After months of build-up and excitement, we finally arrived at the Finals of the 2019 Project CARS esports major, the Playseat® SMS-R Series, Powered by The Events House. 3200 drivers took part in the Qualifying Rounds for this tournament, and 10 Pro Class teams battled to prove their reputations, but it all came down to this. One day, two races, live from Mercedes-Benz World in the UK with €20,000 on the line.
After 4 Qualifying events, one shootout race, and the four-race online championship, we arrived at the Finals with only 16 competitors remaining. Eight Pro Class drivers racing GT3 cars and representing four of the world’s fastest sim-racing teams: ACR, VP, Veloce, & SDL. They were joined by eight Challenger Class drivers in Touring Cars, who had to fight to earn their place vs all of the other drivers from around the world who took part in the early Qualifying Rounds. The eight Challenger finalists were; Kristian Kwietniewski, Khaki, Popsu, Mr Van Ommen, Alexander Dornieden, Pelucaa, Dalking, & Operator.
Read on below to catch-up on the incredible stories from the Finals, and find out which teams and drivers walked away with the titles and the prizes.
Race 1: NUrburgring GP
As we saw throughout the online competition, it was key in qualifying for the Pro Class pairs to help one another to find space amongst the hectic traffic in Qualifying. The ACR boys in particular were clearly giving one another a helping hand with a tow on the straights. That didn’t stop Isaac though as he grabbed pole in Pro Class for VP, and he was backed up teammate Darwin_Daume in second. In Challenger Class, Khaki took pole position ahead of ACR Mr Van Ommen.
Despite VP locking out the front row in qualifying, it was Veloce’s James Baldwin who was on his toes at the start, and he launched himself into second place. Lap one also saw a great battle between VP’s Isaac and ACR’s Jardier, which SDL Rotax quickly joined for good measure. They had a superb three-way fight all the way through the first lap. Back in the Challengers, Khaki led ahead of Mr Van Ommen and FA Dornieden as the top three Touring Cars made a break for it and pulled away from the rest of their pack.
With most of the Pro Class busy fighting for position, VP’s Darwin_Daume and Veloce Jaaames started to pull a gap at the front of the Pro Class. The pressure of the Finals was showing even for some of the experienced Pros, as the likes of Storm and Jardier made little mistakes while pushing to the limits of their AMG GT3 machines.
The race became a game of cat-and-mouse in both classes at the halfway stage, with drivers not making any silly lunges on their rivals as the laps ebbed away with the pace very closely matched throughout the field. In both classes, most drivers were trading no more than a couple of tenths of a second per lap.
WilliamsJIM Popsu and THR Dalking had a good fight in Challenger though as they frequently ran side-by-side, but showed each other plenty of respect and racing room. Pelucaa was the first driver to go for a big move. He went for a lunge on FA Kristian Kwietniewski in the chicane but outbraked himself and wound up cutting the inside apron of the corner which cost him several positions. It was an all or nothing move that didn’t pay off. Despite the close action, there was one driver beginning to dominate the Challenger race as Khaki built a 9 second lead over the course of the 30 minute sprint.
Kwietniewski continued to find himself in the thick of the action as THR Operator became the latest driver to try their luck against last year’s Logitech G Challenge winner. There was a bit of door rubbing in this fight for fifth in Challenger class, which gave Popsu a chance to sneak past Operator, and he made the most of it.
As the end of Race 1 approached, Veloce Storm joined the battle in Pro Class with SDL Bence for sixth. Bence showed his experience though and defended hard. Up at the front, the other half of team Veloce, Jaaames closed right in on Darwin_Daume as “Traffic Time” arrived. Jaaames began to put pressure on the leader as they moved through the Challenger back-markers.
THR Dalking used Traffic Time to make a genius overtake for fourth in Challenger Class as he waited for Pro driver, LeonTheSickOne to lap the other Challengers around him, and then used the space to follow Leon through and make up some positions. It was a brilliant piece of improvisation.
Jaaames made the most of the traffic in Pro Class too, and made his move to take the lead from Darwin. Issac also began to close in on the leaders as they moved through the back-markers, and Jaaames then had to survive the final few laps with the VP drivers all over his gearbox.
It was victory for Veloce Jaaames in race one of the Finals, and he was joined on the podium by the VP Drivers, with Darwin-Daume second and Isaac third. Jaaames’ teammate, Storm finished further down the order, so despite Baldwin’s race win, VP were the ones in the strongest team position heading into Race 2. The Challenger Class win was taken in dominant fashion by Khaki, ahead of ACR Mr Van Ommen and FA Dornieden.
Race 2: Road America
In Qualifying for Race 2 it quickly became clear that VP and Veloce would be the teams to beat in the race for the Pro Class crown. Isaac grabbed pole position with Veloce Jaaames in second, and Jardier was third for ACR. In Challenger class, Khaki continued his Race 1 form, and took pole ahead of FA Kwietniewski and WilliamsJIM Popsu.
Veloce Jaaames immediately took the lead of the race, but Isaac got him back just as quickly, with an amazing outside pass in turn two. Darwin_Daume had a horrible start though in the second VP Gaming car, whilst Jardier and Storm battled for third.
Later in the lap, LeonTheSickOne nudged Darwin_Daume wide which caused a chain reaction throughout the field and caught out Challenger driver, THR Dalking who lost time and positions. At the front of Challenger Class, Mr Van Ommen fought his way to the front with Kwietniewski second after Khaki had a tricky opening lap and dropped back to third. Kwietniewski and Khaki treated us to a superb battle, and Khaki made an awesome pass in the Carousel to take second.
The front two in Pro Class were also shaping up for a heated contest which would go on throughout the race, with the Pro Class title at stake. Some early door-to-door action between VP Isaac and Veloce Jaaames allowed James to get into the lead.
Kwietniewski then made a small mistake in his AMG A45 Touring Car which allowed the top two Challengers to escape as Van Ommen continued to lead with Khaki chasing him down. That didn’t last long though, as Khaki rediscovered his rhythm from Race 1, and he made the move on Van Ommen to take the lead in the race and put himself in a championship winning position in Class.
At the front of Pro Class Isaac kept in touch with Jaaames with only half a second between them for almost the entire race. Meanwhile, Dalking was pushing hard to recover from his early incident. He dropped to the back of the Challenger Class on the first lap, but he quickly climbed back up all the way to third, only to lose a couple of positions again towards the end of race..
With so many battles raging, it was hard to know where to look next! Isaac retook the lead from Jaaames with half of the race still to go, but Jaaames quickly retook the place again as they continued their epic contest. Their fight though was also allowing Jardier to close in on them behind. With this extra pressure beginning to arrive, Isaac made a beautiful move to pass Jaaames around the outside into turn one. Jaaames then lost some time in the busy few laps that followed as the leaders hit “Traffic Time” and worked their way through the Challenger back-markers. He was pushing himself incredibly hard too, and that was clear to see when he had a big slide and very nearly put his car in the wall. He did very well to save it. This was followed by a half-spin during one last push to try to retake the lead.
Isaac hung on to take the Race 2 win for VP, with Jaaames second for Veloce, and Jardier rounded out the podium in Pro Class for ACR. In Challenger Class, Khaki never looked back after he took the lead and he grabbed back-to-back race wins in the Finals. He was followed home by Mr Van Ommen and Kwietniewski.
It was a very close run thing for the Pro Class title between VP Gaming and Veloce, but after years of hard graft, it was finally VP’s moment and they won the 2019 Playseat® SMS-R Pro Series. They weren’t down as the favourites before the Finals, but they pulled it out of the bag, especially with Isaac’s remarkable Race 2 victory. It was a superb consistent performance across the whole series, and the Veloce boys gave us a great contest in the Finals too.
In the Challengers, it was a second major esports title for Khaki. He is the 2019 Playseat® SMS-R Challenger Series champion, ahead of a closely matched pack of brilliant drivers. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of the Challengers as they build on this experience to keep rising through the sim-racing esports scene.
Prizes will be transferred to the teams and drivers over the next couple of weeks.
Results & Prizes
Thank You From Slightly Mad Studios
Finally, a huge thank you from Slightly Mad Studios to everyone who helped to make this championship happen. From the SMS staff, to our partners at The Events House, Apex Online Racing, Playseat®, Mercedes-Benz World, Logitech G, and Overclockers UK. To our incredible shoutcasters; Luke “Actrollvision” Crane and Matt “Yorkie065” York. To all of the Pro Class teams, managers, and Challenger Class drivers. To everyone who entered the Qualifying Rounds, everyone who watched the races or visited the Finals, and all of the awesome fans of the Project CARS franchise.
We’ll see you for more Project CARS 2 esports action later this year.