After a patchy opening three WRC Esports rounds, Sami-Joe Abi Nakhle has been in imperious form, taking three wins out of three from Wales Rally GB, Rally Belgium and Rally Croatia.
Rally Japan played host to the seventh round, where the young Lebanese snatched another victory – his fifth of the campaign. But it was not all plain sailing for the 2020 WRC Esports Grand Final winner, as his main title rival Kazuho Iwata (Kazunokota) ran him close across 30km of special stages.
The WRC Esports field had two tests to look forward to – the tricky 7.18km run-up to the weather radar stations of Nagakute first, before an arduous 22.63km run through Shitara Reverse to finish off. Competitors are permitted five attempts at the stages, with their fastest combined total counting towards their result.
By Sunday evening, TRITON Racing’s Michał Król (Katana) was at the head of the field, as Sami-Joe, Iwata, and 2021 WRC Esports Grand Final winner Lohan Blanc (Nexl) were yet to set a representative time.
The battle to the end was worth the wait, however, as two-time 2022 WRC Esports rally winner Iwata finished an agonising 0.5s behind Sami-Joe, the narrow gap highlighting Iwata’s impressive rookie performances this year.
After a run of poor form, it was heartening to see Blanc make a return to the podium, the Frenchman eventually claiming third position. He finished just three seconds off the leading pair, demonstrating the competitiveness of WRC Esports this year.
Blanc finished just three-tenths ahead of Race Clutch team-mate John Bebnowicz-Harris (Izamusing) in fourth. The pair, plus sixth-place finisher Lilian Richard (Krim), all contributed to Race Clutch’s 37-points haul.
Race Clutch now leads Iwata’s eRally Drivers outfit by 18 points in the Team Standings, Iwata’s heavy points scoring not currently being matched by his teammates.
Round 8 of the 2022 WRC Esports championship takes place on the dusty gravel stages of Rally Portugal, home of the famous Fafe jump. Will it be five consecutive wins for Sami-Joe or can Iwata emulate his Rally de España form to eat into the 13-point gap at the top of the standings?
Rally Portugal takes place between the 13th and 16th of May and is open to anyone with a copy of WRC10 on Xbox, PlayStation or PC.
WRC ESPORTS 2022, ROUND 7 RESULTS
- eR Kazunokota
- RC LDLC OL Nexl
- RC Izamusing
- Wil Botti Jr
- RC Krim
- Triton Katana