- Podium finish for South Africans Charl Wilken, Ryan Berrington-Smith and Leslie Oliphant in inaugural Team Fordzilla Nations Cup
- Team Fordzilla is Ford’s esports sim-racing team, established in 2019
- Eighteen sim-racers raced the Ford GTE LMS around Silverstone on Assetto Corsa
From a grid of 18 drivers, representing several Team Fordzilla markets, points were awarded to each driver based on their final finishing position. Ultimately it was Iberia’s first and second positions in the race, which secured their total of 59 points and handed them the victory. South Africa’s sim-racers, who finished fifth, seventh and eighth, registered a total of 20 points. Turkey was not far behind with 19 points.
Selecting team South Africa’s sim-racers to participate in the Team Fordzilla Nations Cup was no easy task but ensured a world-class line-up of sim-racing competitors. Ford South Africa created a separate free-to-enter sim-racing competition that drew over 160 entries, with each driver having an opportunity to record their fastest lap time in the qualifying stages.
The fastest 20 then progressed to the event’s final race held at the Catalunya Circuit with all drivers required to use the same Focus RS Mk2 Super Cup car. Former sim-racing team-mates Leslie Oliphant and Charl Wilken made it through, with previous Ford South Africa sim-racing champion Ryan Berrington-Smith showing that he hasn’t lost any of his speed, despite switching from console to a PC platform.
The Team Fordzilla Nations Cup took place virtually and was livestreamed on the Team Fordzilla Twitch account. Performance Centre, based in Gauteng, hosted the South African team and invited guests to get up close and learn more about one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Professional sim-racing rigs fitted with Thrustmaster T300 wheel-and-pedal setups were provided on the day by Motorsport South Africa, with New Age Gaming providing Acer Predator gaming laptops to ensure optimal performance.
The entire competition was played on Assetto Corsa, with all drivers required to run identical Ford GTE LMS race cars around the Silverstone circuit in a one-hour endurance race. After weeks of practice and many late nights, most drivers were within two seconds of each other when qualifying got underway.
All three South African sim-racers managed to line up on the grid in the tightly bunched midfield, but contact on the opening lap for Oliphant and Berrington-Smith dropped them down the order while Wilken managed to hold his position and deliver consistent lap times. Despite the early setback, Oliphant and Berrington-Smith remained calm and worked as a team to make steady progress back up the order from 11th and 12th, respectively, as tyre management and pit stops started to have an effect on lap times, as well the physical fatigue that these rigs can impose on a driver.
“It was a very challenging race for our drivers, but they showed their maturity and experience by racing cleanly and calmly,” says Doreen Mashinini, General Manager for Marketing at Ford South Africa.
“Adapting to a completely new rig just hours before the start of the event is not ideal, but they gave it their all and fought hard to deliver an amazing result that caught the attention of more established sim-racing countries. This event has certainly set a new benchmark for sim-racing in South Africa as well as the world.
“We are honoured to have worked with our Team Fordzilla drivers,” Mashinini says. “Their talent and commitment have helped grow the sim-racing community, and inspire a younger generation of Ford motorsport fans.”
Leslie Oliphant (5th)
“The race was ok. It didn’t start well as I got bumped in the beginning and ended up near the back. I kept my cool and kept driving smoothly and eventually I caught a few people and managed to pass them. My pace wasn’t too good because of the damage.”
Ryan Berrington-Smith (7th)
“The race was a tough one as it got off to a bad start. On lap one I got in contact with another driver. I then decided to do my pit stop early to give myself clean air and that got me up three places in the race.”
Charl Wilken (8th)
I battled quite a bit as the rigs were quite different to mine, and Ryan and Leslie did a much better job of getting used to the rig. It was a tough race but I enjoyed it thoroughly.”