The eROC champion for 2022 has been decided, and it was Jarno Opmeer who came through to win the mixed-discipline competition and earn himself a drive in the Race of Champions Sweden competition this weekend.
Four drivers took part in the eROC world final, held in Pite Havsbad. Alongside the two-time F1 Esports champion were 2019 eROC champion James Baldwin, F1 Esports Series Pro race-winner Lucas Blakeley and Swedish finalist Martin Palm.
Getting to these final four drivers has been a long process. Baldwin won the eROC Invitational event, beating several esports champions in a knockout competition. One of those was Opmeer, but he then won a community fan vote to also earn a spot.
Meanwhile, Blakeley won the Open Qualifiers, a virtual event that anyone could enter, and Palm won a Swedish-only qualifying competition.
Using a combination of a modified Assetto Corsa inside, and a Polaris RZR on the ROC Sweden circuit outside, two of the four competitors were trying to win a spot in the ROC Nations Cup this weekend and only one would be crowned eROC world champion for 2022.
The drivers went head-to-head on the simulator, racing in rallycross cars and Porsche 718 GT4 Clubsports around an approximation of the real-world circuit at the same venue.
Points were awarded based upon head-to-head sim races, then additional points were added by judges 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg, son Oliver and stunt driver Terry Grant.
The heats for eROC witnessed each driver compete against each other in two races.
The first was Blakeley against Opmeer, with the young Scot beating the Dutch driver twice in a match that featured a restart after a technical issue. Later, Baldwin would be stiff competition for Blakeley, each winning one race in their head-to-head.
A similar state of affairs happened with the evenly-matched F1 esports champion shaped up against the reigning eROC champion, a win apiece. Palm, however, was unlucky enough not to win a heat race.
The judges then awarded points based upon one last of the outdoor track in the Polaris. Baldwin was awarded six points out of a maximum of 12. Palm, meanwhile, scored nine points based on his real-world driving. Both Opmeer and Blakeley scored a maximum of 12 points, setting remarkably close times.
Solberg Snr. described the young Scot Blakeley as “better than David Coulthard,” after he was quickest despite a lack of motorsport experience.
Polaris lap times
- Lucas Blakeley – 1:47.428
- Jarno Opmeer – 1:47.452
- Martin Palm – 1:48.131
- James Baldwin – 1:50.298
After the points for virtual races and real-world performances were added up, it was a Blakeley vs Opmeer final to decide the eROC champion.
In the Porsches, Opmeer won the first race by a scant seven-hundredths of a second, before winning the second race by just over a tenth.
“It went surprisingly well. Yesterday I was struggling [in practice] on the sim,” said the winner.
“I’m very happy to win the final in the end and I’m really looking forward to doing some more laps now in the snowy conditions.”
“Full credit to Jarno today,” said Blakeley.
“He did the better job. This whole experience has been mind-blowing.”
Opmeer goes on to compete in the ROC Nations Cup as part of the eROC ALL STARS team alongside second-placed Blakeley. They will be up against the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Mika Hakkinen, Sébastien Loeb, Didier Auriol, Tom Kristensen, Emma Kimiläinen and Jamie Chadwick.