OverTake presents our Hero of the Month for February: F1 Esports driver and eRace of Champions runner-up Lucas Blakeley.
Image credit: Lucas Blakeley
The Race of Champions is an event that sees the best drivers from all categories gather to see who is the ultimate driver. Alongside it, there’s also the eRace of Champions for the fastest sim racers who compete to see which of them get to join all these immensely successful drivers in racing the real cars.
After qualifying for the event, former Aston Martin F1 Esports racer Lucas Blakeley faced off against the likes of reigning eROC champion James Baldwin, two-time F1 Esports champion Jarno Opmeer and local hero Martin Palm. In the end, Blakeley just missed out on becoming eROC champion to Opmeer but as a result of finishing runner-up, the Scot gained the right to compete in the Nation’s Cup competition for the eROC All-Stars team alongside Opmeer.
They took to the snow and ice against the historically successful Team Germany made up of F1 drivers Mick Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. In spite of Blakeley’s inexperience with racing any sort of real car, the Scot ended up beating the four-time champion Vettel in one of the heats by 0.08 seconds! For achieving this magnificent feat, we are making him Hero of the Month for February.
A virtual lifeline
Initially, Blakeley had set his sights on the typical F1 driver route, competing in karting between 2010 and 2015. He started at the West of Scotland Kart Club then graduated up to EasyKart for the following season, the highlight though was probably 2013 when he finished second in the WSKC championship and also in the Scottish championship, both at Mini Max level.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many hopeful young racing drivers, Blakeley had to call time on his career as a result of money issues. He did however get a second chance at a career in racing when he took up sim racing and qualified for the 2018 F1 Esports Pro Draft. Unfortunately for him, he went unselected that year, so he regrouped to qualify again for the following year and his perseverence was rewarded when he was drafted by Racing Point.
In his first F1 Esports season, Blakeley managed a second place finish in only his second race and despite participating in only a third of the races of his teammate Daniele Haddad, Lucas ended up one point ahead of him in the final standings. Following on from that were a bunch of F1 Esports Pro Exhibition races which ran in support of the Virtual Grand Prix series during the initial suspension of the 2020 Formula One season.
The races that were held didn’t count for points but if they had, Blakeley would have been the champion. The moment that truly proved he was a contender was the Monaco race, where he qualified third behind F1 Esports champions David Tonizza and Brendon Leigh. He made the inspired call to pit on the first lap, and after everyone else pitted, he cycled out into the lead and held off the advances of reigning champion Tonizza for 16 laps to take victory.
That feeling when… you win your first #F1Esports race in style, like @eRacingPointF1’s @LucasBlakeley01 💪— Formula 1® Game (@Formula1game) May 27, 2020
Catch the highlights of the weekend’s #F1Esports Pro Exhibition race right here: https://t.co/Dme6JAFWlj pic.twitter.com/M8FFAyJsqN
Along with that Monaco win, some other noteable achievements of Blakeley’s include spearheading the newly-rebranded Aston Martin esports team’s efforts in the second season of the V10 R-League, where they just fell short of winning the championship to BMW. Then later that year, Blakeley took his first win in the F1 Esports Pro Championship in the 2021 season opener and followed that up with a dominant display at the Portimão circuit.
At one point, Blakeley even led the championship and he went into the final event having just lost the championship lead to Opmeer, only trailing him by five points. Unfortunately, he was eliminated from contention before the final race but it was still a valiant effort to be in the conversation for the championship against seasoned F1 Esports title contenders like Opmeer and Frederik Rasmussen.
But as we’ve already mentioned, the Race of Champions is the highlight of Blakeley’s career. He may have lost out to Opmeer in the eROC, just coming up short at the end despite being consistently the quickest driver on the sim throughout the entire event. But when both Blakeley and Opmeer took to the real circuit, that’s where Blakeley’s star shone brightest.
When it comes to car racing, past eROC competitors have all had a bit of real world experience. 2019 eROC champion Baldwin raced a couple of Formula Ford races and Opmeer was a member of Renault’s F1 driver academy. The Dutchman competed in the likes of Northern European F4 (where he finished runner-up to F2 race winner Richard Verschoor) and also Formula Renault EuroCup (in which over half of the current F1 field have competed).
2018 eROC champion Enzo Bonito got a chance to race one round in the Porsche Carrera Cup Italia before he went to the 2019 Race of Champions in Mexico and defeated the likes of IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi. That already made major headlines to see a sim racer defeating champions on tarmac in the Foro Sol stadium on the Mexico City Grand Prix track.
What was the grand total of Blakeley’s car racing experience before defeating a four-time F1 world champion? 20 minutes in a BMW around Silverstone. Yes, they were on snow and ice compared to the grippy tarmac that Vettel is used to but if anything, that just makes it all the more impressive. The race further proved that sim racing is a viable pathway to find talented drivers.
It also shows that, despite the Codemasters F1 titles not being as hardcore in their simulation as the likes of top level racing sims, they can still be a platform to find real racing talent. Whilst Blakeley has competed on sims like rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa, the F1 games are his primary focus.
Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. After a very impressive start to 2020, Blakeley was surely set up for a title charge in F1 Esports but instead the Racing Point outfit finished plum last in the final standings. Lucas admits he was going through a lot at the time which really compromised his performance, but he really dug deep within himself to rediscover that form which undoubtedly led to his breakthrough year in 2021.
Lucas credits his family with inspiring him to continue striving for improvement, as they parted with a lot to help his career. This is why he’s so determined to make the most of the chances he’s been given now, and along with his racing hero Lewis Hamilton, Blakeley credits them as his heroes who serve as his inspiration to keep going.
He’s no longer a part of the Aston Martin esports team but it would appear he won’t be disappearing from the F1 Esports grid as he’s got his eye on flipping the script from 2021. He’s determined to become the champion of F1 Esports this year, and undoubtedly having the experience of the championship battle last season will help him.
Blakeley would very much also like to be afforded the opportunity to race in the real world once again after getting a taste for it in the Race of Champions. Whether it be for the single race or a full season, he would love to get back behind the wheel.
Lucas Blakeley is an incredible ambassador for sim racing, a true testament to what it can provide in terms of opportunities to showcase ability. Whether it’s competing in esports or the real world, Blakeley will be successful no matter where he finds himself racing.
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Are there any personalities in esports racing you would like to nominate for the next edition of Hero of the Month? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!