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Ferrari Esports Series: Riley earns works drive in nail-biting Grand Final

Ferrari Esports Series - Jonathan Riley earns works drive in nail-biting Grand Final

Jonathan Riley has swept to victory in the 2022 Ferrari Esports Series, and picking up a job at Maranello in the process.

There was a real sense of grandeur about the Ferrari Velas Esports Series of 2022. Although the same prize as the previous season was on the line, the LAN environment and unique nature of the Grand Final made it feel like a worthy conclusion to one of sim racing’s truly life-changing championships.

A contract with the Ferrari Esports Team and move to Maranello would be secured following a succession of ‘challenges’ for one of the six remaining drivers in the competition.

First, a qualifying session, then a test of consistency. More traditional means of gathering points would ensue as the drivers would be faced with a wet race, a regular race and a reverse grid race at night. 

As if that wasn’t enough on their plates, the pilots would be judged by a panel of three, each with ten points to give out amongst who they felt performed the best – irrespective of the result.

In theory, this was a nice touch to avoid incidents negatively affecting the hopes of an innocent party.

Challenge #1 

Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first destination for the six who took to 488 GT3s in a qualifying session but with major points on the line.

Five minutes into the fifteen total, British driver Jonathan Riley found himself in first. His pace was undoubted but he had just about done enough after misfortune to make it past the EU Regional Final stage

Christopher Severt, Ferrari Esports Series 2022

Mérick Lévêque slotted into second halfway through the session deposing early leader Michael Romagnoli. The Italian would slide further down the order thanks to the efforts of Chris Severt.

These would be the final positions come the end of the challenge with the biggest surprise being Brandon Hawkin who had dominated the US Regional Final. A very disappointing last place was not what anyone was expecting.

  1. Jonathan Riley
  2. Mérick Lévêque
  3. Christopher Severt
  4. Michael Romagnoli
  5. Marcin Świderek
  6. Brandon Hawkin

Challenge #2

The Circuit of the Americas was next up along with the first switch to the Challenge Evo in Assetto Corsa Competizione, mixing content from both the recent American Track Pack and Challengers Pack.

A ‘Pace Test’ was an interesting concept devised to analyse what consistent race runs would look like for the drivers. A reference time of a 2:11.800 was given to the six who would run a five-lap stint with the aim of hitting as close to that target as possible each time round. 

Falling down the order over the first challenge’s duration, Romagnoli displayed exactly why he had become a consistent threat in the Ferrari Esports Series over two years and the recent Alpine Esports competition.

Picking up maximum points, he led Lévêque and Severt on the ‘podium’. Riley lost ground finishing fifth whilst Hawkin struggled once again.

  1. Michael Romagnoli
  2. Mérick Lévêque
  3. Christopher Severt
  4. Marcin Świderek
  5. Jonathan Riley
  6. Brandon Hawkin

Challenge #3

Racing in full wet conditions at the Nürburgring is either the stuff of dreams or nightmares depending on who you ask.

Hopping back into the GT3 machinery, Severt landed pole position ahead of Riley. Now at the top of the points standings, Lévêque struggled only managing fifth on the grid just ahead of Hawkin. 

Trackside was truly treacherous as Riley proved to his peril, nearly throwing it into the gravel at Turn 7 on the opening lap. With such difficulty in simply trying to keep a car on the track and go fast, it was no surprise that overtaking was not a big feature in this challenge.

Mérick Lévêque leads Brandon Hawkin, Ferrari Esports Series 2022

Swiderek was the closest to making a move on third-placed Romagnoli but lost his chance through contact with the Italian at the Mercedes Arena. The Polish pilot was able to recover back up to fifth past the desperate Hawkin but that was as far as he got. 

A big win for Severt who took the lead of the Grand Finals. Despite finishing third on the road, Romagnoli was punished for his part in the Swiderek incident promoting Lévêque to third.

  1. Christopher Severt
  2. Jonathan Riley
  3. Mérick Lévêque
  4. Michael Romagnoli
  5. Marcin Świderek
  6. Brandon Hawkin

Challenge #4, Race 1

Moving to Imola with the Challenge Evos was potentially a good omen for Riley who drove superbly in the EU Regional version of this scenario. Once again he would be bested in qualifying by Severt who aimed to create a meaningful distance in the standings as well as on track.

Despite undergoing a rolling start, Riley’s launch was lightening. The Brit led the pack through Tamburello with Severt fending off Lévêque. By the second lap, the leading pair had bolted leaving the Canadian to fend off the bottom half of the field. Romagnoli launched his strike early, falling short and losing a position in the process. 

Jonathan Riley leads Christopher Severt, Ferrari Esports Series 2022

Lévêque eventually found good speed again, leaving Swiderek to squabble with those behind. A mistake through the Alta chicane halfway through the race did not help, leading to a very messy descent into Rivazza as Romagnoli tried to capitalise and tangle with the Pole.  

Leading since the first lap, Riley converted giving himself the perfect platform to try and fight from the back in the dead of night for the final race of the day.

  1. Jonathan Riley
  2. Christopher Severt
  3. Mérick Lévêque
  4. Marcin Świderek
  5. Brandon Hawkin
  6. Michael Romagnoli

Challenge #4, Race 2

Finally on the front row, Hawkin reminded everyone of why he was here with a brave move around the outside of pole sitter Romagnoli through Tamburello. Riley, meanwhile, managed to do even better; cleaving through the slow-starting Swiderek and Lévêque with ease to grab fourth place early doors. 

A bump from Lévêque sent Romagnoli round giving Riley yet another two places before the second lap had even started.

With Severt hot on his tail, Riley pursued Hawkin for a solid fifteen minutes before finally, an overtaking chance presented itself. Through the Tamburello Chicane, Riley had done it but the vociferous Severt spied an opportunity for himself. Launching past Hawkin, he made contact with Riley into Villeneuve.

The Brit did a superb job skipping across the gravel and rejoining in the lead whilst behind it all kicked off. Severt’s chance had come and gone, wrangled back into the clutches of those who had just watched the clash. Riley’s gap continued to extend until the chequered flag flew.

With the votes from the judges in, Riley was confirmed as the new Ferrari Velas Esports Series champion!

  1. Jonathan Riley
  2. Mérick Lévêque
  3. Christopher Severt
  4. Marcin Świderek
  5. Michael Romagnoli
  6. Brandon Hawkin

Images: Ferrari Esports

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