It’s been an exciting past 12 months for Diogo Pinto no matter how you look at them. In that time frame, not only did he hang on to win the 2022 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup title through a consistent season, but he also took the Skip Barber Formula iRacing Series championship to earn a real-world race seat for events coming later this year.
So, what do you do for an encore? For Pinto, the obvious answer is attempting to defend his PESC crown—and he took a big step towards doing that on Saturday with a feature victory at Circuit of the Americas. Despite a disappointing 10th place qualifying run, Pinto climbed to eighth place in the sprint race, lined up for the main event on pole thanks to the eight-car invert, and held off some spirited challenges from Jordan Caruso on the final lap of the 16-lap headliner to take his first main event win of the year by just .172 seconds. Top qualifier and sprint race winner Alejandro Sanchez would claw his way back up to third to complete the podium, benefitting from late-race drama between Maximilian Benecke and Jamie Fluke.
Caruso, for his part, has been the class of the field for much of the year, and his new status as points leader proves it. In all four rounds so far, he’s finished within the top eight in both the sprint and feature races, thanks in part to two poles and the ability to avoid the incidents that have befallen most of his title rivals at least once. His biggest hurdle will be to take a victory, something that former points leader Charlie Collins already did in the Magny-Cours feature; ironically enough, part of the reason why Caruso was able to take the points lead was because Pinto fought his way past Collins for eighth in the closing laps of the sprint race, and Collins could only fight his way back to fifth in the feature without the benefit of the invert.
On the All-Star side of things, top real-world racers and Twitch streamers traded in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars for the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, and it was series newcomer Pablo “Pulpo” Lopez and defending eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion Casey Kirwan who traded blows all race long. Lopez qualified on pole, but Kirwan fought his way past for the sprint race win, and both drivers came from all the way in the back on the fully inverted feature grid. Lopez got the best of Kirwan in that one, though, while former All-Star champion Emily “Emree” Jones completed the podium in both races.
Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup feature results from Circuit of the Americas were as follows:
|1||1||1||Diogo C. Pinto||16||0.000||16||2:09.371||63|
|16||26||27||Simone Maria Marcenò||16||-12.126||0||2:09.487||10|
|17||17||92||Mathias Stokbæk Jensen||16||-13.252||0||2:09.662||13|
Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup points through four rounds are as follows:
- Jordan Caruso, 253
- Charlie Collins, 243
- Diogo Pinto, 204
- Sebastian Job, 190
- Cooper Webster, 161
- Alejandro Sanchez, 158
- Yohann Harth, 145
- Zac Campbell, 123
- Alessandro Bico, 104
- Jamie Fluke, 98
The 2023 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup season returns to Europe for the halfway round of the campaign, heading back to the Red Bull Ring in Austria as Collins and Sebastian Job look to defend their wins from last year. Coverage will kick off on Saturday, April 1 at 18:00 GMT (2PM ET) with the All-Star action, before the pros do battle at 19:00 GMT (3PM ET).
Images via Porsche Motorsport