The UK’s Jonathan Riley has taken victory at the 2022 Ferrari Velas Esports Series Grand Final, claiming the prize of a paid, professional seat on the factory Ferrari esports team.
Riley came out on top ahead of the five other finalists across a series of driving challenges in Assetto Corsa Competizione, as well as topping the judges’ voting, to take the win and become the newest driver in the Ferrari family.
The evening started out strongly for Riley in the first of the four challenges: a hotlap qualifying session at the Indianapolis road course. Over the 15-minute session it was Riley on top with a 1:34.7 lap, beating Merick Leveque into second, with Christopher Severt rounding out the podium.
However the regularity rally-style second event saw Riley slip down the table. Drivers had to run six laps at Circuit of the Americas while remaining as close as possible to a 2:11.8 lap time — set by Ferrari esports driver Danilo Santoro — across the stint, mimicking target lap times of endurance racing.
Michael Romagnoli was the closest in the session, again with Leveque and Severt in second and third, while Riley could only place fifth — between Marcin Swiderek and Brandon Hawkin. That put Leveque into the overall lead, two points ahead of Romagnoli.
The third challenge placed the drivers into a 30-minute wet race at the Nurburgring GP circuit, and it was perhaps unsurprising that GT World Challenge veteran Severt performed best in these conditions. After taking pole position, Severt coolly drove a lights-to-flag win, beating Riley by five seconds.
Romagnoli placed third in the race, but was penalized for a late-race contact with Swiderek which saw the Polish driver fall to the back of the field — recovering to finish fifth ahead of Hawkin. That promoted Leveque to third, and tied at the top of the table on points with Severt.
The final round would be two further 30-minute races, this time at Imola, with a reverse grid night race to cap off the evening, and points awarded for both. Severt again took pole position, but Riley’s launch was perfect and he hit the front before Tamburello.
Riley didn’t run away with it though, shadowed by Severt — who also grabbed the fastest lap — throughout the race, and Leveque a couple of seconds further back. That put Riley back on top of the overall table to make a fourth change for the lead, but again tied with Severt, and Leveque only two points behind.
Romagnoli took the reverse grid race pole, but was relegated to second by Hawkin in a mirror of the first race. That resulted in Leveque tangling with Romagnoli through Rivazza, allowing Riley to sneak up into second — ahead of his title rivals.
With the long race ahead, Riley seemed content to sit in second despite the attentions of Severt behind, before the race almost exploded with ten minutes remaining.
Riley went for the move on Hawkin into Tamburello, but that brought Severt and Leveque back into play. Then Riley and Severt banged doors through Villeneuve, pushing the British driver off, but he recovered to keep the lead through Tosa as Severt and Leveque tangled behind him.
All six cars were covered by just two seconds at this point, and the battling behind allowed Riley to scamper clear to take the win by three seconds from Leveque and top the points table from the challenges.
The judges — F3 racer Arthur Leclerc, Ferrari esports driver Kamil Pawlowski, and Ferrari esports manager Tiziana Mecozzi — still had to place their votes, but by two-to-one also scored Riley the highest, confirming his championship victory.
Riley will now become part of the Ferrari Velas Esports team as the squad aims to take back its GT World Challenge endurance title in 2023. If you missed out, you can watch all the action below:
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