Esports Star Enzo Bonito Defeats Racing Heroes at 2019 Race of Champions
January 21, 2019
As reigning eROC champion, and a household F1 Esports name, Enzo Bonito had a lot to live up to when he headed to Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico.
But the Italian – signed to McLaren’s Shadow Project for the 2018 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series – delivered and then some, defeating not one but two champions from the world of motorsport, besting both Lucas di Grassi and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the track.
With the formidable backdrop of the Mexico Grand Prix Circuit, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the 2019 Race of Champions included a slight twist in the format, with the introduction of team ‘Sim Racing All-Stars’, made up of 2018 eROC champion (Bonito), and a new challenger, James Baldwin.
Together, the pair were entered into the Nations Cup and drawn into a tough group; Team Telcel Mexico included stock car racers Daniel Suarez and Ruben Garcia, with Team Brazil comprised of triple Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, and 2016-17 Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi.
Di Grassi had famously triumphed at the Mexican venue during his Formula E title ascent in 2017. However it was of little consequence to the Audi driver during his heat, with Enzo Bonito powering home six tenths ahead of the Brazilian in the Vuhl 05 ROC Edition 2019.
— #ROCMexico (@RaceOfChampions) January 19, 2019
This gave team Sim Racing All-Stars a healthy start to their challenge, and though Baldwin was able to get the better of Garcia in their heat, two losses eliminated them from the Nations Cup, with only one team per group able to progress, thus was the calibre of the competition.
Sunday brought another success story Bonito’s way. Having already dispatched Baldwin to make it to the group stages, he was entered into a very tricky group – but yet again the sim racer-turned-on-track-protege showed his mettle, coming out on top against 2012 IndyCar champion and three time Indy 500 winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, once again in the Vuhl 05 car.
It’s another major moment for sim racing! eROC gamer Enzo Bonito beat FE champion di Grassi on Saturday. He’s adding #Indy500 and #IndyCar champion @RyanHunterReay to the list on Sunday! #ROCMexico pic.twitter.com/gTRayRobbl
— #ROCMexico (@RaceOfChampions) January 20, 2019
The competition brings together some of the world’s most talented racers, and with talented F1 stars past and present in the form of Esteban Gutierrez and Pierre Gasly remaining in the group, Bonito was unable to make it out of the group stage.
However, his stand-out performances commanded well-deserved plaudits around the world, beating two established stars of top-level racing at a legendary Formula 1 circuit. The lines between simulation and real-world racing are blurred evermore…