Scotland’s Lucas Blakeley has won the eROC World Final, defeating Jarno Opmeer of the Netherlands in a timed shoot-out both on the sim and in real-life cars on the iconic ROC parallel track at Sweden’s Pite Havsbad
The icy shootout was the culmination of a global search for the coolest heads in simracing in a bid to find the overall ‘best of the best’, and also featured Greece’s Michael Romanidis and Sweden’s Martin Palm
Today’s event serves as a warm-up for this weekend’s ROC World Final, where some of the world’s greatest drivers – from series including Formula 1, Formula 2, IndyCar, Le Mans, W Series, World Rally, World Rallycross, Nitro Rallycross and X-Games – will race at the same frozen venue
Blakeley and Opmeer have now won a very special prize: a place on Team eROC in tomorrow’s ROC Nations Cup, and a dream Round 1 draw against Team Finland’s F1 legends Mika Hakkinen and Valtteri Bottas
ROC Sweden will be broadcast LIVE on TV all over the world. Details here
Scotland’s reigning F1 Esports Pro Series Champion Lucas Blakeley has seen off three other simracing specialists to become the 2023 eROC Champion, following a global search to find the fastest simracers.
The eROC World Final took place both in the virtual world of Assetto Corsa and in real-life cars on the brand new ROC parallel track, purpose built on the frozen Baltic Sea at Pite Havsbad, just 60 miles from the Arctic Circle.
Today’s competition featured four simracers: last year’s eROC runner-up Blakeley went up against the reigning eROC Champion and double F1 Esports Pro Series Champion Jarno Opmeer of the Netherlands, Sweden’s Martin Palm and Greece’s Michael Romanidis – who reached the eROC World Final following a qualifying competition that was open to simracers from all over the world.
After ROC Academy training by stunt ace Terry Grant, the four simracers took to the Pite Havsbad parallel track in the mighty off-road Polaris RZR PRO XP to show off their prowess of racing on ice. And it all happened under the watchful gaze of Grant himself plus his fellow expert judges: Sweden’s IndyCar racewinner Felix Rosenqvist and World Rally rising star Oliver Solberg, the winner of last year’s ROC Nations Cup with his father Petter for Team Norway.
Despite the simracers’ limited experience in real-life racing cars, part of the challenge involved setting a lap with the champion drivers judging them on a range of criteria including track awareness and positioning, car control and outright pace. The gamers were much more at home in the other part of the challenge, which involved simracing on the Assetto Corsa version of the ROC Sweden track.
After the scores for both sections were totted up, Blakeley and Opmeer ended up in the final – despite a spirited effort from Romanidis and Palm, who both took a heat off each of the top two in today’s battles on the sim. The final shootout included another real-life lap in the Polaris RZR PRO XP on the Pite Havsbad track, which Blakeley won by four seconds. After two further timed battles on the sim, the Scotsman was crowned eROC Champion for the first time.
Now, thanks to their performance today, Blakeley and Opmeer have won a very special prize: the chance to race for Team eROC in the ROC Nations Cup against some of the world’s greatest drivers. Better still, they have been given a dream draw in Round 1, facing the might of Team Finland’s double F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen and 10-time F1 grand prix winner Valtteri Bottas.
That gives them both the chance to repeat Blakeley’s heroics from last year when he defeated Sebastian Vettel in his first ever race in a real car.
If the simracers can make it over that considerable hurdle they could face even more of the biggest names in global motorsport history – including four-time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb, extreme sports legend Travis Pastrana and ‘Mr Le Mans’ Tom Kristensen.
The line-up also features World Rallycross Champions Johan Kristoffersson, Mattias Ekström and Petter Solberg, 13-time F1 grand prix winner David Coulthard plus triple W Series Champion Jamie Chadwick. Then there’s F1’s Mick Schumacher, reigning FIA F2 Champion Felipe Drugovich, IndyCar racer Felix Rosenqvist, rallycross ace Tanner Foust, 2022 eTouring Car World Cup Champion Adrien Tambay and World Rally stars Oliver Solberg and Thierry Neuville.
Blakeley said: “I’m super happy at the moment, and really excited about tomorrow. It’s such an immense privilege to be here at the Race Of Champions. Thank you to the eROC organisers for putting this competition on every year and giving us the chance to go up against so many legends of the sport.
“It’s always weird watching your lap back because it feels so quick when you’re doing it but on screen it looks less fast. The conditions were tough and it’s very easy to get caught offline with the snow, but at least I had a clean run. The judges gave me the maximum scores, so thank you very much to them. In today’s final I had a bit of a scruffy last race but I’m so happy to have gone one step further than last year and won the eROC title.”
Opmeer added: “My judged lap in the Polaris went all right. I made a mistake on the first lap but the second lap was really good and I adapted. Maybe I adapted too well, because it took some time to get used to the sim again this morning… Then I’m not sure why I was so slow on the track but maybe it was the same problem of switching between the sim and the track. But I’m very happy to be able to take part in the ROC Nations Cup again tomorrow. We’ll be practising all day today and I can’t wait.”
The 2023 eROC competition originally kicked off with a hot lap competition which was open to everyone on the planet. Last week the 16 simracers with the fastest lap times joined some invited professional sim racers for the eROC Qualifying final.
The professional simracers included Opmeer and Blakeley plus Diogo Pinto (Porsche Supercup), James Baldwin (ACC champion), Fred Rasmussen (FE Accelerate champion), Kevin Siggy (Le Mans Virtual/DTM champ), Max Benecke (VCO), Bence Banki (eWTCR), Coque Lopez (GT Sport) and Lohan Blanc (WRC).
Blakeley and Romanidis won their respective qualifying finals after a tense shootout while Palm claimed a place as the top Swedish driver for the second straight year. Opmeer, Blakeley, Romanidis and Palm thus won an all-expenses paid trip to ROC Sweden – and the chance to win a place on the grid for the ROC Nations Cup against some of the world’s best drivers.
ROC President Fredrik Johnsson said: “Congratulations to Lucas for his win, and to Jarno, who will join him on Team eROC in tomorrow’s ROC Nations Cup. They did so well last year and with that experience they have definitely matured and they are getting faster and faster. They have now won themselves a dream race against Team Finland’s F1 greats Mika Hakkinen and Valtteri Bottas. Last year Lucas took his chance and beat Sebastian Vettel in his first ever race in a real car, so let’s see how they can both get on tomorrow.
“This was our fourth eROC World Final and it’s getting better every year. Now we are determined to keep seeking out for the ‘best of the best’ simracers from all over the world. Whether you play on your mobile, iPad or anything else, this is a competition where the whole planet has the chance to take part. So you could be the next to find yourself racing at the Race Of Champions against some of the world’s best drivers in identical cars…”
With a history dating back to 1988, the Race Of Champions is a unique festival of global motorsport where stars from series including Formula 1, IndyCar, Le Mans, World Rally and Rallycross battle head-to-head in identical cars, with the winner decided by driver skill alone – often by fractions of a second. All the action takes place on a purpose-built parallel track featuring ROC’s iconic crossover bridge.
The competitive action starts with tomorrow’s ROC Nations Cup, when the drivers pair up in national teams (Saturday January 28, 12:00-15:00 CET). Then comes the individual Race Of Champions (Sunday January 29, 12:00-15:00 CET) when it’s a straight battle to come away with the coveted title of ROC Champion of Champions.
You can watch the event LIVE all over the world on networks including SVT1 and SVT Play (Sweden), C More Max and Cmore.fi (Finland), NRK (Norway), Canal + (France, French-speaking countries, Switzerland and Poland), Sky Sports (UK, Ireland), ViaPlay (Denmark, Iceland), Ziggo (Netherlands), TV3 (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), OTE (Greece), Cablenet (Cyprus), MavTV (USA), REV TV (Canada), Star + OTT - Disney (Latin America), Fox 3 (Mexico), Supersport (Africa - English speaking), Canal + and Supersport (Africa), Astro (Malaysia, Brunei) and HK-Cable (Hong Kong). In all other countries the live stream will be available on the Race Of Champions official YouTube channel.