The line-up for the 2022 WRC Esports Grand Final has been set, with Marco Bottinelli securing a dramatic last-gasp victory to seal his place.
Although both the driver and team champions were decided weeks ago (Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle and Race Clutch respectively), the qualifiers for the Grand Final had yet to be decided, prompting a dramatic last-round turnaround in fortunes for Williams Esports’ Marco Bottinelli.
The Italian had an outside chance of qualifying after the previous round in Finland, but sensationally took the win in Greece, beating the likes of Abi Nakhle and three-time champion Lohann Blanc (Nexl) on the way.
Bottinelli’s victory wasn’t particularly close either, with his seven-second winning margin a comparative lifetime in the super-competitive world of esports rallying. The result propelled Bottinelli into fifth position overall, knocking the unfortunate Rodrigo Fuentes (MachineLV) out of the qualifying spots at the climax of the season.
Joining Bottinelli in the Grand Final are Panagiotis Zeniou (Zeniou) and Lillian Richard (Kriim), with Abi Nakhle, Blanc, John Bebnowicz-Harris (Izamusing), Kazuho Iwata (Kazunokota) and Rally Finland winner Michał Król (Katana) already safely through before Rally Greece.
Two full gravel stages awaited the competitors for Round 13 of the 2022 WRC Esports season, with the 19km test of Mendenitsa preceded by a scenic seven-kilometre run through Psatha Reverse. With dusty switchback corners and huge elevation changes, the Greek stages could catch out the unwary.
Coming home behind a dominant Bottinelli was the unfortunate Fuentes, with 2022’s star driver, Abi Nakhle scraping a place on the rostrum – just ahead of a battling Richard. In a slightly disappointing end to their season, Race Clutch’s Blanc and Bebnowicz-Harris finished eighth and ninth respectively, no doubt already focused on the Athens-based Grand Final.
Who will emerge as 2022’s WRC Esports Grand Final champion? The smart money will be on 2022’s standout driver, Abi Nakhle, but you cannot write off the chances of former champion Blanc or 2022 rally winners Król, Bottinelli, Iwata or Bebnowicz-Harris.
Traxion.GG will be reporting on all the action taking place from the Athens Olympic Complex on the 7th and 8th of September, as the real-world WRC prepares for the ceremonial start of EKO Acropolis Rally Greece.
WRC ESPORTS 2022, ROUND 13 RESULTS
- Marco Bottinelli (Botti Jr)
- Rodrigo Fuentes (MachineLV)
- Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle (Sami-Joe)
- Lillian Richard (Kriim)
- Michał Król (Katana)
- Martín Martínez Sánchez (Xenomroxx69)
- Lohann Blanc (Nexl)
- John Bebnowicz-Harris (Izamusing)
WRC Esports 2022 Final Standings
- Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle (Sami-Joe) Lebanon
- John Bebnowicz-Harris (Izamusing) UK
- Lohann Blanc (Nexl) France
- Kazuho Iwata (Kazunokota) Japan
- Marco Bottinelli (Botti Jr) Italy
- Michał Król (Katana) Poland
- Panagiotis Zeniou (Zeniou) Cyprus
- Lillian Richard (Kriim) France