F1 Esports driver Lucas Blakeley sprung a surprise at the 2022 Race of Champions in Sweden, by beating four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel in their head-to-head ice race.
Along with F1 Esports world champion Jarno Opmeer, Blakeley represented the “eROC All Stars” at the event. Opmeer and Blakeley won a separate eROC competition, which saw four drivers racing off in simulators and around the ice race track in Pite Havsbad driving Polaris buggies.
Blakeley had qualified through an online competition in Assetto Corsa Competizione, while Opmeer won a community fan vote as the driver people would most like to see at the event. The other two competitors were James Baldwin, the 2019 eROC champion, who won an invitational event in January, and local driver Martin Palm, winner of a competition for Swedish gamers only.
It was Blakeley who won the round in the sim, scoring six wins out of eight on virtual laps of the ROC Sweden circuit in the RX2e Rallycross cars. Baldwin placed second, having drawn with Blakeley and Opmeer, while Opmeer’s only scalp was Palm.
Real-world racing driver Baldwin struggled on the ice to place last behind Palm. Opmeer and Blakeley were evenly matched and the judging team – Goodwood Festival of Speed regulars Terry Grant, Petter Solberg, and Oliver Solberg – chose them as overall winners. Opmeer would then beat Blakeley in a race-off, but the two had booked their seats in the real ROC.
The eROC All Stars were drawn against overwhelming favourites Team Germany – Vettel and Mick Schumacher – but despite driving the real RX2e for the first time only that day, Blakeley claimed victory over Vettel by a narrow 0.08s on the course in the very first race.
Sim-racers have beaten pro drivers in ROC before. Baldwin himself beat Ruben Garcia at ROC in 2019, and Enzo Bonito triumphed over Ryan Hunter-Reay in the same event. Rudy van Buren was the first to achieve the feat, beating Timo Bernhard in ROC 2018.
However, as with those previous events, the eROC team wasn’t able to progress. Schumacher won both his heats and Vettel made amends by beating Opmeer for Germany to advance 3-1.
Porsche Esports Supercup
Porsche’s flagship esports competition, the Porsche Esports Supercup, had a slightly different look last weekend. VRS Coanda Simsport withdrew five of its drivers, including the 2021 top two of Joshua Rogers and Mitchell deJong – though other Coanda drivers like Charlie Collins and Kevin Ellis (3rd and 4th in 2021) would continue.
That left a relatively open field and an opportunity for 2020 champion Sebastian Job, but it was still a Coanda 1-2 in qualifying at Hockenheim as Dayne Warren - 2021 GT World Challenge Asia champion - beat Collins by 0.17s, despite the top 20 only being split by half a second. Unsurprisingly Warren translated that advantage to a relatively comfortable victory in the nine-lap race, leading the front four of Collins, Diogo, Pinto and Job home in the order they started. However, that meant Warren would start eighth in the reverse-grid feature race, while eighth-place finisher Moreno Sirica would start on pole alongside Jeremy Bouteloup.
Williams driver Sirica’s lead didn’t even survive to the first corner, as he found himself on the outside of the track and had to run wide to make the corner, dropping down to tenth almost immediately. Job’s chances of another good points finish ended at the hairpin on lap two, as a nudge from Pinto – himself tapped from behind by Collins – resulted in the Red Bull driver’s Porsche facing the wrong way on the infield.
Professional Porsche Supercup driver Ayhancan Guven then hit the front, taking advantage of a bold move from Quentin Vialatte to pass team-mate Bouteloup in a move that covered most of the stadium section. Bouteloup then found himself shuffled back as Pinto, Collins, and Warren all passed at the hairpin. Warren and Pinto then tripped over each other, sending Pinto down the order, but both Collins and Warren picked up drive-through penalties for track limits to put Bouteloup and Graham Carroll onto the podium. That all allowed Guven enough space to take his first win in PESC, while Carroll managed to grab second from Bouteloup.
ROKiT Racing Star
The next generation of esports racers – and potentially pro drivers – took to the track in the first round of ROKiT Racing Star, a series which will award one male and one female driver a seat in British F4 in 2023.
With only four cars starting on the “girls” grid, it was polesitter Monica Boulton Ramos who took a lights-to-flag win at the Silverstone GP circuit, beating Macie Hitter by a comfortable four second margin.
Although the “boys” grid was better attended, with a full 20-car field, the result was the same. After setting the fastest lap in qualifying by 0.3s, Dylan Warren took the race win despite the early attentions of Kai Bachini – who later disconnected from the race – by five seconds from Liam McNeilly.
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