In the last weekend of October I was back for more Cloudsport Road to Vegas action with the second round in Paris, and there were some very interesting developments, not just on the track, but also in the commentary box.
I’ll start off talking about the latter. Rene Alexander was once again on duty for the finale of the WRC eSports series, this time for the finale in Wales, so the semi-finals were covered by myself and Alie Tacq. However we were also helped by my friend Remco Majoor; like me he’s a member of Formula E Addicts but he also drives in the series, albeit thus far in the first two rounds he has been unlucky not to finish either of the semi-finals he’s made it through to. Fortunately for me though Remco could commentate with me for the final in Paris which Alie unfortunately could not make due to a prior commitment. It was nice to commentate with Remco for a change as despite knowing him a year I’d not heard his voice before the weekend, and it turns out that he is actually a great co-commentator who’s really easy to work with; I only wish I didn’t speak over him so much! I am sort of hoping Remco’s commentary position isn’t renewed too regularly during the rest of the season because I would love to see what he could do if he fulfilled his potential and qualified into a final. However with no points on the board halfway through the competition, Remco’s Vegas prospects unfortunately look quite remote, but I’m sure he’ll keep trying.
Anyway so let’s recap what happened in Paris. The four Semi-final winners were Greger Huttu, Olli Pahkala, Patrik Holtzman and Bono Huis. There were a couple of hard-luck stories though; Muhammed Patel, starting from the pitlane in the first semi-final after an incident on the warm-up lap, put on some spectacular and unusual overtakes to get up into the 5th place needed to qualify for the final, when disaster struck with only a handful of laps to run as he was disconnected; this meant that the brilliantly named American Walter Wedgeworth managed to reach the final against all odds and without the aid of a front wing. Cem Bolukbasi somehow managed to flip his car upside down over the curb in group 2, whilst in group 3 Petar Brljack, who placed 2nd in the final at Long Beach, had an extremely messy semi-final after Jesus Sicillia spun in front of him early on and removed Brljack’s front wing. Another Formula E Addicts driver and close friend of Remco’s, Mark Berends, also had his suspension broken by Brljack, and Mark ended up 6th, just missing out on a place in the final to Miguel Ballestre; but as consolation Mark has jumped up to 25th in the overall points and is still in the hunt for the top 10. In the final group, it was sensationally Graham Carroll’s turn to suffer misfortune, as his steering wheel failed him right as he was approaching his pit marker; this meant he lost a 12 second lead that he had over Bono Huis, and later a huge lock-up allowed Wyatt Gooden to get past too; the result was that Graham Carroll started 12th in the final when he justifiably felt he could have started in the top 4. An honourable mention must go to Gian Trovo who was 7 seconds off the pace in qualifying, repeatedly pit to replace his front wing and ended up being lapped at least 9 times before retiring in comical fashion, being unable to avoid the marquee garage wall. But despite being way out of his depth, his never say die attitude made a great impression on me, and I sincerely hope that Gian comes back in Berlin to give it another go; so he’s made at least one fan!
The final had a very eventful start. Huttu and Pahkala led away from the front row, but Patrik Holtzman directly behind tried to squeeze Bono Huis into the wall, and subsequently was given a 5 second penalty post-race for not leaving enough room for the Dutchman. Whilst those two were squabbling, Enzo Bonito took full advantage to sweep around the outside of both of them to take 3rd position. Graham Carroll discovered that starting lower down the order on a Formula E circuit makes your life so much harder than at the front, as he was hit in the rear by Michelle D’Alessandro. D’Alessandro then rather cruelly spun Samuel Libeert out of his home race, and copped a drive through penalty from the Stewards for his indiscretions. David Greco, 3rd in the standings entering the race, made contact with Nikodem Wisniewski which lost both cars positions; Greco was judged to be at fault and was given a 3 second penalty after the finish.
Once the carnage of the first lap was out of the way, the race began to settle down. It wasn’t until the pitstops that we began to see some action. Marc Gassner and Dimitrios Parisis pitted the earliest on lap 19, a move which didn’t really pay off as it happens; it only freed up the faster drivers who were out of position behind them, and allowed them to jump them in the order in clean air. Bonito was the first frontrunner to pit on lap 21, followed by Huis, Wyatt Gooden and Wisniewski. The following lap Huttu, Pahkala, Aleksi Ussi (participating with a broken arm) and Carroll all made their stops. Holtzman, Jakub Brezinski and Aleksi Elomaa then vacated the lead when they pit on lap 23.
Through the pitstops one man had opted to go for a very different strategy; that man was Miguel Ballestre. Narrow runner-up in Cloud sport’s other series, the Seat Leon Eurocup, Ballestre had been struggling in 16th place and didn’t really have the pace to run at the front. By lap 25, the 3 Team Redline teammates Huttu, Pahkala and Bonito had all caught up to Ballestre and were starting to get severely held up by the Spaniard as he backed them into Holtzman. It wasn’t until lap 29 that they managed to clear Ballestre when he hit the inside of a curb and lost his front wing. But Miguel decided this was not a sign that he should pit for repairs and carried on regardless as his pace continued to worsen. Huis was able to retake 5th by braking late around the outside at turn one, but then Aleksi Ussi and Wyatt Gooden battled furiously for position whilst fighting in turn with the stubborn Ballestre, who on lap 31 moved in the braking zone very late which caused both Ussi and Gooden to take dramatic evasive action. This was something the stewards took a dim view of. Nethertheless, Ussi and Gooden both found their way past on the same lap, and a train from 9th through to 15th began to form up behind Ballestre. One man who took advantage of this bunching up was Carroll, who found a way around the outside of Elomaa in a risky but beautifully judged move through turns 4 and 5. The fun was over on lap 33 as Ballestre finally bailed out and pit, ending a suicidal stint from him which left him back where he started in 16th.
Up front, Olli Pahkala had a big scare as his rear wheel tapped the wall at the high speed turn 8 with 5 laps to go, but mercifully he got away with it and continued to push Greger Huttu all the way to the finish, but he never felt it was worth trying a risky move on his compatriot, so Huttu was able to win ahead of Pahkala and Bonito. With their teammates Huis and Ussi 5th and 6th behind Holtzman it proved to be a very good day for Team Redline. A difficult day for Graham Carroll ended with some consolation as Greco’s 3 second penalty in the bunched up pack dropped him to 12th, elevating Carroll into the top 10. Even with the dropped worst result, those precious few points could well make all the difference.
Note: Holtzman set the fastest lap and scored 2 extra points for doing so.
Next stop Berlin on November 19th/20th. With the championship hotting up, that top 10 is starting to take shape, but remember with the dropped score yet to come we could see the fortunes of many mid-pack runners fluctuate.
For further information and full streams of every race, visit: http://roadtovegas.cloudsport.club/