Virtual racing is becoming more popular and is set to become a mainstay in the esports realm. Sam Nussey/Reuters

Sim driver Marcell Csincsik became the very first winner of the ESL R1 Major with the 2023 Spring Season concluding just days ago. ESL formed a partnership with Rennsport to deliver a virtual racing tournament with the hope of elevating sim racing and revolutionising racing culture in this digital era.

The 2023 Spring campaign kicked off with 48 players in February with the regular stage of the campaign and the first two rounds were held live at the IEM Expo in Katowice, Poland. A further six rounds took place online throughout this year before the Major took place from June 3 to June 4 in Germany.

Csincsik, competing as part of the R8G eSports team, beat out the top 24 drivers of the season at the live two-day Major event held in Munich, Germany at the Rennsport Summit. The Hungarian reached a total of 240 points to emerge as the tournament champion and walked home with a prize of €45,000.

Csincsik spoke on his victory with pure joy and shock, saying: "Absolutely amazing feeling, I was expecting somebody else to win – not me, the underdog. 48 drivers around the world and it's absolutely crazy that it's me on the top. I want to thank my family, my team, just everyone."

There was British representation near the top of the final Drivers Championship standings as Luke Bennett came in second place with a prize of €20,000 and third place went to James Baldwin who earned €12,500. Also, Bennett was a member of Team Redline, who came out on top in the Team Championship standings with a prize worth €45,000.

Bennett had a solid campaign overall, often dominating the early rounds of the Spring Season along with Australian driver Joshua Rogers, who was a player for Porsche Coanada. Rogers ultimately finished in 4th place in the final standings with a prize of €8000.

The first day of the Major saw the best 24 drivers from the earlier rounds in the regular part of the campaign be split into two separate groups and they competed against one another in eight races.

After the first day of the Major, 12 racers were eliminated and the other 12 advanced to the final day of the campaign where they would have to reach Finalist Mode by getting 160 points, before winning another race to become champion for the 2023 ESL R1 Spring Season.

Csincsik began the second day of the Major in fine form reaching Finalist Mode first before Baldwin, Rogers, Bennett and Ireland's Daire McCormack also did and earned a shot at the title. However, Csincsik proved too strong for his opponents and emerged as the winner of the Major and the season outright.

McCormack finished fifth in the Drivers Championship with a prize of €6000 whilst Erhan Jajovski of North Macedonia came in sixth with a prize of €5000. The seventh to twelfth-ranked players earned between €2000 and €3500 and included Kevin Siggy from the Netherlands, Moritz Lohner of Germany, Jiri Toman of the Czech Republic, Enzo Bonito of Italy, Joni Tormala of Finland and Marko Pejic of Croatia.

CEO of Csincsik's team, R8G eSports, Romain Grosjean, touched on the event and praised all involved. He stated: "What a show! What a season! What an event in Munich. Congrats to Marcell for the Driver title, to R8G for the second place in the Team standings, and to ESL for having created such a great virtual racing event."

As Grosjean mentioned, R8G eSports finished in second place in the Team Championship standings despite Csincsik's victory whilst Porsche Coanada finished third, MOUZ finished fourth and Mercedes-AMG came fifth. Williams came in sixth, G2 Esports came seventh, Apex Racing team finished eighth, Heroic came ninth, Furia followed in tenth, BMW M Team (BS+) came eleventh and FaZe Clan finished in twelfth and last place.

The total prize pool of this year's ESL R1 Spring Season was among the most lucrative for a virtual racing competition with half being allocated to the individual Drivers Championship and the other half going to the Team Championship.

A second ESL R1 campaign is set to take place later this year in the fall with the 48 drivers from the Spring Season continuing to race one another. The Major for the second campaign will take place in November at DreamHack Winter 2023, which is an event set to be held at the Elmia Congress & Concert Hall in Jonkoping, Sweden.

DreamHack Winter is an existing gaming convention where competitive matches involving major titles such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Fortnite and Rainbow Six occur.

Virtual racing is set to reach greater heights this year as it will be merged with real-world racing due to Racing Prodigy, who have launched the Prodigy Racing League, and numerous tournaments will take place with the first arriving later this month.

Elsewhere in esports, the most profitable game to play was recently revealed as Dota 2 as prize pools for the game's tournaments have been in the region of £415,000 and the total prize pool for the game last year across all competitions was just shy of £27 million.