Road to Vegas- Long Beach review

Last weekend I got a chance to co-commentate on the final of the first Formula E Road to Vegas qualifier (hosted by Spanish company Cloud Sport) at the Long Beach circuit in the game RFactor 2. This is the first of 4 qualifiers to determine who are the 10 players that get to go to Las Vegas to compete against the full grid of 20 Formula E drivers on a fantasy Las Vegas track.

We’ve seen e-races between a fan and the drivers before at Formula E events, but they tended to be very clumsy, half-a-dozen lap wreckfests with damage turned off. Good for a laugh but they didn’t show either the full potential of the drivers, the simulation or the actual competition.

The heat final though was 42 laps, and designed and modded to mimic a real life Formula E race as closely as possible, including the car swaps and 4 of the official Formula E tracks used last season. (The only notable exceptions being the absence of the Safety car and Full Course Yellows, simply because it’s unnecessary to deploy them as retired cars are teleported instantly back to their garage in the pitlane, thus only yellow flags for slow moving/damaged vehicles were needed.)

The top 5 drivers from 4 semi finals (featuring the drivers who set the top 80 lap-times) went through to the final. Chief among these were heat winners Graham Carroll from Scotland, Petar Brljack from Croatia, David Greco from the UK and renowned Finnish Sim-racing legend Greger Huttu. Behind Huttu were his Team Redline teammates, including fellow Finn Ollie Pahkala, teenage Italian Enzo Bonito and further back another famous sim-racer, Dutchman Bono Huis, started 10th.

At the start, Carroll led away from Brljack and the rest of the field, with the top 6 positions remaining stable most of the fighting was lower down the order.

Jesus Sicillia was the first man to pit from the back of the field on lap 15, and the lap after was followed by Huis who tried to undercut the drivers around him. Carroll pit from the lead at half-distance on lap 21, followed by Huttu. Brljack pit on lap 22, with Greco pitting on lap 23. The man who stayed out longest was Pahkala, who didn’t pit until the start of lap 25, leapfrogged teammate Huttu in the order and almost managed to emerge in front of Greco for 3rd, but the Briton dived down the inside at turn 3 and retook the position with better momentum.

On lap 29 Cem Bolukbasi made arguably the move of the race. With nothing to lose after serving a drive through penalty for causing a collision with Huis, Turkish driver Cem (Pronounced ‘Jem’) managed to go around the outside of Kristian Kwietniewski at turn 5 in a forceful and daring move for 18th place. Kwietniewski had to brake hard to avoid being run out of room into the hairpin, but it was deemed tough but fair as both continued. On the following lap Ricky Wilson suffered a premature end to his race by getting it all wrong at the first chicane; he have been in a lowly position, but that’s still extra points he’ll be frustrated to lose.

The biggest incident in the race though happened on lap 37 when Bonito, running in 6th, crashed out of the race at turn 3 and US driver Wyatt Gooden running directly behind in 7th was unable to avoid him. The American nursed a heavily damaged car back to the pits on 3 wheels, but unfortunately despite his efforts his race was over; through, it must be said, no real fault of his own.

Up front Graham Carroll swerved jubilantly across the finish line in his moment of victory. Brljack was 4 seconds behind in second place, and under a second ahead of Greco in third. Pahkala was unfortunately unable to take further advantage of having saved more energy and ended up stuck behind Greco, but he did keep the famous Huttu at bay. Finland’s Aleksi Elomaa finished in a strong 6th position with a 11 second gap to Polish GT Academy driver Nikodem Wisniewski. Hungary’s Daniel Kiss was 8th, doing a good job to hold off Bono Huis who put in a very solid recovery drive despite a difficult start to the race. British driver Muhammed Patel rounded out the top 10, with Sicillia (who climbed up the order to finish 12th) gaining the two bonus points for setting the fastest lap.

The win was never in doubt, but all in all it was an immensely enjoyable race to commentate on despite my obvious nerves (it was my first time doing it for a major event) and I got some important feedback to help me do better in the future. Everyone’s been very supportive, thankful and helpful.

I’ll be commentating again with my co-commentators Alie Pacq and Rene for the Paris semi-final and final on the 29th and 30 of October.

For the current points rankings, and for more information, see:

Road to Vegas- Long Beach review

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