Risto Kappet’s victory at the Le Mans Virtual Series’ Monza race and his journey in sim racing with Romain Grosjean’s R8G Esports.
Everyone has that picture from their childhood.
Mine is a simple photo that lives in the family album: I’m around six years old and wearing an oversized Montreal Canadiens’ jersey as pyjamas. I’m sitting on my carpeted bedroom floor, a notebook in my hand and stuffed animals all around me in a circle, waiting to be interviewed by the little girl with the mushroom haircut.
For Risto Kappet, his picture is like a moment frozen in technological time sprinkled with a bit of foreshadowing of what his future holds, too. Sometimes, the sheer contrast between then and now is a pretty ironic representation of life’s parallels on the path to where we’re meant to be.
The Estonian sim racer began his stint in esports at a very young age simply because he enjoyed it. Not that he had big dreams of making it in the wide world of gaming, but like most hobbies, it was a fun pastime that beat doing homework and chores.
“I was just playing and not taking it too seriously,” said Kappet to Traxion.GG.
“From 2010, I started doing the first rFactor leagues and online racing. It was like 2014 or so when I got into my first competition, which would actually pay you some pocket change.”
From there, his interest grew into what you see today. Kappet’s new setup is a reflection of the glow-up he’s had in sim racing. Started from the bottom, now he’s here with a Predator Gaming Orion 5000, Samsung Odyssey G9 monitor, Polsimer F74N Formula wheel and a spot on Romain Grosjeans’ eponymous roster at R8G Esports.
“I’ve had non-serious contracts before. Joining R8G gives a bit of stability so that we know there’s somebody working behind the scenes who take care of our sponsors, gets us to competitions…it really gives you a good foundation to do what you do best.”
He credits Grosjean for getting the team to the Le Mans Virtual Series, even, stating it’s a big thing for him to be involved.
“Romain himself, he has been around a lot, which is fascinating to see. Plus, the pool of drivers we have is really huge.”
Having the support around him, such as the R8G Academy side of things, has given Kappet the confidence to excel on the main stage. Which was showcased in the second round of the Le Mans Virtual Series at Monza.
While driving the #888 GTE car, the 28-year-old crossed the chequered flag and grabbed the team’s first win of the season.
It was a shame the same group of guys had disconnected during the 8 Hours of Bahrain race earlier in the year.
Kappet held onto the silver linings from that day, though, including their overall performance and the package they have as a team.
Looking back at the 4 Hours of Monza, that championship fight kicked in. Kappet and his teammates—who he credits immensely for their on-track skills and winning mentality—were thrilled with the victory. It’s evident during his livestream of the event, as well. You can feel their excitement through the screen.
“We basically screamed of joy,” his smile beamed.
Like any team sport, the wins seem to come naturally when each driver is racing for each other. Sitting alone in a sim rig can be deceiving: a team of engineers and managers are there for the ride, too. And, of course, the two drivers who buckle up and take part in the race alongside Kappet played a critical role in R8G’s success in the second round.
“Timotej [Andonovski], I’ve known already for several years…first as an opponent, but now ever since we knew that we will be racing together, it’s obviously clicked. We’re quite similar as people and as drivers. We also like to fiddle with technical things, care about the details and get very emotional about things.
“He has been driving the Ferrari in several competitions before the Le Mans, so he has a wealth of experience, which is amazing.”
Kappet says that him and Andonovski are basically a “copy-paste” of each other in many ways.
“Alex Smolyar is just like a big gift,” another cheeky grin.
“I don’t know how R8G got him. Thanks to him, we could see his data, learn and raise our levels. He’s super talented and he’s also so young, and he has his real-life racing. But he’s always available for us and is just as excited [for the virtual races]. That’s just perfect; that’s what makes us a winning team. It’s him.”
R8G Esports has done a sensational job when it comes to recruiting, that’s a given.
For Risto Kappet, his journey with the team began on Twitter. He had been doing bigger competitions and to his surprise, one day a DM popped up in his inbox. It was a big letter from “some French guy” asking if he’d like to join Grosjean’s team. All the hours had finally paid off.
And Kappet’s younger self—the 10-year-old boy who once had to untangle a mess of chords daily just to log his racing hours on an old computer—would be so proud to see him now.
“If you focus your effort and time on one thing, you will get better at it. If some logic is telling you to stop, you need to still keep going.
“In the end, if you stick to it, then it will pay out. Just be persistent and people will notice.”
Catch all of the Le Mans Virtual Series action on the Traxion.GG YouTube channel and be sure to mark your calendars for the 6 Hours of Spa, coming Saturday, 5th November 2022.