love racer Dennis Schöniger and SRO Esports race winner Dáire McCormack.
But the beauty of ESL R1 is that many other types of teams are getting in on the fun.
New Names From Gaming
The major headline out of ESL R1 is that there are a few big name mainstream esports organisations that are making their first venture into the world of sim racing. One that has hit the ground running is MOUZ. The Hamburg-based team are not only doing R1 but also plan on competing in the VCO Esports Racing League.
They’ve signed Patrik Holzmann and Max Benecke from Redline, both drivers have over a 10k iRating so it’s safe to assume they will be doing some iRacing events, as Benecke is doing PESC under the MOUZ banner. Then there’s 3-time ADAC GT Masters Esports champion Moritz Löhner and rFactor 2 specialist Yuri Kasdorp who left Dörr and Red Bull respectively. MOUZ are clearly not here to goof around in sim racing, they mean business!
Then one of the biggest new names to join is FURIA, the Brazilian org have solidified themselves as the national team with an all-Brazilian line-up. Perhaps the most prominent of them is Jeff Giassi, the former PESC racer for Redline who also competes in the real world.
As for their other drivers, Felipe Baptista is also another real world driver and mainly competes in Stock Car Brasil. Caique Oliveira raced with FYRA SimSport in Le Mans Virtual, and Victor Veloso who competes in a lot of Brazilian-based esports championships. Could FURIA’s insistence on only Brazilian drivers potentially limit their prospects?
As for the remainder of the grid, the line-ups haven’t been confirmed as of yet for G2 Esports, Heroic and undoubtedly one of the biggest names in esports, FaZe Clan. We can hazard a guess as to who will be racing for a few of these teams, but these are by no means official.
G2 Esports are involved in sim racing through running Red Bull’s esports team and their own as a partner team of BMW, so it’s perhaps easy to predict some of the drivers. We have reason to believe that an F1 Esports driver from the Red Bull fold will be involved, unfortunately though it won’t be Frederik Rasmussen despite taking part and impressing in the Rennsport summit.
We have already speculated that former Porsche Coanda driver Tommy Østgaard is on his way to Heroic, and PESC Contenders champion Tuomas Tähtelä is also set to join a team that are competing in R1. Although we don’t know which team.
More will be revealed in the coming days and once the Spring Season Opener at IEM Katowice begins on 11-12 February, all 48 drivers will be onsite and it will undoubtedly result in some incredible racing.
EDIT 02/02/2023: Heroic revealed their line-up, which did feature both Østgaard and Tähtelä alongside 2-time Porsche Esports Carrera Cup Denmark champion and real world Skip Barber racer Mikkel Gade as well as Oskar Biksrud, the youngest driver to ever qualify for the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup.
EDIT 07/02/2023: FaZe Clan have signed F1 Esports Challengers racer Ulaş Özyıldırım, Formula E Race at Home Challenge runner-up Lucas Mueller and DTM Esports runner-up Tim Jarschel. But perhaps the biggest shock into their ESL R1 roster is the inclusion of Ian ‘Crimsix’ Porter, a Call of Duty champion.
EDIT: 08/02/2023: G2 Esports have confirmed their line-up. Their drivers include SRO Esports drivers Isaac Price and Robbie Stapleford as well as AlphaTauri F1 Esports driver Joni Törmälä who was part of the Red Bull team when they won the 2019 team’s championship.
Their final main driver is Eamonn Murphy, who was part of the championship winning team in SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge Esports along with James Baldwin. 2020 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup champion Sebastian Job will take the role of reserve driver.
Who do you think will impress in the ESL R1 Spring Season Opener? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!