Swedish rally driver Mattias Adielsson upstaged the FIA World Rallycross Championship regulars, invited stars and professional gamers to claim a dramatic victory in the opening round of the World RX Esports Invitational – the Catalunya Edition.
The inaugural event, run on DiRT Rally 2.0 in partnership with Codemasters and Motorsport Games, attracted a grid of 20 drivers and took place on the virtual Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the venue for the scheduled opening round of the 2020 world championship which has been postponed due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
Driving an Audi S1, Adielsson finished second in Semi-final 2 following an incident-filled final lap to advance to the final. In the six-lap finale, Adielsson took the lead after the first turn and held the advantage to the finish, defending his position from two of the world’s fastest rallycross Esports drivers Lukas Mateja of the Czech Republic and France’s Killian Dall’olmo, the current DiRT Rally 2.0 rallycross world series champion.
“I’m super stoked to win, I put a lot of practice in to this together with Jon Armstrong but to win the whole race is just something else. It´s fantastic to have such an event and so many World RX drivers join, that made it super cool. I would like to thank my team WERT Esport for all tips and for believing in me in Esports,” Adielsson said.
In a last lap overtake, SET Esports driver Dall’olmo made it up to second by the finish. The Frenchman had won Semi-final 1 and made a good start in the final but ran wide as Adielsson took the lead.
The 2019 world champion Timmy Hansen and Kevin Abbring were the sole World RX representatives in the final.
GC Kompetition’s Abbring climbed as high as second in the final, but ended up battling for P4 with Sweden’s Hansen, with the Dutchman coming out on top.
Hansen, who had earlier won Semi-final 2, ran third on lap one after some frantic opening corners, but after his joker on lap two he dropped to P5, with Mateja and Dall’olmo already completing their joker laps on lap one.
“It was great fun to take part in the first-ever World RX Esports race,” Hansen said. “It was great to do a race because I have really been missing that adrenaline rush. Obviously it’s not the same as racing for real but it’s very close in many ways.
“I’m really happy about my result, it went way better than I expected because this was the first online race I have ever done. One qualifying session win and I won my semi so I’m delighted.”
Like in any good World RX weekend, the semi-finals were action-packed. Monster Energy RX Cartel’s Andreas Bakkerud produced a standout performance of the regular drivers and had a thrilling race with Kevin Hansen during qualifying.
He was holding down second place in Semi-final 2 after a neck-and-neck race with first former DiRT Rally 2.0 world champion Jon Armstrong and then Mateja, but after side-by-side contact with Mateja in the last few corners, the Norwegian just missed out on a final start.
Esports driver Quentin Dall’olmo, the fastest from over 8,500 drivers that took part in the pre-event qualifying process, took the TQ (top qualifier) position in the Intermediate Classification, but spun in Semi-final 1 and was then handed a 10-second penalty for reversing into the path of Kevin Hansen.
FIA European Rallycross Super1600 Championship driver Marius Bermingrud was also one of the star performers in the 20-car field, where YouTube sensations Jimmy Broadbent and FailRace also took part and mixed with the more experienced rallycross drivers from the real and virtual worlds.
Xite Racing’s Oliver Bennett, Yellow Squad’s Henrik Krogstad and Olsbergs MSE’s Oliver Eriksson were also in the hunt for a place in the semi-finals, along with World Endurance Championship racer Nicki Thiim.
Spanish rally driver Cohete Suarez, Americas Rallycross podium finisher Cabot Bigham and double World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson had their events cut short by technical problems. Also plagued by technical gremlins was two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider.
World RX Esports Invitational – Catalunya Edition, Sunday, April 19
RESULTS – Final
1. Mattias Adielsson (Swe)
2. Killian Dall’Olmo (Fra)
3. Lukas Mateja (Czech Rep)
4. Kevin Abbring (Neth)
5. Timmy Hansen (Swe)
1. Killian Dall’Olmo
2. Kevin Abbring
3. Kevin Hansen (Swe)
4. Marius Bermingrud (Nor)
5. Quentin Dall’Olmo (Fra)
1. Timmy Hansen
2. Mattias Adielsson
3. Lukas Mateja
4. Jon Armstrong (GB)
5. Andreas Bakkerud (Nor)