Alejandro Sánchez wins first race of 2024 in Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup Mid-Season Tournament at Watkins Glen

After three weeks of Sebastian Job domination, the 2024 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup returned on Saturday with a special format, tense racing, and a different winner in Alejandro Sánchez. Only 15 of the 30 top-rated iRacing Porsche Cup drivers started the Feature at Watkins Glen International on Saturday. The other 14 that made the trip to virtual upstate New York were eliminated through failing to advance through the five Heat races or the sole Consolation race.

Sánchez (Stormforce Racing) made his move for the overall win from the third spot with half the race remaining. Ahead of him, Luke McKeown (Apex Racing Team) and Zac Campbell (VRS Coanda) battled for the lead. With the Classic layout of Watkins Glen bypassing the Inner Loop, the trio dove into the Carousel, three-wide, with Sánchez barely edging Campbell by the center of the corner. McKeown, the TAG Heuer Pole Award recipient, held alongside down the straight, but into Turn 6, Sánchez was able to clear. McKeown gave it one last shot on the final lap, but Sánchez held on for his first win of the 2024 season.

“It was nice, finally being able to grab a win,” said Sánchez post-race. “I couldn’t have done it without Luke (McKeown). We got checked up when I took over the lead. I had to go three-wide on the outside… I was a bit scared. Then, we just played it perfect… Thanks to the team.”

Watkins Glen marks the seventh Sprint or Feature race victory for Sánchez since his first in 2020. With an additional win in Heat #2, Sánchez vaults to fourth in the standings, 86 points behind Oracle Red Bull Sim Racing’s Job for the championship lead. Sánchez also pockets $4,000 for winning the main event of the first-ever Mid-Season Tournament.

HEAT RACES: For the first time in the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup, a Mid-Season Tournament format took center stage. Instead of the usual Sprint and Feature race format, the drivers would instead face five Heat races and a Consolation race, with half of the entries eliminated before the Feature.

McKeown became the first driver not named Sebastian Job to win a TAG Heuer Pole Award this season, sniping it from his teammate Yohann Harth by 0.009 seconds. From the results of qualifying, the field was split into five Heats of up-to-six drivers. Only the top 2 advanced from the Heats, with the remaining three or four drivers moving into a Consolation.

McKeown was able to win the first Heat to keep his pole position for the Feature. Cooper Webster (Oracle Red Bull Sim Racing) held on to second for the majority of the three-lap dash, but on the final lap, Luca Kita (Stormforce Racing) took a shove into the Carousel from his teammate, Michael Janney, and nearly took the lead. McKeown fought back for the win as Kita advanced with a runner-up finish.

Heat #2 got a bit more physical. On the opening lap, Moreno Sirica was forced into the tire barriers exiting the Carousel. Sánchez was mired in the middle of the field, behind Harth and Oscar Py (VRS Coanda). By the end of it, Sánchez was victorious, advancing with Harth to the Feature as Py was sent to the Consolation.

The third Heat was more straightforward, with Zac Campbell and the defending series champion, Jordan Caruso (Altus Esports) in the top 2 throughout. Williams Esports’ Parker White gave Caruso a few fits through the short stint, but came up short on the final lap.

In the fourth Heat, Job started in second, but contact with Julien Soenen (VRS Coanda) in Turn 1 moved him to the back of the field. As Mathias Stokbæk Jensen (FYRA Simsport) ran away with the victory, it came down to the final corners as to who would advance. Job managed to take it after Salva Talens (Stormforce Racing), Dino Lombardi (Altus Esports) and Sam Kuitert (Team Redline) all got a little too close.

The final Heat pinned Alessandro Bico (Williams Esports) against a pair of Team Redline drivers for the two transfers. Bico led the way as Diogo Pinto and Gustavo Ariel plotted their attack. On the final lap, the two Team Redline machines pushed to get Pinto out front, but off of the final corner, Bico managed to hang on just barely for the second and final transfer spot over Ariel.

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup Mid-Season Tournament Heat Race Transfers:

  • Heat #1
    1. Luke McKeown
    2. Luca Kita
  • Heat #2
    1. Alejandro Sánchez
    2. Yohann Harth
  • Heat #3
    1. Zac Campbell
    2. Jordan Caruso
  • Heat #4
    1. Mathias Stokbæk Jensen
    2. Sebastian Job
  • Heat #5
    1. Diogo C. Pinto
    2. Alessandro Bico

CONSOLATION RACE: 19 drivers placed into the last chance Consolation race, sorted by their Heats and where they finished. Cooper Webster and Oscar Py led the field into the first corner with five spots still left to determine in the Feature race.

Webster went on to win it handedly, but the battle behind was fierce. Simone Maria Marcenò (Altus Esports) started in a transfer spot, but slid out of contention around halfway. Janney moved into a spot to take it, but he wound up involved in a day-ending crash. Matti Sipilä (Sontek Racing) made the right moves, climbing from eighth to second to advance. Py and Kuitert also held on for the transfer spots, but the fifth and final one  would come down to inches. Lombardi gave everything he had, but Ariel held on for the final spot.

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup Mid-Season Tournament LCQ Transfers:

    1. Cooper Webster
    2. Matti Sipilä
    3. Oscar Py
    4. Sam Kuitert
    5. Gustavo Ariel

FEATURE RACE: With only 15 cars on track for a 16-lap Feature, it was anyone’s guess as to who would come up with the victory. McKeown led early with Sánchez and last year’s winner, Campbell, keeping the battle close. Behind them, things were at a boiling point between championship competitors. Back in ninth, Job was as far back as he’s been all season long. Making moves on Caruso, the two leaned on one another, eventually resulting in harder contact that sent the points leader out of line and further back in the running order.

Job’s day continued to be a struggle as he faced off against Harth as well. For a solid lap, the two bounced off of one another. Harth wound up exceeding the incident limit and was forced to pit for a penalty, ending his chances. Job continued on, finally settling in for an eighth place finish behind Caruso in seventh.

Up front, Campbell didn’t have the same help he utilized to win a year ago. Regardless, he still tried as he might to take the lead on Lap 9. As it turned out, Sánchez was also attempting to get back by for what he expected to just be second place. The trio of leaders went three-wide into the Carousel, Sánchez eventually leapfrogging to the top spot, where he would stay for the remainder.

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup Mid-Season Tournament Feature results from Watkins Glen were as follows:

Fin.

St.

No.

Driver

Laps

Interval

Led

Best

Pts.

1247Alejandro Sánchez160.00081:06.13275
2196Luke McKeown16-0.14681:06.10680
3544Diogo C. Pinto16-0.20501:06.02165
4315Zac Campbell16-0.37801:06.03168
51077Alessandro Bico16-0.74501:05.82058
6616Luca Kita16-0.80701:05.83053
781Jordan Caruso16-1.22901:05.80150
8922Sebastian Job16-2.05901:05.81748
91512Gustavo Ariel16-2.11201:05.99044
101137Cooper Webster16-3.03701:05.95142
111428Sam Kuitert16-3.30301:06.08140
121354Oscar Py16-13.68301:06.81838
131211Matti Sipilä16-46.48101:05.96134
14457Mathias Stokbæk Jensen15-1L01:06.01743
15790Yohann Harth13DNF01:05.68142

*Post-race points penalties have not yet been applied

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup points through Round 4 are as follows:

  1. Sebastian Job, 278
  2. Diogo C. Pinto, 245
  3. Luke McKeown, 231
  4. Alejandro Sánchez, 192
  5. Yohann Harth, 179
  6. Jordan Caruso, 162
  7. Cooper Webster, 160
  8. Zac Campbell, 157
  9. Gustavo Ariel, 153
  10. Chris Lulham, 140

Job maintains a 33-pont lead over Pinto, who finished in third. McKeown scored the most points on the weekend, staying in third but now only 47 points back. Sánchez is just a point more than a full race awards behind Job, 86, with three events to go in the season. Harth, despite his mid-race retirement, rounds out the top five.

ALL-STARS: Following three weeks of GTP racing in the Porsche 963, the PESC All-Stars took on their first race of the season in the same car as the Supercup, the Porsche 992 Cup car. 14 All-Stars took the trip to upstate New York for the normal Sprint and Feature race lineup. Surprisingly, Casey Kirwan did not collect the pole, that honor falling to Keny500 by 0.036 seconds. Kirwan started alongside, but both were jumped by Daniel Gray by the end of the first lap.

Kirwan rode behind Gray until the moment was right, but as he made his move, Keny500 also took a look. Three-wide into the Carousel, Kirwan prevailed and once again took another Sprint win, his fifth win overall on the season.

Borja Zazo inverted to the pole position for the Feature, but Kirwan again would not be denied. From the last starting spot, Kirwan worked into the conversation with a few laps remaining. The Pulpo Lopez fought for the lead alongside Zazo, taking it just before Kirwan arrived. Again, Kirwan ran in the leader’s tire tracks, waiting for the right moment to pounce. As he pulled away, Zazo and Lopez tangled, allowing for Keny500 to also return to the front for another second place finish to Kirwan.

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports All-Stars Sprint results from Watkins Glen were as follows:

  1. Casey Kirwan
  2. Keny500
  3. Daniel Gray
  4. Quirkitized
  5. Sampsoid

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports All-Stars Feature results from Watkins Glen were as follows:

  1. Casey Kirwan
  2. Keny500
  3. Stradi
  4. Grizzle
  5. Sampsoid

Even after missing Le Mans two weeks ago, Kirwan maintains a huge gap over Lopez with three races remaining. 2022’s champion, Quirkitized, moves into third while Keny500 and Grizzle round out the top five.

Porsche TAG Heuer Esports All-Stars points through Round 4 are as follows:

  1. Casey Kirwan, 142
  2. The Pulpo Lopez, 108
  3. Quirkitized, 90
  4. Keny500, 87
  5. Grizzle, 86

The Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup series takes another week off before returning for the fifth race of the 2024 season at the Red Bull Ring on March 16th. Coverage begins that Saturday at 18:00 GMT (2PM ET) with the Porsche All-Stars kicking off the show, again in the Porsche 992 Cup GT3. After the All-Stars, the Supercup begins at 19:00 GMT (3PM ET).

For more information on the 2024 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup season, visit www.iracing.com/pesc. For more information on iRacing and for special offers, visit www.iracing.com.