The Finnish eSports WRC specialist faced a nervous wait to be crowned champion, with final times needing to be double-checked before it was confirmed he had defeated FIA Junior WRC driver Sami Pajari by 0.667secs. Another FIA Junior WRC driver, Lauri Joona, rounded out the podium in third spot, less than two seconds down on Laitenen.
The event, which debuted the latest edition of the official WRC Game, WRC 9, attracted a mix of leading WRC drivers, drivers from the WRC support series’ and the WRC gaming community.
13 drivers began the day, spread across three heats, with the top-two drivers from each heat qualifying for the televised final, watched by tens of thousands of fans around the world, via WRC’s Facebook page.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the performance of M-Sport Ford driver Esapekka Lappi, who had talked down his hopes before the eChallenge, before going on to finish a commendable fourth. The Finnish driver and former Neste Rally Finland winner jokingly obervsed: “it seems I am better on the game than in the real life,” following a blistering time through Harju in the semi-finals.
The real-life WRC drivers were impressed by the latest editon of the popular WRC series, noting the ease in which they were able to adapt to the virtual Finnish stages. Fans will be able to get their hands on the game in the first week of September, with pre-sales already available.
For Mihalo, qualification to the grand final marks a return to the season-ending eSports WRC Championship. The two final places to the 10-driver finale will be confirmed by Sunday evening (9 August) at the completion of the last round of the eSports WRC Championship, running from 6-9 August.