Through a mightily combative series against Williams Esports, Unicorns of Love emerged triumphant on Day 1 of the Esports Racing World Cup’s 2023 edition.
Day 2 would take the action from Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC) to rFactor 2, a move which no doubt had Team Redline rubbing its hands together.
The reigning champions, having come away from its weakest sim of the three with a finals appearance in the pocket, could not have believed its luck up until this point. Hopes were up in spite of not making the showdown 24 hours prior.
Conversely, Unicorns of Love had, in theory, already enjoyed its platform of choice. Having not posted many successful outings on either rFactor 2 or iRacing across 2022, its results from here on out were projected to dip. In addition, Apex Racing Team (who were expected to play rival to Redline) couldn’t hit their targets in ACC; dropping at the semi-final stage.
All this set-dressing pointed to an intriguing tournament ahead.
The story so far
Unsurprisingly, Redline dominated both the Heat and Upper Quarter-Final stages. Joining them in the Finals through the Upper Bracket would be BS+ Competition and the proverbial bridesmaids of rFactor 2, R8G Esports.
Unicorns of Love was forced to take the long way through the semi-final but was easily the strongest outfit during that race.
Apex Racing Team endured yet more strife failing to make the finals yet again. Irrespective of who eventually would feature in the showdown, this practically ruled one of the pre-tournament favourites out of World Cup contention.
In its place stood Veloce Esports and Burst Esport. Williams could not follow up its strong showing on ACC, being one of the first three teams eliminated on Saturday.
With such a strong string of results already behind them, it surprised nobody to see all three Redline cars in the top six of the starting grid.
Enzo Bonito lay second, Kevin Siggy and Jeffrey Rietveld owned the third row. The next best-off team was that of the pole sitter, Ferris Stanley. His nearest BS+ team-mate, Rainer Talvar, started from seventh but would need to be wary of R8G’s Thibault Cazaubon right behind.
This part of the narrative should have become all the more important when third-positioned Marcell Csincsik shot his R8G-adorned Infiniti Q50 past Stanley through the Senna S, shadowing new race leader Bonito. Unfortunately, Cazaubon jumped the start putting pain to R8G’s progression plan.
All the more heartbreaking was Csincsik’s wonderful pace. Enough lay in the tank to pass Bonito and a mistake with two minutes to go saw the Italian repassed by Stanley. The Indonesian’s recovery drive was more than enough to help BS+ secure a perhaps unlikely spot in the showdown against ominous Redline opponents.
Showdown – Race 1
A hero can go to zero in a scarily small amount of time, a fact that Stanley found out to his detriment in Showdown qualifying. From a showstopper pole position to last on the grid, his disappointment was made all the worse by Redline locking out the front half of the grid.
Lucky for the Blue Zebras, Siggy’s exit out of the Senna S was compromised which allowed leading pilot Ibraheem Khan and the fast-starting Stanley through into third and fourth place respectively.
Rietveld and Bonito exchanged places halfway through as Khan maintained his strong assault on the pair. It was a punchy, thrilling duel between him and the Italian until it all got a bit too much and Khan found himself pit manoeuvred at Bico de Pato. Regardless of the outcome, Talvar’s naive attempt on Siggy later on ruled out any chance of penalty points making an impact.
Race 1 was Redline’s but perhaps Stanley could have been more tactically astute. The Indonesian crossed the line second when he was well within his rights to cheekily slow down and pick up fourth instead. It could have been a reverse grid pole position.
Showdown – Race 2
As it was, Stanley instead started Race 2 from third though it ultimately did not matter as another poor getaway saw him drop to fourth within seconds. Rietveld, who had won the first contest, now lay third and demonstrated a pretty clear mandate – hold up BS+ as much as you can.
The bottleneck was too suffocating for Stanley’s liking, a failed move dropping him behind Khan. Unabashed aggression has become something of a trademark for the Englishman during his career and the pressure somewhat paid off. A genuine opportunity opened to pass the Dutchman with one lap to go until BS+ combusted in spectacular fashion.
Rietveld attempted to hold position around the outside into the Senna S. Contact with Khan bounced Ibraheem off the road but his rejoin lacked total spatial awareness, managing to collect all three cars still travelling through Turn 3. It produced a good laugh from the trio unfancied in this Showdown but it just served to exaggerate how far behind Redline they were.
A sweep for Siggy, Bonito and Rietveld with twelve massive World Cup points in hand. Now tied with Unicorns of Love and heading onto iRacing, it was hard to argue that anybody could stop it from retaining its title.
ESPORTS RACING WORLD CUP II 2023, DAY 2, rFactor 2 RUNNER-UP
- Ferris Stanley
- Ibraheem Khan
- Rainer Talvar
ESPORTS RACING WORLD CUP II 2023, DAY 2, rFactor 2 WINNERS
- Kevin Siggy
- Enzo Bonito
- Jeffrey Rietveld