Bono Huis, the Faraday Future Dragon Racing sim racer, clinched victory in the inaugural Visa Vegas eRace and with it the biggest prize in eSports racing history - walking away with $200,000 and securing an additional $25,000 for pole position.
The Formula E drivers and sim racers took to the stage in front of a packed crowd at The Venetian Hotel in the Sport Business Innovation zone on the 50th edition of CES.
An enthusiastic gathering of media, exhibitors, industry analysts and the FIA President Jean Todt watched history in the making as the drivers and sim racers went wheel-to-wheel on the famous Las Vegas Strip.
Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of Formula E, said: “This first eRace in Las Vegas was a great success. It’s exciting to have brought Formula E into the inner sanctum of CES - the biggest and most influential technology show in the world. I think this can be the first in a big future for Formula E in eSports racing. We will continue to pursue new and innovative ways to improve our presence in this fast growing landscape, while maintaining fan engagement at the forefront of all our initiatives.”
Huis, who topped every session throughout the event, made a clean getaway from the line and held on to his lead throughout the first stint. Following the first round of pitstops, the Dutch driver dropped to second place behind Olli Pahkala (Mahindra Racing).
Despite entering unknown territory, the Formula E drivers demonstrated that driving ability is comparable across both a real and virtual world.
Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra Racing) showed his natural ability for sim racing and versatility putting in a strong performance to finish second as the best-placed Formula E driver.
Huis eventually inherited success from Pahkala who was handed a 12-second penalty following a post-race investigation for having gained an unfair performance advantage caused by a software issue.
Pahkala took the lead mid-way through the race, but was later found to have suffered a technical glitch with a sustained power delivery of FanBoost over and above the limit for five laps during his second stint. Pahkala was demoted to third place following the application of the time penalty and rounded out the podium finishers.
Jose Maria Lopez (DS Virgin Racing), Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing), Daniel Abt (ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (NextEV NIO) finished in the top-10, again highlighting the close competition between the drivers and sim racers.
David Greco (Renault e.dams) crossed the line in 15th place, but set the Visa Fastest Lap and picked up $10,000 in the process.
Formula E’s continued venture into eSports in Las Vegas showcases the similarities of motorsport in a real and virtual domain - highly competitive, entertaining and fan inclusive, but with racing at its heart.
The FIA Formula E Championship returns to US soil for the inaugural running of the New York City ePrix on July 15 and 16, against the backdrop of Lower Manhattan on the purpose-built Brooklyn Street Circuit.
By Colm Lawless
Published on 7th January 2017