PRETORIA, South Africa, 28 September 2021 – The search for South Africa’s top three sim-racers, who will soon compete in the Team Fordzilla Nations Cup, went down to the wire in a one-hour endurance race that brought both strategy and outright speed into play.
First to cross the finish line was Leslie Oliphant who led a flawless race from pole position, followed by Ford SA’s #LockdownLaps 2020 sim-racing competition champion Ryan Berrington-Smith, while in third was renowned Ford rally legend, Charl Wilken – who also used the game’s design feature to recreate the livery of his locally-raced Ford Fiesta rally car.
The inaugural Team Fordzilla Nations Cup, played on Assetto Corsa on PC, drew over 160 South African registered entries, with each driver hoping that their fastest laptime in the qualifying stages would be good enough for a place in the top 20. Those sim-racers who made it through were then automatically entered into the event’s final race held at the Catalunya Circuit with all drivers required to use the same Focus RS Mk2 Super Cup.
These top three drivers will now shift their entire focus to the next stage as they get ready to represent South Africa against experienced sim-racers from the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany and Portugal in the Team Fordzilla Nations Cup final, taking place on 6 November. Top of the range gaming prizes from Team Fordzilla’s partners will be announced closer to the time. The event will be livestreamed on Ford South Africa’s YouTube channel.
Doreen Mashinini, General Manager for Marketing at Ford South Africa, believes that, despite being one of the smaller esports markets in the competition, the South African sim-racers will rise to the occasion. “To reach this late stage of the competition is an incredible achievement and highlights each of them as rising talents in the world of sim-racing. However, we must also thank everyone who took part for helping grow Ford South Africa’s visibility and bringing Ford Performance into a new digital era. I know all three sim-racers are determined to prove themselves, not only as individuals, but also as a South African team. We wish them well and will be cheering for them at the final race as they write the next chapter in Team Fordzilla.”
Launched at Gamescom 2019, Team Fordzilla is Ford’s ﬁrst ever esports team, building on Ford’s real-world racing heritage by competing at the highest level on the virtual racing stage. “Ford is continually exploring digital and real-world synergies and is constantly exploring a new world of mobility solutions. Gaming could help shape how we all get about in future, for business or pleasure, as passengers and drivers,” says Emmanuel Lubrani, Senior Manager of brand communications and content development, Ford of Europe.
Leslie Oliphant (37), Durban
“I’m feeling a bit tired, that was a long race,” said Oliphant in the livestream’s post-race interview. “This car is a real beast to drive but I tried to just stay calm and take the corners as easily as possible. It feels awesome to have won the South African leg and I can’t wait to race in the Team Fordzilla Nations Cup with Ryan and Charl. I was Charl Wilkens’ team mate a long time ago during my Gran Turismo days and we have been friends ever since. Ryan is new to me but I’m sure we will work well together.
Ryan Berrington-Smith (25), Pietermaritzburg
“I’m super chuffed with second,” said Berrington-Smith. “Obviously I wanted the win and I pushed for it, but I overcooked my tyres on the second stint trying to catch up to Leslie – he was just too quick! I knew turn 1 was the only real place to overtake so I knew when Charl covered the inside that I had to go round the outside. I’ve done that move before in other races, so I knew how to try pull the move off. That was a great choice of car. I put in all this practice because I just couldn’t stop driving this car. Thank you to the sponsors and organisers.”
Charl Wilken (47), Pretoria
“It was a tough race,” said Wilken. “I had a good start and I thought I left Ryan enough space, but we made contact and that gave me a little bit of damage and slowed me down on the straight. I knew from then on, when Leslie got into the lead, that it was a case of just getting into the top three. However, it was hard, it’s difficult to pass around here. The car was awesome, and I must thank all the organisers.”