2021 was another great year for viewing competitive esports racing tournaments. Some drivers had some of their best seasons yet.
Image credit: v10rleague.com
2021 has been quite the year for so many drivers in the virtual world. James Baldwin won three championships, and Bono Huis took a clean sweep in the highly competitive Formula Pro Series.
But whilst those two are established faces in the esports racing scene, there are many drivers who had their breakthrough seasons in 2021. Here are three that we felt should be highlighted.
Heading into the final round of the F1 Esports Pro Championship, there were three drivers in contention. There was reigning champion Jarno Opmeer, eternal runner-up Frede Rasmussen but the surprise contender was most certainly Lucas Blakeley.
After showing promise in his first races in the Pro Series and winning the unofficial championship of the Pro Exhibition races in 2020, Blakeley and his teammates Daniele Haddad and Shanaka Clay endured a rather torrid season in the 2020 Pro Series.
In 2021 though, it seemed to go their way. First and foremost, the trio competed in the V10 R-League and just fell short to BMW Motorsport SIM Racing Team at the end, but they did take down the favourites McLaren Shadow in the Semi-Finals. Then heading into the F1 Esports Pro Championship, Blakeley in particular starred.
He held off relentless competition in the opener on the Bahrain GP circuit to take his first win and then dominated the Portimão race. At one point, he led the championship but was eliminated from contention after the penultimate round. However, he secured third in the final standings and has proven himself a contender for the future. Watch out for Blakeley in 2022
Sébastien ‘Affi’ Affolter
In the TrackMania Grand League scene, a young Swiss player had a stellar 2021. Sébastien ‘Affi’ Affolter surprised many within the TMGL community by netting fourth place in the 2021 Grand League World Cup.
Affi (@Affi1606) from Team BDS (@TeamBDS) takes the last advancing spot from Phase 1 of TMGL FALL 2020 – Playoff.— Eirik Holdal #Trackmania (@EirikHoldal) November 1, 2020
Phase 2 coming up soon!
🎙️ @WirtualTM & @TMGGeek
[ #TMGLFALL2020 // @TrackmaniaGL ] pic.twitter.com/7j0bceaU8Q
After his promotion to the Grand League from the Open League back in 2020, Affi managed respectable finishes in Fall 2020 and Winter 2021. Most recently, the Swiss driver completed the Fall 2021 season of the TMGL in second place, behind only Thomas ‘Pac’ Cole. These results will no doubt put him in a good position to continue challenging the upper echelons of TrackMania esports more consistently in the future. Remember the name Affi heading into 2022.
This last one you may not have heard of, but don’t be surprised if he becomes a household name in the FIA Gran Turismo scene heading into 2022. In his appearance in the Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup during the World Finals, he came incredibly close to winning his first major event in the Gran Turismo championships.
Kobayashi was only 16 and was surrounded by established names in Gran Turismo such as new Nations Cup champion Valerio Gallo and last year’s clean sweep winner of all things Gran Turismo Takuma Miyazono, our Hero of the Month for January 2021. In the end, Kobayashi’s decision to go long into the race before making his mandatory stop was what ultimately cost him and he ended up third.
It’s lap 4 of 6 in the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing GT Cup Grand Final, and the leading cars of Kobayashi, Gallo, Serrano and Bonelli have yet to pit…— Gran Turismo (@thegranturismo) December 3, 2021
Whose strategy will work best in the remainder of this race? 🤔#GTSport
In that first race though, Kobayashi held off the advances of Miyazono and fellow promising Gran Turismo competitor Jose Serrano, with maturity beyond his years. If he’s this quick at 16 in his first major event, imagine what he can do with a year’s worth of experience.
Here’s hoping he makes the effort to compete in the Manufacturer Series and Nations Cup next year as he has proven to have the ability to potentially join the likes of Igor Fraga, Mikail Hizal, Takuma Miyazono and Valerio Gallo as Gran Turismo champions.
Which other players had breakthrough years in 2021? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!