Sunday | 19 Jul 2020

The WRC's other French champion

Already with two world championship titles to his name, there is yet another Frenchman making a name for himself in the WRC.

Playing under the moniker ‘Nexl’, France’s Lohan Blanc will return to the eSports WRC Grand Final this year, once more among the hot favourites to take home the title, along with the biggest prize on offer – a recently-revealed Toyota GR Yaris.

This weekend, the eSports WRC Championship – which qualifies eight people to the Grand Final – enters its penultimate round, Wales Rally GB. Nexl however, can afford to take his foot off the pedal, his ticket to the season finale already punched at the beginning of June, with three rounds remaining.

That meant, the Frenchman had time to sit down with, to talk over his eSports WRC career, including just how he landed on the name Nexl.

First things first – the name Nexl, how did you get this name, and what does it mean?
I just wanted to find something that has never been used, something not common, so I tried to mix a few letters in a random order and I found ‘Nexl’. I like it a lot but it has no special meaning.

What drew you to WRC The Game?
My grandfather was a mechanic at Peugeot Sport and my father is both a rally and video game fan so I was already immersed in WRC from a very young age and I was quick to start playing WRC games. My first WRC game was WRC Rally Evolved. So I've been playing WRC games for almost 15 years now.

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What other games are you actively playing?
I like to play other racing games like Formula 1 games, Gran Turismo and Assetto Corsa. I prefer to stay in sim racing games, to stay in shape between eSports WRC rounds.

Are you also competing in series for these other games?
I participated in the F1 eSports FFSA GP final in 2019 during which I finished 9th. But that's it, because it takes a lot of training time to be at the top level on several different games and I can't because of school, so I prefer to stay with WRC games where I seem to perform very well.

To be an elite player of WRC The Game, how many hours a week are you training?
I usually train 30 hours a week more or less, it depends on the rally.

What is your training process? Are you replicating a real rally and making recce notes?
I'm not replicating real rally and making recce notes because on the game you can do the stage multiple times in training and at full speed. So my training process is to do the stages as much as possible to learn all the turns so I am not surprised on D-Day and to find a good car setup that suits my driving style to be as fast as possible.

Nexl following his victory in 2019

When you are not involved in gaming, what else are you doing with your time?
I'm in a school where I learn to programme video games. Both school and eSports take me a lot of time to perform well so all my time is basically revolved around video games.

What are some of the standout highlights of your gaming career?
I would say definitely becoming a two-time eSportsWRC World Champion, because I had to beat Jon Armstrong, a real rally driver, only one year after switching from playing with a controller to playing with a steering wheel. It has been a great rivalry with him, I really enjoy it.

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The latest edition of the game – WRC 9 – is set to land on our shelves in September. As one of the elite players, are you involved in giving feedback on the game in the development process?
Several times, along with other elite players of eSports WRC, we have had the opportunity to give our feedback on the game, as in 2019, when a community day was organised at Kylotonn's studio. There we shared our feedback on the game, and also during the eSports WRC Grand Final, where we can chat with the developers. But this year, we were unable to participate in providing feedback on the new game due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

What advice would you give to young people, looking at creating a career in eSports?
If you are looking at creating a career in eSports, I advise you to compete in a weekly challenge first so you can compare yourself to good players from the game and where you learn the stages by doing them. But for sure, it takes a lot of time and motivation, as in any other activity if you want to perform well. And if you do well in weekly challenges, you can try to jump into the deep end, the eSports WRC rounds, where all the best eSports players from all around the world are competing hard to get a place in the eSports WRC Grand Final.

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