After a short, one week break the action returned with Round 4 in the 2017 SMS-R Championship Series by ESL. Having had some time to practice their skills and reflect on a tricky previous round at Le Mans, the Project CARS esports drivers were ready to do battle once again. This time in the iconic Belgian forests of the Spa Francorchamps circuit.
After the long straights of Le Mans, the drivers and teams had to refocus on one of the world's fastest flowing and most technical race tracks. From Eau Rouge, to Pouhon and Blanchimont, Spa literally has challenges at every turn. It's always a favourite with fans and drivers alike. This track brings out very the best in every driver's ability, and encourages them to push to the edge.
As always, the Pro Class racers took to the circuit in LMP2 machinery, with the Challenger Class made up of the ever popular GT3 cars. The Challenger championship was wide open coming into Race 4, with the top 4 drivers separated by only 10 points after 3 races, with Yoohan up at the top. In Pro Class it's all about the team battle between 7 of the world's fastest sim-racing crews for the prize money and the places at the Gamescom World Finals. All 7 teams were still very close together in the standings coming in to Race 4, with Team Redline, eSports+Cars, and SDL arguably in the best form heading into Spa.
Read on to find out which teams and drivers came out ahead after some high speed battles through the Belgian hills, and don't forget to catch up with the on-demand version of the live stream if you missed the race live.
Coming into the race we were greeted with some good news, the return of Khaki for the BAM team. "The Polish Monster" missed all of the previous races this season with a leg injury, but now it was time for his comeback.
Pole position went to SDL's StorM in the LMP2 class, and to Yoohan in the GT3 class. It was a nice start in LMP2, but StorM dropped from pole to 3rd, as DriverR1 took the lead for eSports+Cars ahead of Magic Michael for Team Redline. Yoohan eased away at the front of the GT3 class early on.
StorM then lost another position in the Bus Stop chicane as Mangator took P3, but then they went side by side into Eau Rouge and StorM retook the place. Magic Michael was not letting DriverR1 get away at the front. The top 2 pulled away from the other LMP2 cars in the early stages. We also saw a good battle early on between the TX3 drivers as Michele passed his teammate Tscharf into the Bus Stop for P11. Michele then lost the rear of his car at the top of Radillion and lost another position, this time to Ralphy of eSports+Cars.
There were some good fights happening in the GT3 class too. This time around, the field was mostly a mixture of McLarens and Aston Martins. The Astons looked faster on the straights, but the McLarens had great downforce through the more technical sections of the course.
Khaki sadly retired from the LMP2 race on his comeback event after a jump start, and there was also an unfortunate disconnection for Rotax which saw him retire as well. Meanwhile StorM and Mangator were having a big battle for the final podium position, with DriverR1 and Magic Michael still leading the way in front.
There was an almighty squabble for P7 between Euronics’ Hades and VP’s Ockerocker. Hades stole the place with a brave move into the bus stop. It was fantastic to see Euronics finally looking a bit racier in Round 4, but then Ockerocker made an awesome move around the outside into Les Combes to retake 7th from Hades.
P2 and P4 for Redline was looking good at the halfway point in the race to give them more points then any other Pro team. Not only that, but Magic Michael was beginning to close in on DriverR1. Would we see a fight for the lead? Yoohan was still dominating the Challenger Class in the GT3 cars. Comfortably in the lead with 12 minutes left on the clock.
Mangator sadly seemed to have picked up some aero damage in a battle with StorM, which was costing him some straight-line speed. This saw him drop backwards in the race. BAM’s Tomikillos passed him to take P4 in LMP2. At the same time, DriverR1 was pushing in the lead to pull away again from Magic Michael as the drivers were lapping the GT3 pack. Mangator sadly dropped another position as VP’s Isaac breezed past him on the Kemmel Straight, with Mangator clearly struggling with some aero damage.
Then we had big drama as Hades and Ockerocker came together on the exit of La Source, putting Ockerocker into the wall. It was an unfortunate end to what had been a very close fight between these two all race long. This also gave eSports+Cars’ Ralphy the chance to close right in on Ockerocker and try to get into the top 10 in LMP2.
With 2 laps to go Magic Michael suddenly closed up on DriverR1 very quickly. DriverR1 seemed to be struggling with his tyre temperatures in the closing stages. Could Magic Michael seize an opportunity here? Michael went for it around the outside into Les Combes on the final lap but DriverR1 defended beautifully. There was only one more chance left. Could he sneak through into the Bus Stop?
Sadly Magic Michael wasn’t quite close enough to hold the slipstream through Blanchimont and DriverR1 held on to take a great win. It was a really close race between these two at the sharp end of the LMP2 Pro Class. With StorM a little further back in P3. Yoohan took a dominant win in the GT3 Challenger Class.
Team Redline were the highest scoring team in Pro Class this time around with P2 for Magic Michael and P6 for Mangator. It could have been so much more though without the damage that Mangator had to carry for the second half of the race.
Standings and results will be updated after ESL has posted the latest points information at the ESL play website.
Next: Round 5
We've got back-to-back races coming up, as we leave Spa to next visit Spain's Circuit De Catalunya for Round 5. Tune in live on Twitch on Saturday July 1 at 16:00 BST to watch all of the action.
Don't forget to visit the ESL website at the link below to register to race in the next Go4 Cup on PC. Take the chance to show your skills to the world, and you might even qualify to compete in Challenger Class later this season.