The flat tarmac roads of Belgium provided an interesting challenge for our WRC Esports competitors. The tight and twisty country lanes are punctuated by huge cuts and 90-degree bends, full-stops ready to punish the unwary.
For the third time in five events – and the second rally in a row – Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle emerged as the victor, sealing a narrow 0.0578s advantage over his closest competitor this season – rookie Kazuho Iwata (Kazunokota).
Set in the ancient town of Ypres, Rally Belgium was originally slated to hold a round of the WRC in 2020, but thanks to Covid-19 restrictions only made its debut in 2021. The rally was added to the WRC Esports calendar for the first time this year thanks to WRC10’s October 2021 update.
With only two stages scheduled – Zonnebeke and Kemmelberg Reverse – the drivers had to make the most of their 19km of running. WRC Esports competitors have five chances to run the officially timed stages, so it’s possible to work on setup and racing lines right up to the event deadline.
By Sunday – the day before the rally ended – Iwata had a commanding two-second lead. However, using his confidence-inspiring wins in Sweden and Wales as inspiration, Sami-Joe regrouped to perform one last heroic run, taking the win by the tiniest of margins.
Away from the tight leading battle, there was surprise and controversy. The surprise came in the form of 2021 WRC Esports Grand Final winner Lohan Blanc (Nexl) failing to make the top ten. The Frenchman struggled home in eleventh, thereby losing touch with the top two in the championship battle.
He may fare slightly better than Race Clutch team-mate Lilian Richard (Kriim) however, as he currently faces a stewards’ investigation. This may end up with the fourth-placed finisher on Rally Wales GB being disqualified.
It wasn’t all bad news for Race Clutch though, as the ever-consistent John Bebnowicz-Harris (Izamusing) snatched the final step on the rostrum, moving ever closer to Blanc in the final standings. That’s three podium positions in as many rallies for the Brit, contributing to Race Clutch’s narrow lead over Iwata’s Erally Drivers in the Teams’ Standings.
The next round of the 2022 WRC Esports championship joins the real WRC field on Rally Croatia, 15th-18th April, and is open to anyone with a copy of WRC10 on Xbox, PlayStation or PC.
With Sami-Joe seemingly on a hot run of form and closing to within a point of Iwata in the championship, the question is, can anyone stop him?
WRC ESPORTS 2022, ROUND 5 RESULTS
- eR Kazunokota
- RC Izamusing
- Wil Botti Jr
- Triton Katana
- RC Krim
- VBR Hujda