Sami-Joe wins 2020 WRC eSports Grand Final

After over 15,000 entrants tried their hand at the 2020 WRC Esports Championship, Lebanese motorsport star Sami-Joe has emerged victorious.

Sami-Joe wins 2020 WRC eSports Grand Final

Yes, you read that correctly – 2020. Due to the ongoing global pandemic, the Grand Final for the 2020 series was delayed until this weekend, where it was held during the real-life WRC round, Ypres Rally Belgium, won by Hyundai's Thierry Neuville.

Going into the event, the contestants had already been whittled down to the 10-best virtual rally drivers.

  • Sami-Joe05 – Lebanon
  • LDLC OL NEXL – France
  • Izamusing – France
  • Noel – France
  • WeD Subee203 – Hungary
  • Jonno. – Guernsey Island
  • WeD Komatsu – Bulgaria
  • Botti Jr – Italy
  • Wildcard #1 – Greekman – Greece
  • Wildcard #2 – RC Mihalo – Finland

Of these competitors, Race Clutch’s Nexl is a two-time champion, while Seventh Gear e-Sport Club’s Greekman won the Monte-Carlo Esports Launch. Utilising the WRC 9 game, that simulates the 2020 WRC season, the favourite going in had to be Sami-Joe, who won 11 out of 12 rounds in the 2021 Esports WRC Championship on the same platform.

 

After an initial set of time trials, the field was whittled down to just four, each with a chance of overall victory. The pre-event favourite Sami-Joe and returning double champion Nexl were joined by two fellow Race Clutch team members, Izamusing and Noel.

They would do battle across three stages: Felgueiras in Portugal, Nagakute in Japan and the gigantic 22.04km Te Akau South in New Zealand. The winner would have the fastest cumulative time across the three routes.

As the drivers hit the gravel for the first stage, it became a two-horse race from the off – Sami-Joe and Nexl within tenths of a second, all through the stage, with Izamusing and Noel noticeably falling back. Thanks in part to Sami-Joe running slightly wide on one corner near the end of the stage, Nexl finished ahead by a scant 0.464s.

Onto stage two and the fortunes would be reversed as the drivers switched to asphalt. With Nexl and Sami-Joe occupying the top two spots once again, it would be Nexl who drifted slightly wide of the ideal line and brushed a wall on the outside.

 

No major damage was inflicted, but it was enough for his 15-year-old opposition to eke out a one-second advantage. Nexl would half that gap by the end, but Sami-Joe held on to win by four-tenths of a second.

Going into the final stage, Nexl led Sami-Joe by 0.059s, with Izamusing in third and Noel in fourth.

A similar theme emerged as the field split into the now-familiar pairings. As the competitors approached the halfway point of the stage, the heavens opened. Despite the worsening visibility and changing grip levels, the pace remained furious – all drivers on the ragged edge, striking a balance between outright speed and catastrophe.

Sami-Joe nearly rolled his Yaris on a right-hand hairpin, using too much of a bank on the inside, temporarily tipping onto two wheels. Fortunately, he was able to land on terra firma without losing any time.

Further back, Izamusing wasn’t so lucky. Clipping a bank on the inside of a seemingly innocuous left-hander while in third place, his Ford Fiesta was then cannoned into the opposing mound and flipped end over end. Noel then simply needed a steady run to bring home a podium finish.

 

“I knew the stages did not suit me in the Grand Final so I needed to take extra risks to stay in contention. With such strong rivals, you just can’t cruise around,” explained the final debutant.

“In the end, I got some damage which led to the big crash, but I am not disappointed as I was so proud to be in the final in the first place. In any case, it was the most enjoyable weekend of my life!”

Seconds later, and the championship was decided in a similar fashion as Nexl, hot on Sami-Joe’s tail, also fell foul of the tricky conditions, losing five seconds after a visit to the shrubbery. Head in his hands, he knew that was the title-deciding moment.

“A small mistake that cost everything, [I’m] a bit disappointed as it was a really intense battle,” he explained after the event.

“For me, it’s a dream come true, I can’t believe what is happening,” explained Sami-Joe who won a Toyota GR Yaris, three years before he is legally allowed to drive in his native Lebanon.

“It’s incredible. As you saw, we pushed each other very hard and I’m very happy.”

With the 2020 Grand Final now wrapped up, all four of the finalists have also qualified for the 2021 Grand Final too and will be joined by a further four competitors on 8th September during the EKO Acropolis Rally Greece.

WRC Esports 2020 Grand Final presented by Toyota Gazoo Racing results

  1. Sami-Joe – 21m01.289s
  2. LDLC OL NEXL +10.394s
  3. Noel +36.945s
  4. Izamusing +1m05.404s
 
shares
comments

Related video

How sim racing gave Verstappen the assurance he needed after 51G shunt

Previous article

How sim racing gave Verstappen the assurance he needed after 51G shunt

Next article

Mercedes-AMG Petronas retains Formula Pro Series lead

Mercedes-AMG Petronas retains Formula Pro Series lead
Load comments
Analysis: How an unlikely tie-up won sim racing's biggest race Plus

Analysis: How an unlikely tie-up won sim racing's biggest race

An unlikely partnership between LMP1 privateer Rebellion Racing and Williams Formula 1's successful sim racing team yielded victory in the inaugural 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. Here's how it triumphed in the biggest sim race ever staged

Esports
Jun 15, 2020
How poor driving standards ruined IndyCar's golden opportunity Plus

How poor driving standards ruined IndyCar's golden opportunity

The chaotic end to the virtual Indy 175 might be dismissed as "just a game," but the insulting actions of two IndyCar stars may have serious real-life consequences

Esports
May 3, 2020
Why Leclerc's Virtual GP annihilation deserves great credit Plus

Why Leclerc's Virtual GP annihilation deserves great credit

The introduction of Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi to Formula 1's Virtual GP last weekend meant it was a step above the franchise's debut two weeks ago. But a dominant performance from Esports newcomer Leclerc stole the show

Esports
Apr 6, 2020
How the hidden side of being fast has been exposed Plus

How the hidden side of being fast has been exposed

'Natural talent' is one of the biggest misnomers going in motorsport, and that is being proven by the way real life racers aren't immediately getting on the pace with the sim racing experts in virtual contests. To change that, they are having to apply the same tools required to be quick in real life

Esports
Apr 2, 2020
Why F1’s pantomime Virtual GP is fun but unsustainable Plus

Why F1’s pantomime Virtual GP is fun but unsustainable

F1 Esports' inaugural Virtual Grand Prix last weekend provided brilliant entertainment to those tuning in to watch a mix of F1 drivers and celebrities battle on track, but was a missed opportunity for marketing its own Esports stars. A change of approach is needed if it is to successfully fill the void until the resumption of proper racing

Esports
Mar 24, 2020
The latest Red Bull exile to return in Esports Plus

The latest Red Bull exile to return in Esports

Since he was ejected from the programme at the end of 2006, the latest Red Bull junior driver brought back into the fold to race in Formula 1 - in a virtual sense for the inaugural Virtual GP - has had quite the career journey. From ADAC GT Masters and Porsche Supercup to Le Mans and the DTM, here's how a works pro got to relive a long-forgotten dream

Esports
Mar 24, 2020
Mercedes can be toppled in F1's other title race Plus

Mercedes can be toppled in F1's other title race

Mercedes has not only set new standards in Formula 1, but it's also created a benchmark in Esports. Now its rivals have scrambled to catch up, there's a chance the Brendon Leigh-fronted Mercedes can be stopped

Esports
Sep 10, 2019
Why World's Fastest Gamer is returning to real-world racing Plus

Why World's Fastest Gamer is returning to real-world racing

World's Fastest Gamer is a spiritual successor to the famous GT Academy. After a successful first year, it's returning to the Nissan programme's roots by targeting the real world of racing

Esports
Jul 31, 2019