Friday 18th June. The rFactor 2 GT Pro Series has seen its third champion in Jan von der Heyde crowned in a thrilling title contest against Dennis Jordan. With the foundations set for high-level sim racing competition, it was about time that the tin tops found an open-wheeler counterpart.
Enter the Formula Pro Series.
Boasting a $25,000 prize pool and featuring the respected promotion and relegation system of its sister series, it was a great start to fuel intrigue. Yet, to make the Teams’ Championship the primary source of the contest was straight-up fascinating. No longer would it be individual drivers under threat but the very outfits they raced for.
All of this alongside the prospect of getting to grips with a brand new vehicle designed specifically with the Formula Pro Series in mind. Appetites. Whet.
Quantity of Quality
I think everyone here at Traxion.GG was eagerly awaiting the reveal of the entry list for this inaugural season. There was already a good idea of what teams might feature but would any new drivers disinterested in the GT Pro Series step up to the plate for this single-seater experience? Boy did they.
A stand-put entrant was Bono Huis; the rightfully feared multiple FSR champion, respected amongst the best sim racers in the world. Headlining an eye-catching Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports lineup alongside the up-and-coming Marko Pejic, they would surely be a team at the sharp end of things. The Dutchman is also contracted to Team Redline who fielded their own cars to be piloted by Jeffrey Rietveld and a driver earning the nickname of ‘The Machine’, Kevin ‘Siggy’ Rebernak.
Other names of note were Burst Esports, Varga Sim Racing and Red Bull Racing Esports bringing their GT lineups over – Jernej Simončič the pick of the bunch. R8G Esports would also be ones to look out for following Erhan Jajovski’s last gasp loss of the Formula E: Accelerate title back in March.
Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone Circuit and the Nürburgring were first up on the six-round calendar. All three classic tracks for Formula 1 were universally agreed upon as a great way to enter the next chapter of rFactor 2 professional leagues. Belgium would also be significant for witnessing the first pole position, win and podiums of the Formula Pro Series.
Unfortunately for Rietveld, who would take the first of these honours, starting in first place often isn’t ideal due to the first lap Kemmel Straight slipstreaming. Indeed this proved to be the case as his front row rival, Huis, would take the lead on the first lap and not look back to take the first-ever victory. Despite his personal success though, Mercedes-AMG would find themselves behind Team Redline in the standings who locked out the other podium places. Pejic was nowhere to be found inside the top ten.
Silverstone would witness a similar story in qualifying with the same front row scenario. This time, however, Rietveld would shoot himself in the foot by picking up a pit lane speeding penalty. Jajovski showed great patience and tyre management to make an alternative one-stop strategy work on a day of two-stoppers and denied Siggy of second place. With Pejic showing a marked improvement to pick up good points, Mercedes-AMG was starting to look more menacing.
Bono said of his Silverstone performance: “Our pace was very strong again, even with a pretty poor lap in qualifying we were on the front row. Very happy [with the race win], but we have to keep working, as the others are closing in on us.”
Huis’ form would be cemented come Germany with his first pole position of the season preluding a third consecutive win. Once again the Team Redline cars claimed the rest of the podium – Siggy ahead of Rietveld on this occasion – whilst Pejic grabbed a few points in eighth.
Bono’s Huis, and we’re all living in it
Unlike the GT Pro Series where anybody can win in the right conditions, a precedent had been set by the halfway point of Formula Pro Series’ first season. Bono Huis was the class of the field and, unless a loss of luck and/or form occurred, he was set for the Drivers’ title comfortably.
The all-important Teams’ championship on the other hand was a lot more curious with Rietveld and Siggy consistently on the podium whilst Pejic hadn’t cracked the top five on pure race pace. Down at the other end of things, four teams were set for a relegation scrap with Wolves GR, Musto GD, JAE Academy and Team Fordzilla all in the firing line.
Round 4 at Indianapolis had a slight feeling of missed potential with hindsight. Things began as expected with Huis taking another pole position in spite of a rain-affected session. What was totally unexpected? A mistake from the championship leader into Turn 1 under pressure from Siggy.
This should have been the moment for Team Redline. A rare ‘shot in the dark’ occasion to get one over the overwhelming threat to their title campaign. It wasn’t to be.
Huis charged past Simončič, whose car language suggested he had no right in attempting a defensive effort. Then, a Jajovski mistake saw a second of the three positions lost regained. The unrelenting pace was too much for ‘The Machine’ as well; Siggy performing the same mistake that had lost Huis the lead.
You can guess what the final outcome was, but the Teams’ race was still open
By this point, Zandoort’s action was only going to confirm what everyone knew would happen by this point – Huis taking the first Drivers’ title in Formula Pro Series history. More significantly, his fifth win alone would help Mercedes-AMG immensely thanks to a Siggy mistake ruling himself and Pejic, amongst others, out of major points contention.
The Austro-Slovenian would be made to pay for that error as the final round in Monza proved to be Marko Pejic’s best. His performances in a title-challenging team were under heavy scrutiny yet, as Musto GD and Fordzilla watched their relegation get confirmed, the German finally secured a top-five finish for his team at the temple of speed. Another second and third place result for Team Redline wasn’t going to be enough and it was always going to be the man ahead of them that was going to have the final say.
After demonstrating just why he’s regarded as one of the best in the opening two rounds, some might have wondered if the clean season sweep was a possibility.
Bono Huis is a perfectly balanced driver with no compromise between raw speed and a steely mentality. So to this viewer? It was an inevitability…