The first 24 qualifiers, 12 from Europe and 12 from North America, have booked their spots in the 2022 Ferrari Velas Esports Championship Regional Finals.
Following two evenings of hard-fought racing, the 96 online qualifiers in each region were whittled down to 12 through four races at Laguna Seca, Monza, Nurburgring, Zandvoort, in both Assetto Corsa and Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Europe Qualifier #1
It was the European bloc up first, with the Nurburgring race in ACC coming up first on the schedule. Although Ivan Shermentinskii was the fastest of the online qualifiers, it was the UK’s Jonathan Riley who snatched pole position in a pre-race qualifying session.
With only a top three finish being necessary to secure a regional finals place, Riley and Shermetinskii seemed to work together to pull an early gap from the chasing pack. That was headed by Leonardo Pagano, who was shadowed to the finish by countryman Federico Pedrini but held on to take the final spot.
The action then moved to Laguna Seca and AC, with Lithuania’s Tauras Gudinavicius backing up his top spot from online qualifying with a pole position start in the race.
This race was effectively decided in the first turn, as Niko Puntola overtook Mateusz Bes for third, making Bes a cork in a bottle of the cars behind while the front three built an advantage. However Gudinavicius was particularly uncatchable, winning by ten seconds from Maichol Tonizza — brother of Ferrari Velas Esports driver David — with Puntola a comfortable third.
Zandvoort in ACC was the location for race three, and Michael Romagnoli the man to qualify on pole having also set the fastest time in qualifying earlier in the year.
The tight and twisty Dutch track made for some entertaining racing, but with Romagnoli and fellow front-row qualifier Antonio Fedele showing everyone a clean pair of tail lights it was all about third place.
That was between Marcin Swiderek, a finalist in 2020, and Lorenz Hoerzing — better known for his Formula E exploits. Swiderek would just hold off Hoerzing to claim the podium spot.
Finally the racing moved to Monza back in AC, and while fastest qualifier Adrian Kot was able to also claim pole position, a dreadful start saw him immediately slip down to sixth.
Kot seemed to have pace in abundance though, getting back up to fourth by the end of lap one and taking third from F1 Esports racer Domenico Lovece soon after.
Wojciech Lukaszek, who’d inherited the lead on lap one, ran out a comfortable winner from Kot, who relegated Sandro Tavartkiladze into third — but all three drivers qualify.
North America Qualifier #1
The North American racers would drive the same four circuits in the same order, meaning the Nurburgring would be first up. Firm favorite and 2021 GT World Challenge America Esports Endurance Series champion Christopher Severt would back up his top hot-lap time with pole position.
Perhaps expectedly, Severt just disappeared down the road, but he did initially drag Eric de Bon and Ryan Woodrow with him. Before long they too had gapped fourth-place driver Erie Riley, eventually streaking home line-astern but 16 seconds ahead of Riley.
With Laguna Seca up next, top online qualifier Brian Woodward was just able to hold off Alexander Yurevitch to keep the lead into turn one, and given breathing room as Yurevitch scrapped with Gianluca D’Orsi and Cody Lawyer for the podium spots.
Lawyer couldn’t remain in touch though, eventually falling back into the clutches of Don Fox. Woodward would win by more than nine seconds from Yurevitch, with D’Orsi a further four seconds back.
It was a Canadian front-row lockout at Zandvoort as Merick Leveque and Jeff Cone repeated their hot lap performances in race qualifying. Max Baughman initially seized the spot from Cone before Cone took it back, but with a little bit of chaos unfolding behind them the front three were never really troubled.
Leveque nonetheless put in a stellar performance to finish 17 seconds ahead of countryman Cone, with Baughman a distant third but still 20 seconds clear of his nearest rival.
That only left the race at Monza, and another dreadful start was in store as Uziel Tellez bogged down from a front-row spot before being clattered out of the race by Bryant Mata.
Pole man and top online qualifier Sebastian Duran effectively had a clear run at the front and made his advantage pay, streaking away from countryman Ernesto Garcia lechuga in second. It would eventually be a 1-2 for the Mexican drivers, but Duran’s 44-second lead is ominous for the regional finals. Aaron Sze would take third, with nobody within ten seconds of him either side.
With 12 drivers now in each Regional Final, there’s only 12 spots remaining. That’ll be decided by a second Regional Qualifier race in September.
To get there you’ll need to register for the series on the official site, and then be in the top 24 in any one of the second set of four hot-lap qualification events which will start on June 20.
The venues for these have not yet been announced, however Kunos Simulazioni’s Marco Massarutto appeared on the North America stream to reveal that one of the new circuits in The Land of the Free DLC pack for ACC will feature.
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