Interview with Brendon Leigh on the mind of a sim racer as his Kick F1 Sim Racing team finish runners-up & R8G Esports partner with Vitality


Brendon Leigh is one of the UK’s first sim racing champions, having won the inaugural F1 Esports Series back in 2017. Today he works with agency R8G Esports which loans him out to SauberEsports’ Kick F1 sim racing team, who have just finished runners-up for the 2023-24 season.
Dom Sacco catches up with Brendon at ESL One Birmingham 2024, where he was giving coaching sessions to passing Dota fans at the Predator Gaming stand, complete with the latest monitors, PCs and sim racing rigs. The interview also comes as R8G announce a partnership with Vitality ahead of the Esports World Cup – more on that in the second half of the article.

Brendon, you won that F1 Esports Series back in 2017, but today you’re here at a Dota 2 event of all places.

It feels like such a long time ago. I remember coming back to the NEC in early 2018 to come to the Autosport show and pick up an esports award then, so coming back here now, it brings back memories but makes me feel like I have grey hair already (laughs). 

I’ve been working with R8G, the agency that effectively loans me out to Sauber, and we’re racing with the Kick Formula 1 sim racing team for this year. 

I’ve been working, developing myself as a driver and just trying to be my best self on track and off track.

Coming here we’re partnered with Predator Gaming, providing me with the monitor, the PC, the equipment at home, and we’re doing a coaching event right here today. 

What’s it been like as a sim racer at a Dota 2 event?

It’s been really busy. People have been coming in, trying the simulator – some more successfully than others – but ultimately it’s been about giving them coaching sessions and a glimpse of our world.

I haven’t had a chance to speak to professional Dota players playing in the tournament so far, but seeing a passion for the other side of esports, it’s been pretty cool. It’s more traditional esports, so it’s been really nice to see that [as well as the sim racing]. 

The Esports World Cup features an R1 Rennsport tournament. Will you be involved in that?

That’s still for me to be decided, as my core fundamental is F1 esports, but I think Rennsport is doing a really great job at influencing and growing the industry, at least from what I can see.

R8G as a team will be participating [in the Esports World Cup], I have one of my teammates here, Marcell Csincsik, who was able to win the ESL world championship for R1 a few years ago. So I’m sure he’ll be up there and looking to take home some nice points and prizes along the way.

So even if I’m not there with R8G, I’m sure they’ll be doing a good job. 

“I want to win, I want to be my best and be the best in the world, and naturally that reflects back in the team. I think when both the team and myself are on an aligned path and expect each other to win, it can make tension, but ultimately it’s healthy tension.”

Brendon Leigh

What’s been your standout memories as a sim racer?

The most standout thing for me has been human growth. I can stand here and say a win, a race win, a podium, a pole position, or some statistics that’ll be in a book someday is nice, but something I’m probably most proud of is the human growth factor. 

I’m fortunate to do a job that I love, and to live a life I’m able to enjoy, and I think that’s the biggest prize of all, to be honest. 

A more lighthearted question now. One of your coaches asked me to ask in an interview, why are sim racers difficult [to work with]?

I know I can be difficult! People can have their own perception, maybe I’m a nice guy away from the driving. I can be a bit more straight to the point when I’m driving. 

Everyone at the top of their industry is a perfectionist, whether it’s a lawyer, doctor, sim racer, Dota player, whatever the discipline is, we’re at the top of our level and we’re naturally perfectionists who get there.

I don’t think it’s just about sim racers being in a bit of a worse mood when we’re driving. It’s unique, because we have a way to talk when we’re performing, and I don’t think many other people have that, with multiple engineers and people involved in your journey of getting a result.

Of course, you have a coach in Dota [and other games] connected on the radio with them, but you’re connected to your coach and teammates. In sim racing, I’m directly connected to my engineer in the race, so it’s effectively like having a twin attached to my hip, effectively.

I have a relationship with my engineers where I say, look, I’m open, I’m honest, away from the driving we can hang out, chill, talk about life, but ultimately when we go to work we go to work. And I wouldn’t expect any less than a team to expect wins from me, because that’s how I sign my contracts and do my business. I want to win, I want to be my best and be the best in the world, and naturally that reflects back in the team. 

I think when both the team and myself are on an aligned path and expect each other to win, it can make tension, but ultimately it’s healthy tension.

brendon leigh f1 interview 1
Brendon Leigh won the first ever F1 Esports Series back in 2017

And that happens on the physical racing track, if Hamilton gets frustrated, he’ll verbalise that. 

I’ve done a lot of research into it, and it’s mainly to do with the frontal cortex of the brain, which controls your instinctive reactions. 

If you see someone under the influence doing things they wouldn’t normally do, that’s because the frontal cortex of the brain has more control over the body and your mind when you’re drunk or something else like this. 

When I’m driving, of course I’m not under any influences (laughs), but I’m so focused on what I need to do to do the perfect job possible, that all of my subconscious is already filled with driving. So all my voice and vocabulary is coming from my frontal cortex, what is effectively my flight or flight. 

So in that moment, unless it’s completely useful to my ability to fight or flight or win that race, the frontal cortex of the brain is always going to react in a sharper way. 

Thanks to Brendon for his time in this interview. Now onto a separate news announcement below.

Team Vitality and R8G Esports join forces on the Rennsport competitive circuit

Having recently introduced its newest StarCraft II and Tekken teams, esports organisation Team Vitality have welcomed their ninth game to their organisation with Rennsport.

The Team Vitality Rennsport roster is made up of players who previously competed for R8G Esports. The team will be the French Club’s key asset for this summer’s Esports World Cup (EWC) and is set to compete in its first races at ESL R1 on May 17th 2024.

Team Vitality’s newest lineup will be supported by R8G Esports engineers, performance staff and Romain Grosjean, who will remain as the driver’s mentor and is R8G’s founder. He’s also of course a former F1 driver representing France and is a current IndyCar racer.

Since its inception in 2023, the Rennsport competition has been dominated by the players from this roster. They distinguished themselves by taking second place in the Spring championship and emerged victorious in the Fall championship. Additionally, Marcell Csincsik’s performance in the spring season led to him single-handedly winning the Driver’s Championship.

“It’s an honour to join the sim racing circuit with a high-potential team like R8G Esports. To be able to join a French team as part of our international development is a real coup. Together, we hope to extend this performance dynamic and continue to place Team Vitality at the top of the podiums. The ESL R1 will be a good start to this summer’s Esports World Cup,” said Fabien Devide, President of Team Vitality.

The Vitality Rennsport roster

  • Thibault Cazaubon, a 22-year-old French sim racing talent, made his professional debut in 2017, having only played for a year. Competent across platforms like Rennsport, rFactor2, Raceroom, iRacing, and ACC, Cazaubon clinched the 2019 French iRacing GT Championship early in his career. His notable achievements include being part of the winning team at the 2023 ESL R1 Team World Championship. In 2024, Cazaubon secured the Runner-Up position in the Porsche Esports Supercup Germany and claimed the Sim Formula European Vice-Champion title. Thibault Cazaubon’s rapid rise and consistent podium finishes underscore his talent and determination in the fiercely competitive world of sim racing.
  • Erhan Jajovski, a seasoned sim racing competitor from North Macedonia, began his gaming journey in 2015, turning professional in 2019. Competent across multiple platforms, including Rennsport, rFactor2, Raceroom, ACC, and iRacing, Jajovski gained recognition as a finalist in the 2019 World’s Fastest Gamer competition. He notably excelled in 2021, securing the Formula E Accelerate World Vice-Champion title. In 2023, Jajovski triumphed in the GTE category at the Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual and played a pivotal role in his team’s victory at the ESL R1 Team World Championship. At 28 years old, Erhan Jajovski’s impressive achievements highlight his talent and consistency in the competitive world of sim racing, cementing his reputation as a top contender on the global stage.
  • Jiri Toman, a 26-year-old sim racing talent from the Czech Republic, transitioned to professional racing in 2020, having played since 2011. Toman’s highlights include winning the 2021 Virtual Endurance Championship LMP2 title and the 2022 SimRacing European Championship. Additionally, he contributed to his team’s victory at the 2023 ESL R1 Team World Championship. In 2024, Toman demonstrated his versatility and skill across multiple platforms by achieving a podium finish in the Porsche Cup Germany.
  • Marcell Csincsik, a 25-year-old Hungarian sim racing prodigy, emerged onto the scene, following his gaming debut in 2008. In 2023, he etched his name in history by capturing the inaugural ESL R1 Driver World Championship, marking him as the first ESL sim racing world champion. His exceptional talent was further highlighted by securing two Formula E Accelerate wins in 2023, showcasing his dominance in virtual motorsport. As Csincsik continues to redefine sim racing excellence, he remains a rising star to watch closely.
  • Kylian Drumont (Reserve Driver), a 19-year-old French sensation, entered the world of sim racing in 2021, following his debut in 2020. Specialising in Gran Turismo and Rennsport, Drumont quickly rose to prominence. In 2022, Drumont won in both the Gran Turismo World Series Showdown and the Manufacturers Cup World Championship. The following year, he clinched the GT7 Esports Sim Racing Olympic Title. Drumont’s rapid ascent and impressive victories highlight his natural talent and dedication to sim racing.

Team Vitality forges partnership with Acer

This team’s success was also propelled by its major sponsor, Acer, with its premium gaming brand Predator, powering R8G Esports to several major Championship titles across different sim racing games, including the Gold Medal during the Virtual Olympics in 2023.

As part of Team Vitality’s strategic expansion plan, all parties have agreed to join forces and to form a new powerhouse in Rennsport sim racing.

Team Vitality also said they’re excited to welcome Acer as a partner for the upcoming ESL R1 season and the Esports World Cup competition in sim racing.

Valerie Piau, Vice President of Marketing and New Business at Acer EMEA, said:

“We are excited to join forces with the new Team Vitality RENNSPORT team through our premium gaming brand Predator. Our support for the growth of virtual racing and our commitment to being a driving force behind this amazing team’s success is unwavering.”

Valerie Piau, Acer EMEA

Rennsport is the only announced racing game to be represented at EWC 24 this summer. Team Vitality, one of 12 teams competing in Rennsport, aims to claim the title of champions in the Esports World Cup.

The qualifying phases will begin with the ESL R1 in May, when the roster will compete under the yellow and black colours for the first time.

The Esports World Cup Foundation has announced that the total cash prize for the first edition will be over $60m.

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