ESL R1 €500,000 virtual racing circuit announced, Williams says traditional esports orgs entering sim racing will offer ‘massive potential’

ESL R1 2024

ESL has today announced the ESL R1, a new sim racing circuit set to launch in February 2023 with a live tournament at Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) Katowice.

ESL has teamed up with Competition Company for the league, the game publisher of virtual racing platform Rennsport.

There will be two ESL R1 seasons this year – spring and fall – with live final events and a collective prize pool of €500,000.

An inaugural live tournament will kick off the spring season at the free-to-enter IEM Expo, part of IEM Katowice in Poland from February 10th to 12th.

Organisers say that ESL R1 is ‘a pristine esports league that will set a whole new standard for virtual racing by establishing a dedicated intersection for car manufacturers and players’.

“It takes what’s best of real-life racing and merges it with the limitless possibilities of the digital realm,” ESL said in a press release. “While celebrating the pinnacle of speed and skill, ESL R1 creates new champions and delivers an immersive, shared spectacle for the audience.”

“With ESL R1, we’re taking our first major steps into this exhilarating sim racing world. Doing this together with our ambitious partner Rennsport as well as with renowned esports and traditional racing brands is an unique opportunity.”

Roger Lodewick, ESL Faceit Group

“Esports is the world’s fastest growing media and entertainment segment with a young and digital oriented fan base,” added Competition Company CEO Morris Hebecker. “That’s why EFG is an important partner for us, in order to jointly anchor the fascination of racing in the virtual world as well as to position ourselves in the existing world of esports in the long run.”

“The sim racing space is one of the key esports verticals in the sports gaming field,” said Roger Lodewick, President of Sports Games at ESL Faceit Group. “With ESL R1, we’re taking our first major steps into this exhilarating world. Doing this together with our ambitious partner Rennsport as well as with renowned esports and traditional racing brands is an unique opportunity. We’re thrilled to serve the simracing community in our usual bold and spectacular way.”

ESL R1 teams include sim racing and traditional esports brands

For the first time, the most well-known esports teams will be competing against factory teams from Rennsport’s automotive license partners in ESL R1.

In addition, there will be wild card teams involved.

In the first season of ESL R1, the following eight partner teams and four wild card teams will participate:

  • Apex Racing Team
  • BMW M Team BS+Competition
  • FaZe Clan
  • Furia
  • G2 Esports
  • Heroic
  • Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports Team
  • Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports
  • Mouz
  • Porsche Coanda Esports Racing Team
  • R8G eSports
  • Team Redline

48 drivers (four per team) will compete against each other in eight rounds per regular season. Each round consists of a total of seven races: four quarter finals, two semi finals and a final.

Each race is also preceded by a qualifying session to determine the starting order of each driver. After the launch at the IEM Expo in Katowice, the rounds will be held online on Fridays and Mondays.

Each season, the 24 top-ranked drivers will advance to the ESL R1 Major where they will face off to decide who will become the ESL R1 Champion. The 2023 calendar consists of two seasons, each culminating with a live, final event and a total prize pool of €500,000.

ESL R1 2023 Spring Season Dates

ESL R1 2023 Spring Season Dates

The dates for the ESL R1 2023 Spring Season are as follows:

  • ESL R1 2023 Spring Season launch: February 11-12, 2023 / IEM Expo, Katowice, Poland
  • ESL R1 2023 Spring Major at the RENNSPORT Summit: May 27-28, 2023 / Munich, Germany

The dates for the ESL R1 2023 Fall Season are as follows:

  • ESL R1 2023 Fall Season launch: August 2023 / online 
  • ESL R1 2023 Fall Major at DreamHack Winter: November 23-25, 2023 / Jönköping, Sweden 

Williams Esports on joining ESL R1’s first season

British racing and gaming brand Williams Esports sent Esports News UK a press release about their participation in ESL R1.

The four Williams drivers will be competing under the name ‘Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports’ as part of Williams’ partnership with the car provider for the series.

Williams will announce its drivers on January 26th 2023 at 2pm GMT.

Director of Esports at Williams Racing, Steven English, said: “We are really excited to enter the first season of Rennsport by ESL. The potential we have seen from where Rennsport and ESL want to take this competition is massive, and to see non-traditional sim racing teams enter into the competition will be great to bring more eyes onto the scene.

“It is a sign of the huge progress that sim racing has made in the overall esports landscape that an organisation like ESL is now investing so heavily in a racing title. We have long believed that racing games should be at the forefront of esports – not just for the enjoyment and playability, but also the unique opportunities racing sims provide in real world relevance, physicality and potential for a positive health and wellbeing narrative.

“I am confident that we will be competing at the front of the grid right from the first race at IEM Katowice.”

“The potential we have seen from where Rennsport and ESL want to take this competition is massive, and to see non-traditional sim racing teams enter into the competition will be great to bring more eyes onto the scene.”

Steven English, Williams Racing

Team Manager of Williams Esports, Seb Hawkins, added: “It is great to see the team and drivers be given the opportunity to race in the inaugural season of Rennsport by ESL. Having attended the Rennsport Summit along with the team last year, the potential of the game was clear and the drivers have enjoyed working on it in the closed alpha and beta tests.

“Going into the first season, it will be great for the team to attend a major sim racing LAN event where we will have the chance to engage with lots of fans, both new and old and continue to help grow the sim racing scene.”

The news comes after Williams Esports claimed six big sim racing wins in a single weekend last month.

There’s more info on the official ESL R1 website

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