Esports WRC Finalists Confirmed After Dramatic Final Round | FOS Future Lab
The ten drivers for the Esports World Rally Championship Final in Greece next month are now confirmed following the 13th and final race of the regular season.
Some of the field booked their places in previous events, with 2020 champion Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle first to do so back at Rally Kenya in June after a dominant run of six straight wins. John Bebnowicz-Harris won the following round at Estonia to reserve his spot, before the controversial penultimate round at Rally Finland.
A number of drivers, including Abi Nakhle and three-time champion Lohan Blanc were disqualified following illegal cuts, allowing Michael Krol to take the win. However Blanc still qualified for the finals due to other drivers’ results, along with Kazuho Iwata and Panagiotis Zeniou. With drivers permitted to scratch their worst result, that left seven racing for the last three spots in the final round at, appropriately enough, Rally Greece.
Although drivers tackle the stages individually, at home, each is only allowed a limited number of runs, and only their fastest time of the five attempts counts. Each has free choice over the car they use, and it was the Toyota Yaris that dominated the leaderboard. Regular season points leader Abi Nakhle could only place in third, with Blanc and Bebnowicz-Harris down in seventh and eighth in the lone Hyundais. The surprise winner was Marco Bottinelli, taking a relatively comfortable seven-second victory, and putting him up to fifth in the overall standings, qualifying for the finals. Rally runner-up Rodrigo Fuentes couldn’t qualify though, finishing four points back from Zeniou in eighth overall, with Krol and Lilian Richard able to score enough to sneak through in sixth and seventh.
These eight drivers will now head to Greece for a live final at the Athens Olympic Complex on 7th and 8th September, ahead of the real-world Acropolis Rally.
The official esports series of V8 Supercars will go down to the wire with the sixth and final race at Oran Park next weekend, following a chaotic endurance race at Bathurst that saw two of the championship favourites in trouble.
This series runs a pair of championships, with Esports drivers running in the Pro series and real-world V8 Supercars and Dunlop Super2 Series drivers in the All Star event. The two groups of drivers also share cars for two endurance races, scoring points for their respective events.
Defending two-time champion Dayne Warren hasn’t had the best season after winning the opening round, but was back in form in qualifying to take provisional pole position by more than a tenth of a second from Jordan Caruso.
The top five teams then entered the superpole shootout with the All Star drivers, and it was Reuben Goodall who took the session by just under a tenth from Aaron Borg. Warren’s team mate Jayden Ojeda was on for a decent time but lost the car under braking at The Chase. It only got worse for Warren and Ojeda, as Ojeda disconnected from the race barely a third of the way in. Warren was able to jump into the car but was a lap down and all but assured of last place. Only two laps later though, the same issue affected Cooper Murray, the pro team-mate of championship leader Jake Burton. Again, Burton was able to join the race himself – being already prepared to do so as the cars approached the pit stop window – but tumbled down the order. A late safety car saw the pack close up giving Burton the opportunity to recover some points, climbing to tenth place by the chequered flag and recover some points.
At the front though it was the unbeatable endurance combination of Jarrad Filsell and Brodie Kostecki who took victory. This pairing also won the Sandown endurance race earlier in the season as well as the Bathurst event in 2021. Despite finishing in second place, the big winners were Borg and Madison Down. Down now leaps into the Pro championship lead with one round remaining, five points ahead of Filsell, with Burton now 32 points further back. In the All-Stars event, Kostecki has an almost unassailable 140-point lead, with 150 for each race win.
The eNASCAR regular season is also reaching its closing stages, with a final chance for racers to book their playoff spots at Darlington Raceway in two weeks.
Mitchell deJong was the latest driver to pencil his name in, after a first win of the season in last week’s event at the Watkins Glen road circuit. After qualifying fourth, deJong caught and passed fellow road course-specialist Bobby Zalenski just over a quarter of the way through, and powered on to take the victory.
With one race remaining, deJong is one of only nine drivers to have a race win and a top 20 points score, and should qualify for the playoffs alongside former champions Nick Ottinger and Michael Conti, and Steven Wilson, Casey Kirwan, Matt Bussa, and Graham Bowlin.