Thu 21 Dec 2023

Joona Pankkonen triumphs in thrilling Esports WRC battle

In a nail-biting finale at the Samitto Gaming Studio in Poland, Guild Esports team and Finnish sensation Joona Pankkonen emerged victorious at the Esports WRC Knockout Trophy 23 - triumphing over four-time Esports WRC champion Nexl.

The invitational event was hosted on the recently launched EA SPORTS WRC, the official game of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship developed by Codemasters, and brought together a dynamic mix of esports racers, real-life drivers, and content creators for a high-stakes short-form competition.

The battle unfolded through three intense rounds of qualifying, culminating in thrilling knockout stages and heart-stopping semi-finals. Notably, the closest battle emerged between Germany's Moritz Löhner, a newcomer to rallying esports representing Team Mouz, and the formidable Nexl (Lohan Blanc), with only two-tenths of a second separating them in the semi-finals.

Guild Esports driver Pankkonen showcased his prowess, defeating Williams Esports' Kamil Grabowski in a spectacular knock-out round before beating Race Clutch team’s Izamusing (John Harris) to earn his spot in the final, where the 23-year-old’s exceptional victory over Nexl was rewarded with the golden Knockout Trophy and a coveted TW Steel watch.

Veloce’s Nina Pothof, Team Fordzilla’s Patryk Gerber and Race Clutch’s Troublemaker (Dylan Noel) completed the field that saw representation from six nationalities and six esports teams. All competitors used identical equipment comprising Fanatec rigs and controls, complemented by the latest Agon by AOC screens.

Reflecting on his triumph, Pankkonen said: “I think Nexl had a few mistakes there in the final round, but I was in a really good flow and I just managed to run very clean, very fast, and that ended up getting me the win.”

Pankkonen also praised the EA SPORTS WRC game, adding: “The whole competition has been super cool. I have enjoyed every moment here; it has been awesome for us. The game is a huge improvement. I really enjoy playing EA SPORTS WRC as it has some really amazing stages, really long ones also.”

The event attracted real-life driving talent, with WRC2 frontrunner Miko Marczyk and ERC3 champion Jon Armstrong among those present. Armstrong, who won the Esports WRC Final in 2018 and contributed to the game's development in his role at EA SPORTS, highlighted how drivers adapted to the game’s mechanics.

“We had some really good drivers from different disciplines,” Armstrong said. “We have introduced a new advanced Dynamic Handling System that gives players the most realistic off-road experience to date. Drivers who have played our previous games need some time to get used to the physics, the stages and all the intricate details of the new game.

“Today was the first time we’ve had any kind of organised competition, and it’s been a really good way to kick off what we plan to do with esports in the future with EA SPORTS WRC.”

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