The flat tarmac roads of Belgium provided an interesting challenge for our WRC Esports competitors. The narrow, winding country roads are punctuated with huge cuts and 90-degree turns, full stops ready to punish the unwary.
For the third time in five events – and the second consecutive rally – Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle emerged victorious, sealing a small advantage of 0.0578s over his closest competitor this season – rookie Kazuho Iwata (Kazunokota).
Located in the ancient town of Ypres, Rally Belgium was originally scheduled to stage a round of the WRC in 2020, but thanks to Covid-19 restrictions it only made its debut in 2021. The rally was added to the WRC Esports calendar for the first time. this year thanks to the October 2021 WRC10 update.
With only two stages on the program – Zonnebeke and Kemmelberg Reverse – the drivers had to make the most of their 19 km of racing. WRC Esports competitors have five chances to race the officially timed stages, so it is possible to work on the setup and racing lines until the event deadline.
On Sunday – the day before the rally ended – Iwata had a two-second lead. However, drawing inspiration from his inspiring victories in Sweden and Wales, Sami-Joe regrouped to put in one last heroic run, claiming victory by the narrowest of margins.
Away from the tight head battle, there was surprise and controversy. The surprise came from 2021 WRC Esports Grand Final winner Lohan Blanc (Nexl), who failed to crack the top ten. The Frenchman struggled to make it home in eleventh, losing contact with the top two in the championship battle.
He could, however, fare slightly better than his Race Clutch teammate Lilian Richard (Kriim) as he is currently under investigation by the Stewards. This could lead to the disqualification of the fourth from Rally Wales GB.
But it wasn’t all bad news for Race Clutch as the ever consistent John Bebnowicz-Harris (Izamusing) took the last step on the podium, closing in on White in the final standings. That’s three podium places in as many rallies for the Briton, contributing to Race Clutch’s narrow lead over Iwata’s Erally riders in the team standings.
The next round of the 2022 WRC Esports Championship will join the real WRC field at Rally Croatia, April 15-18, and is open to anyone with a copy of WRC10 on Xbox, PlayStation or PC.
With Sami-Joe seemingly in top form and one point closer to Iwata in the championship, the question is, can anyone stop him?
WRC ESPORTS 2022, ROUND 5 RESULTS
- eR Kazunokota
- RC Izamusing
- Wil Botti Jr.
- Newt Katana
- RC Krim
- VBR Hujda