The Driver Network Championship travelled to the desert of California for a re-run of Round 12. Willow Springs was the venue and the RWD LMP2 was the car, as the world’s top Project CARS drivers entered the eSports arena once again for another weekend of seriously impressive action...
The twelfth Round of the SMS-R Driver Network Championship season was postponed earlier this year, but returned with a new kind of challenge for our elite drivers. Willow Springs may look like a simple course, with only nine corners, but it is anything but! With steep elevation change, blind crests, sweeping curves and deep sand either sand of the tarmac, this classic US track is a massive challenge that should not be underestimated.
Round 12 also saw the drivers tackle a new car. The previous event used the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, and for Round 12 we’ve kept the action in the endurance racing family, but moved to the much faster and higher downforce LMP2 category in the RWD LMP2, designed specifically for Project CARS. This car requires a lot of bravery to maximise its performance at Willow Springs. With so much of the track being flat out due to its sweeping and flowing layout, car setup and cornering speed proved to be crucial to the drivers’ chances of success.
We were pleased once again in this round by the behaviour of all of the drivers and teams. Almost all of the drivers respected the track limits throughout the event, resulting in significantly lower numbers of penalties being applied than in some other rounds of the season. This has continued to improve over recent weeks, so please keep it up!
The nature of the Willow Springs circuit and the LMP2 car means that this was the closest round of all-time! The top 20 drivers across all three platforms: PC, PS4 & XB1, were separated by only 1.1 seconds! This is totaly unprecedented and just goes to show how incredibly competitive the Project CARS eSports scene has been this year. It’s is amazing to see all of the drivers getting faster and faster, especially as the pressure mounts towards the end of the season with only two events to go!
Our winner this time out was SDL Motorsport’s SoniK with a stonking lap of 1:01.608. It’s the first time for a while that SoniK has come out on top, and it takes him back to the summit of the drivers championship at a crucial time in the season. Team Shark Racing’s Atho could only manage seventh place at Willow Springs, dropping him to second in the title race, eight points behind SoniK.
It was also a good week for SDL in their fight to regain some ground on Team Shark in the Team Power Rankings. Solid performances from SoniK’s teammates, Mangator, Rotax, Rossi46 & Mihalo mean they have closed the gap to TSRacing by 66 points. The gap still stands at 248 points with 2 races to go. It’s a big ask, but there is still a mathematical chance for SDL to pull off an almighty upset.
Round 12 also saw a return to form for the STD-RS and Starlux teams. A decent eleventh place finish for Slux GTurbo has moved Starlux back into the top five places in the Team Power Rankings. STD-RS is now level on points with EMW in eighth place in the teams battle, thanks to a double points finish with AleeX_FRA and SmOky_FRA.
UNITY Motors also stood out this week, entering the Team Power Rankings for the first time in fourteenth place. This is the one part of a big push into Project CARS eSports for this French team, which began with some great performances in the ESL Project CARS Go4 Cups, including a win and several podiums. UNITY may have entered the 2015 season a little late, but we’re looking forward to big things from them in 2016.
The next round of the SMS-R Driver Network Championship is the Round 15 Re-Run. Due to disputes between the drivers over track limits in the original running of Round 15 it will now take place January 7-10 2016, in the Renault Clio Cup car at Silverstone.