After limping home a distant sixth at the previous round in Spain, Lebanese driver Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle bounced back in spectacular fashion in round four of the 2022 WRC Esports championship, taking a narrow win over shock 2022 pacesetter Kazuho Iwata (Kazunokota).
The forests of Wales Rally GB played host our WRC Esports competitors, with 30km of twisty, muddy and challenging special stages awaiting them. With the first two stages being relatively short 6km reverse blasts through Brenig and Hafren, the final 17.5km stage of Dyfi was set to be crucial.
Dyfi has a road surface split of 70% gravel to 30% asphalt, so car setup would be key to nabbing the win, and Sami Joe did just enough to stay ahead of the pack and take a very handy 25 championship points, closing the gap to championship rival Kazunokta by seven.
Our other championship favourite, Lohan Blanc – aka Nexl – endured a tough rally, and only came home in fifth position. As a result, the 2021 WRC Esports Grand Final winner lost his second place in the championship.
It wasn’t all bad for the Frenchman however, as his team Race Clutch snatched 39 points from Wales thanks to third and fourth-placed finishes from teammates John Bebnowicz-Harris (Izamusing) and Lilian Richard (Kriim), meaning the team has an 11-point lead in the teams’ standings.
Round Five moves onto the tight tarmac roads of the Ypres Rally Belgium, where we will see if Sami Joe can continue the form he has shown in Sweden and Wales this season. Or can Nexl bounce back and take the fight to the talented Japanese newcomer Iwata?