WRC Esports 2022: Król conquers Rally Finland amid cutting controversy
Michał Król took a shock victory on Rally Finland as hot favourite Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle was disqualified for corner cutting.
The 12th round of the 2022 WRC Esports series was perhaps the most controversial yet.
Two of WRC Esports’ most successful protagonists, Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle (Sami-Joe) and Lohann Blanc (Nexl) were removed from the results of Rally Finland after being found to have gained advantages from corner cutting.
An official statement from WRC Esports read: “Following an official review at the completion of the penultimate round, a number of drivers were deemed to have used illegal cuts, leading to their disqualification from Finland. This included the already-confirmed regular season MVP Sami-Joe and three-time world champion Nexl.”
This is not the first time corner-cutting has been a hot topic in WRC Esports this year, as Round 9’s Rally Italia Sardegna was cancelled due to the number of players taking advantage of cutting opportunities.
At this point, WRC Esports released an official statement stating that anyone found to be cutting on the subsequent Safari Rally Kenya would be disqualified.
Although some drivers continued to raise the issue of corner-cutting in subsequent rounds, Rally Finland is the first occasion in which direct action has been taken by the championship administrators, indicating a zero-tolerance policy for the final round later this month.
The mass disqualifications led to a slightly different-looking top ten, with TRITON Racing’s Michał Król emerging as the deserved winner after three special stages.
The drivers were faced with two gravel stages: Pihlajakoski, at 9.79km, and a 21.13km run through Laukka Reverse. In between was the 2.28km Harju night test, its difficulty ramped up by its mixed surface and wet weather.
Despite the controversial exit of Blanc and Abi-Nakhle, the battle at the front was poised on a knife edge. The top four finishers were separated by less than a second after 25km of competitive running, with the gap between Król and second-place Rodrigo Fuentes (MachineLV) just 0.03s.
Lillian Richard (Kriim) was three tenths further back, with Williams Esports’ Marco Bottinelli (Botti Jr) only seven tenths off the lead. Rally Estonia winner John Bebnowicz-Harris endured technical issues and could only muster sixth position, but as a consolation he secured his place at the Athens-based Grand Final in September (the top eight in the WRC Esports main championship qualify for the Grand Final).
Joining him will be the already-qualified Abi-Nakhle, Blanc and erstwhile points leader Kazuho Iwata (Kazunokota). Also among the finalist is Panagiotis Zeniou. The Cypriot is Team NoGrip’s only representative to qualify so far.
There are still three more spaces up for grabs, and on this form, it’s difficult to see how one of Król, Richard, Bottinelli and Fuentes will be denied a chance of becoming the WRC Esports 2022 Grand Final champion.
The final round of WRC Esports’ regular season is set to take place between the 12th and 15th of August on the harsh gravel roads of Greece. The competition is open to anyone with a copy of WRC10 on Xbox, PlayStation or PC.
WRC ESPORTS 2022, ROUND 12 RESULTS
- Triton Katana
- RC Kriim
- WIL Botti Jr
- VBR Hujda
- RC Izamusing
- VBR Siiwu
- eR Brandon