An image of Enzo Bonito on a smoky green background.

Enzo Bonito: Our November Hero of the Month

OverTake presents our Hero of the Month for November: 2018 eRace of Champions winner and established sim racing veteran Enzo Bonito.

Image credit: Team Redline

Esports racing has seen somewhat of a shift in 2022. No longer is it simply anchored as an attempt to replicate real world racing championships. Many major competitions are now taking advantage of the lack of restrictions from real world motorsport. Subsequently, it’s now showing which drivers are quick no matter the type of car, track or even game.

With the creation of the VCO Esports Racing League, teams were tasked with finding the most consistent balance of drivers who could be quick on Assetto Corsa Competizione, rFactor 2 and iRacing. As a result, many drivers were forced to leave their niches and specialties, making massive improvements in the process. But one driver stood above them all when it came to competing across all platforms: Enzo Bonito.

The Italian driver has been winning races and championships on sims for many years. He even contributed to sim racing being put in the public’s consciousness when he won the eRace of Champions. But this year, he has proven what it truly means to be an esports racer. It’s to be versatile, adaptable and to branch out beyond their comfort zone.

For all of his achievements and consistently demonstrating his ability, we are making him our Hero of the Month for November!

Hero of the Month

Getting Started

As always with any hopeful driver, Bonito began purely as a fan of motorsport. He would avidly follow both Formula One and also the FIA GT1 World Championship, and developed a taste for competition. So Enzo asked his father if he could become a racecar driver, to which he unfortunately got the response that it was financially unviable for them.

When Christmas came around, Bonito’s father did the next best thing. He got young Enzo a sim racing wheel, specifically a Logitech G25 with a H-pattern shifter and clutch pedal. They had already been playing Gran Turismo 5 around that time using controllers, but now with a wheel, Enzo was beginning to compete online in a more serious manner. He would spend all day driving.

Fast forward into the not too distant future, and he had made the jump on to iRacing. He spent a few years competing in organised races. One day, he had a chance encounter with none other than Atze Kerkhof, director of Team Redline. Bonito was competing in a GT3 championship back in 2014, he impressed Kerkhof who then offered him a place in the Redline academy program.

Beating the Best

After a few years of success, sim racing started becoming more mainstream in 2017. Widely credited as being the event that put sim racing in the spotlight, Bonito competed in the Formula E Vegas eRace in January that year. It was his first LAN event in sim racing and it was quite the culture shock for Bonito.

His Redline teammate Bono Huis took the spoils that day. But it wouldn’t be long before it was Bonito who would be making the headlines.

Bonito qualified for the inaugural eRace of Champions, a tournament that would guarantee a place for one of the four competing sim racers in the real life Race of Champions. They would get to drive some real racecars against the very best in motorsport. It would end up being Bonito as he proved to be quicker in the real life driving than his main competitor, F1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh.

He considers competing in the Race of Champions his greatest achievement, especially when he returned for the following year. Bonito took to the track against Lucas di Grassi (2016-17 Formula E champion) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner). Against all odds, Bonito defeated both of them.

Bonito really earned his stripes that weekend. He single-handedly proved in front of the motorsport world that sim racing can provide a platform to find real world talent. Back in the virtual world though, he was facing his biggest challenge yet.

Difficulties in F1 Esports

For 2018, Bonito joined McLaren Shadow and would race in F1 Esports. In that time competing for them, he found some success with the occasional high points scoring finish and even one pole position and podium. But even in a familiar environment where Redline were running the show and both Enzo and his teammates were with their usual engineers, they couldn’t quite match the top drivers.

It’s no secret that the official F1 games by Codemasters have a very different handling model compared to simulation titles like iRacing. This is to accommodate the more casual gamers who may use a controller, and rarely are there drivers who can be quick on both. So typically, the drivers who lead the way on the F1 games are dedicated specialists who rarely venture out into other platforms.

His three year stint in F1 Esports was a very challenging time for him. After his final season in the series as part of Ferrari, Bonito wasn’t feeling very fulfilled and not finding enjoyment driving on the F1 game. He was spending the majority of his time driving on there but wasn’t able to find the pace.

On top of that, he was missing driving on the simulators that he had called home for so long. So he declined an offer from Ferrari to continue in the series and returned to Redline. This was where his star began shining brightest.

Success In Variety

In sim racing, there are a vast amount of competitions going on across all types of games. Despite all being simulators and trying to mirror how a car drives in reality, they don’t all behave the same and require very different styles to drive. Typically, drivers who are quick on one game aren’t automatically quick on another.

Bonito himself has proven to be a frontrunner in championships on all types of games like iRacing, rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione. So when VCO conjured up a new championship involving all three games, it became apparent to many as to who would be one of the leading drivers.

With the Esports Racing World Cup in January 2022, VCO set out to find the definitive best drivers and teams in sim racing. They formed a set of events that asked drivers to be quick on multiple games, realising that sim racing as a medium was not and would never be contained on the one platform.

Bonito, along with his teammates Kevin Siggy and Jeffrey Rietveld on ACC and rFactor 2, and his iRacing teammates Chris Lulham and Patrik Holzmann, won the Esports Racing World Cup for Redline. They continued to be the class of sim racing in the Esports Racing League, and won the Summer Cup on rFactor 2. Redline were undefeated on that particular sim over the whole year in ERL.

There may have been many drivers who drove on all three platforms, but Bonito rarely had any major consistent competition on all games. He was hogging up the Most Valuable Driver award, where the drivers who get the most podiums across all regular season rounds pocket some extra cash.

In sim racing, cars and tracks can be changed at the press of a button. Therefore whilst in real life, there are drivers who prove they can race across many motorsport disciplines, sim racers do it more regularly. No matter the car, Bonito was always running up at the front.

Bonito admits that on an average day, he often finds himself switching between up to four different sims at a time when practicing! Considering the vastly different styles to drive on all these games, that’s incredible to comprehend.

What does the Future Hold?

Enzo doesn’t see much changing for him, but it’s no surprise to anyone that he does want to get back behind the wheel of a real racecar. He has just seen his teammate Kevin Siggy winning himself a full season’s worth of racing in the DTM Trophy as a reward for his victory in the DTM Esports championship on RaceRoom.

Along with the Race of Champions, Bonito also raced on the Imola circuit in the final round of the 2018 Porsche Carrera Cup Italia season. He even managed a P2 finish in the Silver category. Enzo hasn’t ever driven a full season though, and it’s something he would really love to do.

He leads a very simple life. Hobbies outside of racing don’t venture much beyond going to the gym and running, but he finds his occupation as a full time sim racer very satisfying. When he comes away from the sim, he spends it with his immensely supportive long-time partner.

There may be many drivers out there who, like Enzo, can race across multiple sims in various types of cars. There are even some who have successfully competed on the F1 games as well as the simulators. But Enzo Bonito is the only driver who demonstrates his range on a regular basis and has to adapt very quickly.

Many successful drivers who stick to one type of car or specialising in one game are perfectly legitimate. But the environment of sim racing now shows that the drivers who are quick no matter the type of car, track or game are the ones who will be most successful.

That is Enzo Bonito, who time and time again proves himself to be sim racing’s all-star.

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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!

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