Round 11 of the 2022 WRC Esports’ series saw a shake-up in the established order. Teenage sim sensation Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle (TM Sami-Joe) had taken six wins in a row up to Safari Rally Kenya, securing himself a spot at the 2022 WRC Esports World Finals in the process.
However, one of the most consistent performers of the 2022 season, John Bebnowicz-Harris (Izamusing), produced his best form of the year to beat his Race Clutch team-mate Lilian Richard (Krim) into second place, with Abi Nakhle two-and-a-half seconds off the lead in third.
The WRC’s Rally Estonia takes place on quick, narrow gravel roads, with smooth grading ensuring it’s a driver favourite. Based in Tartu, the event is possibly the best-supported motorsport event in the Baltic region, mainly thanks to the exploits of its only World Rally Champion, Ott Tänak.
The WRC Esports drivers had three stages to contend with in Round 11, with an 8km run through Elva Reverse bookended by the Tartu-based Special Stage and the 14km Kanepi test.
Bebnowicz-Harris emerged as a comprehensive winner by the conclusion of the rally, his first victory since Rally Turkey in 2020. Commenting on his performance, the Englishman said: “After 2 years of issues and experimenting with different styles, to win is so satisfying. It rewards my will to push through adversity no matter what. I was ‘In the zone’ in Estonia, my driving made sense finally and the times showed it”.
The battle for second place was much closer, however, being decided by a single tenth of a second. Abi-Nakhle found himself in an unfamiliar third position, with Richard pipping him at the post.
The young Lebanese could at least console himself with the fact he had guaranteed his position as the points champion for 2022’s WRC Esports competition.
Despite non-appearances in Kenya and Estonia, the only other driver to win in 2022 – Japanese rookie Kazuho Iwata (Kazunokota) – still sits third in the championship table. His place in the top eight, and therefore a spot at the WRC Esports World Finals, isn’t guaranteed, however, so the Monte-Carlo and Rally Spain winner may need to make a points-scoring comeback.
The flowing gravel roads of Rally Finland are up next for the WRC Esports drivers, set between the 29th of July and 1st of August. Once known as the ‘Finnish Grand Prix’ thanks to its high average speeds, Rally FInland demands bravery and commitment over its blind crests and vertiginous cambers.
With the Teams and Driver championships settled with two rallies to go, focus switches to the fight for the World Finals positions. The battle to be among the top eight is as close as ever, with eighth through 12th separated by only 17 points. With one drop score to factor in, there’s still a lot to play for.
WRC ESPORTS 2022, ROUND 11 RESULTS
- RC Izamusing
- RC Krim
- RC LDLC OL Nexl
- VBR Hujda
- WIL Botti Jr
- Triton Katana
- VBR Siiwu