This year’s Rally Finland was driven as the “Neste Rally Finland eChallenge”, a digital event organised by AKK Sports on 8 August in Jyväskylä, Finland. The event gained massive viral reach around the world.
The digital motorsport super event, which was also the world premiere of the new WRC9 video game going to be launched in a month’s time, attracted both the professional WRC and Junior WRC drivers as well as pro gamers from the WRC gaming community.
The “clash” of the traditional rally drivers and eSports drivers – with the grand prize of a place in the eSports WRC Championship final – turned out to be a real thriller that kept spectators on the edge of their seats until the very end. The side event of the Neste Rally Finland eChallenge was the Digital Racing eSM 2020 Finnish Championship final.
The digital WRC challenge provided virtual speed, turns and jumps on select Neste Rally Finland special stages. The winner, by an extremely small margin of a mere 0.7 seconds, was Finnish gamer Mika “Mihalo” Laitinen, who in addition to the number one spot, snapped up a wild card for the 2020 eSports WRC Grand Final.
– I kept it together to the end, and it was a fantastic feeling to climb onto the top step of the podium. The professional rally drivers did provide a tough challenge! It must have been my experience that eventually sealed the deal. I’ve been playing the WRC video games for four years and have already taken part in the World Final twice. My goal is to improve on my second place from 2018, so I better start training, Laitinen, who during the active season trains for about 15 – 20 hours, said jokingly.
Both the second and third places went to talented young rally drivers, Sami Pajari (2nd) and Lauri Joona (3rd).
Lappi put on a strong digital performance, Suninen joked about his prize bonuses
The biggest surprise of the day was M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s rally ace Esapekka Lappi, who drove himself into the final and all the way to the fourth place. The Finn who is known as a master of sarcasm was overtaking eSports drivers on the digital Neste Rally Finland special stages, entertaining spectators and surprising even himself with his good performance.
– It seems like I’m better in gaming than I’m in real life, Lappi laughed in the WRC interview after the competition.
Teemu Suninen, who also drives for the M-Sport team in the World Rally Championship, reminded the motorsport-following world once again that he is indeed a multi-talented driver.
In recent years, the rally professional who also has a successful background in karting, has been trying his hand at eSports and digital racing. In Jyväskylä, Suninen excelled in the Digital Racing eSM 2020 Finnish Championship final, into which he had qualified as one of the top 20 drivers in the series.
– Fourth place in the final was an extremely good result for me, and it just makes me hungry for more. The prize bonuses were also better than on the rally side this year. This was a very nice event all round, and it was great to see my fellow competitors in a relaxed atmosphere. Many thanks to the organiser AKK and everyone who was involved in the event. Hopefully next year we get to see some World Rally Cars around these parts again too, Suninen said with a smile.
A more official part of the day was the signing of a three-year partnership contract between the organiser of the Finnish round of the FIA World Rally Championship and the City of Jyväskylä. The signatories were AKK Sports acting CEO Markus Häkkinen and the Mayor of Jyväskylä Timo Koivisto.
Check out the pictures of the Neste Rally Finland eChallenge
Check the after movie of the event by clicking the photo: