OverTake presents our Hero of the Month for September: 4-time WRC eSports champion Lohan ‘Nexl’ Blanc.
Image credit: WRC / Sébastien Waxin
Winning one major championship is an impressive feat no matter whether it’s in the real or virtual world, but being consistently successful takes real skill. When it comes to forms of racing esports, World Rally, despite being an iconic motorsport championship, flies under the radar. Which is a real shame as this month’s hero is very much an unsung one.
Lohan Blanc – otherwise known as Nexl – has won the WRC eSports championship four times, so far being the only person to do so on more than one occasion. He has been incredibly consistent in his time competing in a series which requires maximum concentration at all times, since it’s more about setting the fastest times rather than defending from your competitor.
For these achievements in the world of virtual rallying and winning his fourth championship, we are making him our Hero of the Month for September!
Not a Driver
Unlike a lot of people who compete on driving games, Nexl had no background in the real world of racing as he considers himself more of a gamer than a driver. He was an avid player of the World Rally games, with his first being WRC: Rally Evolved from 2005 after having developed an interest in rallying from watching his idol Sébastien Loeb.
He played many other driving games like the F1 and Gran Turismo titles on his PlayStation consoles. Only ever playing for fun, he had never given any thought to getting into the competitive racing scene in any capacity.
But it was in 2015 during WRC 5‘s lifecycle that the talk of esports began. With how good he was, Nexl had to be part of the conversation.
Getting Started in Esports
Nexl qualified for the semi final and made it to the final 18 that would fight for overall victory onsite at the Wales Rally GB. He ended up fourth in his first attempt, only three tenths shy of the win, which he admits really got to him. But it made him more determined than ever to buckle down and come back the following year to right that wrong.
That he very much did in 2017, as Lohan won his first championship. He considers this the highlight of his career so far, as during the regular season he had won eight rallies out of a possible 13. Nexl did this whilst being one of the only controller players in the final, while the majority of his rivals used wheels.
In the following year, though, came a bit of a setback for Nexl. Two weeks before the final he had qualified for, he was made aware of the fact that he would need to race on the wheel. He said adapting to the wheel was a pain, he was so used to the controller as he had raced in the previous two seasons and all the qualifying rounds with it.
As a result of the short notice, he could only manage sixth in the 2018 final, which was still pretty impressive for someone who had never used a wheel and pedals before. With all he had learnt, he was ready to reclaim his crown for the following season, but this time with a wheel.
Subsequently, he won the following three WRC eSports championships, with his second title in 2019 seeing him defeat reigning WRC eSports champion Jon Armstrong, a real-world rally driver with three Junior-WRC rally victories to his name.
With all the importance being on the finals and the skillset for rallying being based on outright speed and precision rather than holding position and the racing line in a close quarters battle, Nexl’s achievements are truly remarkable. It takes immense mental strength to win in WRC eSports.
What Does the Future Hold?
Nexl and his many other rallying competitors are about to enter uncharted territory as the future of rallying video games is changing. In years prior, the rallying gaming community was split between two games, the official WRC-licenced games by KT Racing and the Codemasters-developed DIRT Rally titles.
The WRC licence has now been claimed by Codemasters and EA, with the WRC eSports Series expected to move over to the newly rebranded EA SPORTS Rally game. It is very likely that these titles will retain handling physics and characteristics from the DIRT Rally games rather than the ones developed by KT. Nexl is cautiously optimistic that he can continue his form even on the new games, but confesses that it won’t be straightforward.
If any driver who has faced such need for adaptability has continued to be at the top of his game, we are certain Lohan ‘Nexl’ Blanc has many more WRC eSports titles still to win. The highly skilled Frenchman reminds us all that everybody can continue to improve and be the best at what they do no matter the adversities they may face.
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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!