We are warriors, always searching for the next greatest foe to go an conquer to assert and live forward with a legacy. I know in my lifetime I will never be fast enough to race alongside some of the best drivers in the world and these 100, although they are not the fastest 100 in the world, are the top 100 drivers for a reason.
These are the top 100 iRacing road drivers because they have impressed me with pace, results, determination, a drive to succeed and ultimately have been the 100 drivers to make a real difference this year. Everyone here at the Sim Racing Observer would like to recognise all of the talents that have put in the time and dedication to showcase just how wonderful this simracing world is.
But before we crack open into the list, there have been a lot of drivers who have proven themselves this year and haven’t quite been there or those who look like great prospects in 2018. Here are some of the names to keep an eye out for next year who didn’t make the list.
Nikodem Wisniewski – Evolution Racing Team
Jakub Brzezinski – Evolution Racing Team
Elliot Biddle – Evolution Racing Team
These three drivers look like they are going to make a back bone for ERT in 2018 with a lot of hype and intrigue surrounding them. Niko amazed everyone in the WFG rFactor2 Qualifiers by finishing second, Jakub has been the anchor to the lead that Wisniewski is and Elliot’s drives in the VLN this year were amazing and Elliot is a massively hot property heading to 2018.
Emily Jones – Trans Tasman Racing
Emily you could argue is the first lady of simracing right now and her Rallycross pace is good enought o be challenging at the highest level. Popular in the streaming circles too, simracing needs these personalities and at the top of the game, Emily has a high ceiling of development.
Alvaro Ramiro – Teo Martin Esports
With simracing on the up along with Teo Marin, Alvaro is the anchor that compliments well the driving style of Julian Rodriguez. If Teo are going to march on, Alvaro will be a key asset.
Eneric Andre – Real Championship
Classy driver who when pushing has a tendency to go a little overboard. I think he can discover some great pace in 2018, put himself in a qualifying position and continue to bolster French simracing.
Miika Haapanen – Black Star Racing
The Haapanen will happen in 2018 by looking at what he has been doing in Rallycross recently and naturally I think that will also translate over. Haapanen is a fantastic driver and I hope to see him up there next year.
Jairo Via – GTros
Very quick and always up there scrapping, it just needs a little spark and some great televised results for Jairo to be one great driver.
Adam Tierney – Radicals Online
A good driver who will have a lot of time to develop at Radicals and hopefully work towards a WCS space in the not too distant future. A good prospect.
Lewis Goodway – Team Buschfink Racing
Impressed me a lot at Petit Le Mans and could be someone who continues his meteoric rise. I expect him to be a mainstay in 2018.
Hayden Berns – Vendaval Simracing
From what I have heard, this guy is money on a stick. Lightning fast, ever the entertainer and could be one of the must watch names in 2018.
From there though, we move onto the list proper, here are the top 100 drivers in iRacing for 2017.
100) Sindre Setsaas – Blue Flag Racing
Sindre Setsaas may be less well known but Blue Flag Racing can use the driver as some means of a pivot for 2018. Sindre has proved this year that he can mix it with some very good drivers and has been an integral part of races within the GOT week 13 events. Sindre is very adept at finding the pockets within a race and has room for development moving forward. A very solid driver and one that could spearhead Blue Flag.
99) Joni Hagner – Glacier Racing
To most people, Joni Hagner has disappeared in comparison to previous years. I just think he has found the perfect vehicle for him. The Audi 90 GTO has come to truly showcase what Hagner is capable of and the constant battles on a weekly basis with Brian Strodtbeck and Phillip Lake go distances on how happy he now is. While there was ultimately disappointment in the Road America 500 for Hagner, I think this new found side is one he will probably look to stick with as a niche for the near future.
98) Marcin Skrzypczak – TRITON Racing
Marcin Skrzypczak, even with the most difficult name in Sim Racing to pronounce, has been very useful for the TRITON team by being solid and dependable at all times. Many people have seen Marcin’s performances as what has kept TRITON in key situations such as the results with Wiktor Smolarczyk in SCO and their podium at the 24 hours of Spa. Marcin has proven to be very good at a high level and is maybe just two tenths short of being money in simracing. I think Marcin has some untapped potential.
97) Jake Hewlett – VRS Coanda Simsport
“YT Bigz” has been relatively new to the scene in terms of crushing it at the highest level and with a team like Coanda behind him, Hewlett could be on his way to stardom. Gaining most notoriety in being a lightning fast Mazda driver, the Englishman has been a part of the new wave to enter the Coanda ranks, which is a signal of intent for the team especially given how new Jake has been to iRacing.
Proving to be a jack of all trades too, he has proven to be able to get a grip of any machine that he sets his eyes on and will be a key part of the long term success, especially shown in World’s Fastest Gamer this year when he lead his Coanda team to the 24 hour victory despite not being a member of that final. Hewlett will become one of the most popular figures with the streaming aspect he brings and that can only be good for everyone going forward and everyone here at the Sim Racing Observer sends well wishes over the ankle issues.
96) Josh Thompson – Radicals Online
It has been a tale of two people for Josh Thompson it has seemed this year as his maturity behind the wheel has increased ten-fold. Looking at the early stages of the year, there was a sense of recklessness to the point of monotonous regularity with the spinning and crashing. Fast forward to a move with all his former teammates from Infinity to Radicals and Josh seems like a changed man. Crashing has been toned way down in stark contrast and the performances have picked up to the extent of being a driver on the cusp of a World Championship licence for 2018.
Josh’s style of driving is now more measured and very likable to watch in reality. I want to see more from Josh next year and Radicals will give a massive platform to allow that to happen.
95) Sebastian Job – CoRe SimRacing
It wouldn’t be long before I started being controversial however it has been a year of rebuilding for Job which threatened to derail his career.
Arguably not supposed to have ever been forced to go through qualification, Job failed to qualify inside of the top 20 of the Road Pro Series and swiftly moved to CoRe in the spring. (A move I correctly predicted just to let you know.) Negatives aside though, Seb has gelled wonderfully with his new teammates and is part of the reason why CoRe has done so well this year albeit behind the scenes.
Good ability has been shown on the odd occasion in World Tour events but Job has shown he is the fastest prospect if not one of in the 2017/18 Road Pro Series. But a warning must be administered because with two non-finishes, Job has to be cautious to not let history repeat itself.
94) Mikko Nurmi – Black Star Racing
GoT Samba Challenge. That is practically all the explanation I need to give for why Mikko Nurmi is a great driver. Having made a mistake to place him on a recovery drive, Nurmi not only battled back to give Black Star the victory, but made a “Hamilton-esque” move to do so. While coming to prominence through the Nordic Challenge with a host of fast and aggressive teammates, Mikko has not been afraid to push the boat out from the Porsche and has made a very good impression in the GT3 category.
I’d love to see Mikko mincing it in Blancpain and I would hope that he would get there, but you feel like Mikko needs one of two things. Either a team that he is the star of or to gain a major amount of support. Hopefully Black Star can keep their hands on a very accomplished driver.
93) Nicklas Rasmussen – GAP SRT
Even if Nicklas Rasmussen doesn’t make it into the World Championship this year, here is a driver who on his day can captivate anybody into believing he has a chance. Known for some fantastic defensive driving skills, Nicklas shot to fame at Brands Hatch where he held off a relentless Davy Decorps for the majority of the event.
Topping that was the superb drive in Indianapolis which saw him manage the field well to come home as the victor. The Grand Prix Series results have helped Nicklas as he has learnt what it has meant to fight hard for big wins and that sort of grit and determination is what is needed to succeed. However if he wants to be like his surname-sake Frederik, I think there needs to be a little more work done behind the scenes on improving the pace of the team.
92) Cristobal J Lopez – GTros
Cristobal does a job, and he does a job very well. Cristobal Lopez knows how to keep a vehicle on the island more times than not and delivers more often than not too. Never the most flamboyant or aggressive, what Cristobal does behind a wheel is play the anchor and that is what impresses me. Because for all the issues in VLN, it hasn’t really been the fault of Lopez’s for the results going the way they have done and as a dependable figure of the GTros team, you could argue that maybe he deserves a little more.
I would like to see more driving out of Cristobal moving forward because for GTros and for himself, he could be a huge difference maker down the road.
91) Beau Albert – Evolution Racing Team
The lovable Australian that is Beau Albert has risen astronomically to fame over the last year. From relative nowhere, Albert’s performances within VLN in the Porsche garnered attention including some great podium results.
The switch to GT3 also was a massive help as Albert has made good progress as a heir to the ERT Blancpain effort in the future. I like the ability that Beau possesses and I think he has a very good and sensible racing head on his shoulders that would make him a useful part of any team. What makes Beau great though is his versatility and his ability to adapt quickly to different vehicles. I would expect him to be very good in a series like the Majors in 2018.
90) Steliyan Chepilevski – Apex Racing UK
Arguably one of the greatest Kia specialists in the world, there is not a race that goes by where you don’t respect what Chepi has to offer. BSRTC is arguably one of the toughest leagues in the world knowing that reverse grids put a lot of strain on drivers looking to make quick positions within twenty minutes. Steliyan has an ability to stay calm under pressure and make every move as formulaic as a chemistry A-Level paper. The consistency he has at doing so got him comfortably to second in the championship and my res[ect goes to him for the work he has done.
I did like his pace in the Heusinkveld MX-5 World Tour as well but I found it a little bit of a shame he was out more times than in.
89) Alex Cué – Dream Factory
Spanish teams don’t get enough recognition and nor do Spanish drivers. Alex Cué is one of those drivers who has grabbed my eye over the last six months.
Despite no broadcast for the 24-hours of Spa, it was that reason why we almost saw the shock of all shocks as the unknown team which had Cué piloting the vehicle for the last stint in a race that saw Pure, Redline and many others fall by the wayside. Alex is not the fastest but its not about being fast but being impressive because in that final hour, there was more than enough to say he should have given up but he closed down the gap to just five seconds before the end, putting the sweat on RSO.
I want to see more of Iberia in general but crucially, I want to see more of Alex be it in GT3 or the classics. It was a shame to see him out in lap 1 of the Kamel GT500.
88) Bruno Do Carmo – iRacing Brasil
In terms of talent that has to be recognized, I am astounded that no GT3 team has fathomed the thought of picking up Do Carmo as a driver. The effort that he has put into the iRacing Brasil GT3 push along with Neto Nascimento to achieve 14th place overall, I can’t overlook how important the representation of the communities are.
Do Carmo rarely got into trouble in the midfield and you always knew that although the reputation wasn’t there, Do Carmo was not afraid of punching above his own weight to get the results he wanted. It is that determination and desire that more teams lower down the order need to show. Teams and drivers need to cause upsets, and Bruno deserves to be accredited with pushing the boundaries on what a team is capable of doing. More in 2018 please!
87) Patrick Wolf – Pure Racing Team
Patrick Wolf has driven his way into the top 100 over the last month and a half with some fantastic drives. Wolf in the HPD has been sublime to watch, scoring podium or better on most occasions including wins in NEO and DGFX which also coupled with a podium in SCO along with SimRC.DE. Wolf has always been a part of a fantastic team of PRT drivers to the point that he sometimes falls through the cracks however i think that heading into 2018, Wolf’s stock inside Pure and in simracing will rise thanks to the introduction soon of LMP1.
While Patrick has been sensational, he just needs to try and maintain this purple patch into 2018 because Pure will need him for a massive push towards major success.
86) Alex Simpson – Apex Racing UK
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. A season out for Alex has been refreshing for a team boss with a lot on his plate. Signing everyone under the sun and seeing most of those under the sun run for cover. Alex may not have raced in the iRacing World Championships much this year but with the fire back for the Road Pro Series, you can’t overlook some fantastic performances that make people realise actually how underrated Mr.Simpson is.
Alex is great at maintaining positions and then kicking on late in a stint and for those vital positions late on in an event, those will be the differences between having a spare race in hand at the end of the season and not. Despite any personal difference which I believe is long past from the beginning of the year, Alex Simpson deserves to be a WCS level driver, and although its only been 6 races, Alex Simpson has done more than enough to gain my respect.
85) Zoran Jonjic – Orion Race Team
While I am still yet to see Zoran win a race yet on broadcast, it is the level of consistency that I have seen over the year that puts Zoran on this list. Jonjic is consistently the driver finishing fourth or fifth in a race, picking up consistent points throughout the year and always a character in the paddock to keep an eye on for the breakout moment. From missing out on qualification for the 2017 IWCGPS, Jonjic has worked tirelessly with Orion to find some greater pace and the few tenths he has managed to accrue has pushed him into an important scrap for qualification.
Consistency is key and his ability to stay relatively out of trouble makes sure for some great results and hopefully he can put in a purple patch of form to steal a way into the WCS for 2018.
84) Gregory Tanson – MSP Phoenix Racing
Ever the ticking metronome, Gregory Tanson is the GT3 equivalent of Zoran Jonjic. Tanson may not be the fastest member in MSP but there is a reason why he is the most dependable. Tanson knows how to nurse a car home similarly to Cristobal Lopez but more often than not, be it first, fifth or otherwise, MSP when Tanson is behind the wheel comes home 9.9 times out of 10.
There is nothing special about Tanson’s driving either which is what creates the paradox of him being a special driver. There is no nonsense, there is always a safety first mentality and Tanson brings a team a lot of relief whenever he is around. For 2018, I want to see Tanson and his team looking to break out a little more, and hopefully Tanson could find the tenth needed to win races.
83) Ricardo Castro Ledo – CoRe SimRacing
Ricardo has never lost pace or ability or skill however it has been transitional for him as he made the switch from Radicals to CoRe. Early on in the year, Ricky had all of the pace but was unable to string a result together before falling silent as the endurance side around Radicals began to unravel. Under CoRe however, Castro Ledo looks reinvigorated and is the driving force behind a new wave of CoRe success at a team that is already stacked with fantastic talents.
Castro Ledo is shining in Blancpain qualifying where he has brought the machine to second currently with a dominant victory at Suzuka. Consistency is needed though to remain amazing at the highest level but I think that will be achieved in 2018 by Ricardo.
82) Aday Coba – Iberica Racing Team
While Iberica took a step back in 2017, Aday Coba has been the man to keep Iberica in some form of relevancy.
In two distinct different spells, the first in Friday Primetime and the second in the Skip Barber Racing Series, Aday took the fields by storm to romp away as a comfortable winner in more races than one. Not only can he be shown to be a quick driver in the basics, Aday Coba is the maestro of all vehicles showcased by Primetime in winning event after event after event.
The biggest question though out of Aday needs to come in GT3 because a failure to maintain a top 25 presence has hurt his stock and his team’s stock despite always being treated as a big deal. I expect top 25 at least from Aday’s team.
81) Moritz Lohner – Heusinkveld CORE Motorsports
In a highly successful team like Heusinkveld, it is very easy to see drivers get lost a little bit in the shuffle but Moritz had done a great job in carving out a niche in a team of superstars. Lohner is the only driver in the team now who runs the McLaren and his subsequent push towards a WCS licence for 2018 looks to be in very good stead as he looks around the top five.
Moritz knows how to push for opportunity while also being level headed enough to stay back when appropriate and as one of the best decisive thinkers in the business, simple finishes could be enough for Lohner to get what he wants and more. I was however disappointed with his GT3 effort and that will have to pick up in the world tour events.
80) Pashalis Gergis – CoRe SimRacing
Pash is a character, on the track and off of the track, he never fails to disappoint. That can be translated into his performances too which to put it mildly have been hit and miss all year. While for the majority of the races in the WCS he was not the best qualifier, consistently Gergis would gain at least eight positions during the race. However when he qualified well, he would drop back which was personified at Spa with a fourth place in qualifying.
I think that when Pash puts his mind to it, he can go and do some amazing things and now at CoRe, he has proven to also be a reliable anchor in the Blancpain GT qualification which only boosts his stock more. For 2018, I would like to see Pash get more consistent overall in qualification.
79) Yuta Saito – Radicals Online
I think Yuta Saito went a little bit missing in 2017 and really under-delivered in comparison to his 2018 season. Despite a very good fourteenth place finish, Yuta scored on average six and a half points less than last season, which when you add that up, means a lot. Still arguably one of the best from a small pool of Japanese talent, Yuta has still shown that he has the pace to put together a good race and score respectable points to put himself in the discussion however I think he can do a little bit more in the overall to push himself further.
I think Yuta is slowly becoming more of a bit part player more rather than the standout player and to get more into that spotlight must be the goal for Yuta and regaining the pace he had last year is crucial.
78) Tommy Ostgaard – Positive Sim Racing
“Ducky” has had a very good rise to fame this year after joining PSR in the second half of 2017. His brand of driving which has already coached some of the best youngsters in the world of real racing series has massively influenced his driving as Tommy drives with a measured attitude but one not afraid to shut the steel door. And to a large extent, this has worked a treat with some great IGPS results on top of a breakout season in the Road Pro Series.
Arguably one of the greatest simracers to come out of Norway, Ostgaard looks set in fourth to make it through qualification and collect a WCS licence. I expect Tommy to really shine after some electric starts and 2018 could be Norway’s year at last.
77) Simon Feigl – Evolution Racing Team
Providing a backbone for much of 2017, Simon Feigl is one of the most integral parts of the ERT machine. Proving that Australia means business, a solid display throughout the Blancpain season along with Andrew Kahl, being a part of a double podium at the opening round at Monza. Simon’s form in the opening half of the year was fantastic to the point of title contenders in 2017 however a slow end to the calendar has put that back to bed.
Transitioning into more of a back seat role for 2018, I want to see Simon keep a resemblance of pace that has put him and ERT at the top of their games this year and I think that if Simon had enough time to commit to simracing, he could very well be one of the best GT3 drivers in the world.
76) Joni Takanen – VRS Coanda Simsport
At long last, the predicted big move for Takanen for nearly two years has finally happened and I think Joni is on his way to becoming one of the best. Now in a team with great talent and structure, Joni is expected to kick on in his cycle of development and I reckon within three years he could be a figurehead at Coanda.
Takanen has had some great results too, most notably in the Kamel GT500 and also having a good run in GTE at Road Atlanta. Not forgetting the seat he has at the NEO table, Joni has days where can be almost untouchable and when they come along, not many people have a way to stop that. Coanda will bring out the best in Joni and wanting to race at the highest level will be the driving factor for him to start moving towards a seat at the Blancpain table and a nice slice of the pie too.
75) Sergio Macias – Champs iRacing
A stellar season four in the Lotus 79 series made absolutely certain that Sergio Macias is one of the best Classics racers in the world. For a considerable spell of weeks, Macias would stockpile win after win in a commanding way, refusing to back down from any pressure and seemed invincible over the course of a season. Macias’ driving style also piled the pressure onto other drivers as consistently he would find a purple lap late on in the event.
I have a love for the classic machines as it is argued in their own right that they have their own difficulties in management. I think that Macias could be argued to be a little out of place in a Champs roster that wants to get involved in as many races as possible it seems. I want to see Sergio more and to continue to run with this fabulous form.
74) Alexander Thiebe – MSP Phoenix Racing
Alexander Thiebe has an uncanny ability to be able to make all the positions in the world when no cameras are watching. Part of a massive motley crew of drivers with all abilities, Thiebe’s Porsche runs in the VLN this year were always a joy to behold despite the fact that the passes weren’t always seen. Positions would always be gained through consistent driving, nailing a very familiar circuit consistently.
You could argue that Thiebe then naturally should be the guy to anchor home a leg in endurance terms but I think he suits the role better as a number one driver. The mistakes he made late in the Blancpain Road Pro Series at Suzuka cost his MSP machine vital points and the reality will soon set in that Thiebe works best in with the pack rather than on his own late. In that respect I think Thiebe could become a very good Rallycross driver but for now at least, give him another year to fully develop as a driver.
73) Boris Spoelstra – Evolution Racing Team
Boris came into my view during a very strong Formula Renault field at the beginning of the year for Friday Primetime. I said in the final race victory at Road America to watch this guy for the Road Pro Series in the autumn and while he naturally had a break from racing, Being picked up by ERT and starting to showcase some great ability, I wonder if he will become one of the casualties that will be hurt by only the top ten qualifying overall.
Boris can be an impulse driver at times and that is what makes him exciting as a personality to watch, especially this year at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where Spoelstra was uber defensive for the majority of the race, deciding to race on instinct rather than strategy. I think Boris is an exciting prospect and it will be interesting to see how more time in the McLaren will aid his development. I do expect to see improvements.
72) Wojciech Swirydowicz – Apex Racing UK
The BSRTC is one of the toughest leagues in the world to win overall but by doing so back to back, Wojciech is quickly becoming the greatest Kia specialist in the world today.
Forming a super team with Chepilevski at Apex, Wojciech adopts the Alain Prost method of driving by doing only what is needed to obtain results. And that has proved vital throughout the year and that serves well in a series with reverse grid action where penalties can be race wreckers especially when reverse grids are concerned.
Long seasons also need consistency and Wojciech is arguably the most consistent driver too, meaning anybody that is anybody can and normally will pick up a win somewhere in the season. Wojciech is very much a complete driver in that aspect and I am very happy to see the success that he brings and we will see if he can go for three in a row in 2018.
71) Mikko Melkkila – JIM Racing Team
Mikko is right on the cusp of being a truly great driver. At a team other than JIM, he would potentially be a scary prospect to be dealing with in races. There has just been something this season that hasn’t clicked with the results needed. Mikko has always been in the hunt within Blancpain this year along with some great drives in the World Tour events however the win has never happened.
Mikko is not scared to throw something unexpected into the works and that unpredictability has hurt Melkkila in some races but when it pays off, it will pay off huge. I’m not sure though about what Melkkila can do at JIM and if Mikko right now is on the cusp of greatness, all that is needed is one big teammate or a change of scenery to create fireworks in 2018.
70) Juha Norolampi – Independent
“The Preacher” has always been a solid driver however the effort that Juha put in this year would be rightfully classed as outstanding. Having had to deal with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, (CFS) Juha battled more than a few demons to get to where he is today. Juha has shown great improvement from where he was at the start of 2017, where he finished 4th overall in the Lotus 79 series but battled through his CFS to go to finish third, second and third again, proving everybody has a chance at fighting. On top of that, Juha was arguably the favourite for the CTC crown had it not have been for a late surge in form for Nuno Moreira.
Juha has a new lease on life to the point where I am not disappointed if he goes off to enjoy his life. I don’t blame him, but this has to be one of the feel good stories of 2017.
69) Rens Broekman – VRS Coanda Simsport
It has been everything short of a great season for Rens Broekman and an image far from perfect in comparison to 2016. From champion by a solitary point to not even the quickest BMW in certain classes, Broekman took a massive tumble thanks to the issues with the BMW in the balance of performance and also was pushed all the way by Vendaval for top BMW. Broekman made his class show though at Brands Hatch where he clawed eight seconds on Isaac Price and sneaked home with a win.
I think Rens needs the right car under him to shine and when the stars align, everything can go inch perfect however on a day where it goes wrong, things can turn south faster than a magnetic shift of the poles. Rens has looked good in Rallycross though, maybe there is a new niche for him.
68) Simone Maria Marceno – Evolution Racing Team
Simone was the catalyst for the Evolution revolution and his move made ERT have a gateway into Europe. Simone was impressive all year, showing good pace in the LMP2 which could translate well for LMP1 soon along with the prime results in Racespot Raceday events in the Formula Renault.
Marceno has all the flair and capability expected from Italian drivers mixed in with some very strong resiliency. Marceno may be strong in open wheels but the future according to the Petit Le Mans earlier on this year before technical issues would have to be the LMP formats. And when you think about how Simone has adapted to a team where Italian is not the language of choice, he has blown away a lot of people’s expectations throughout the year.
67) Klaus Kivekas – VRS Coanda Simsport
On the surface it looks like Klaus has done a lot less in recent years and who can blame you from going to barely top of the BMW’s when last season you were the king of the castle. However in Blancpain this year, it has been Klaus who has been made the pack-horse of the team by running every event in the year.
You also need to consider the good run he attempted in the FISRA eSM championship this year and that Klaus is normally towards the front in any major series. There is no doubt that Klaus is quick but there have been doubts to whether Klaus is a memorable driver or not and that has been on consistency values. Klaus’ team looked second best to yet another Coanda team so maybe Kivekas could be on the decline from here on out.
66) Kevin Ellis Jr. – Apex Racing UK
After qualifying in 2017 for the championship, missing Interlagos and having abysmal fortunes in Sebring, many thought the writing could have been on the wall for Ellis Jr. this year. However I have to respect the mid-season work he put in, finding firstly race pace overall before translating that into some solid one lap pace. From about Silverstone onwards, Kevin looked seriously quick and even in smaller races like the IGPS, Kevin had found a new level which should offer some more respect from those who think Kevin is only there to pad the numbers out.
I think that Kevin though needs to weigh on the side of caution. It has been a good first year and to develop that image and to keep pushing forward, the small downward trend in results needs to be rectified for 2018. Solid year for Kevin.
65) Daniel Arent Wensing – Radicals Online
Here is a driver who shocked everyone in 2017, came from relative nowhere and looks set to take Mogar Filho’s place as best Brazilian in the WCS this year.
Daniel this year and arguably in most years would have been a shoe in for the top ten at every event but such is the talent pool, however with just two lots of top ten finishes and some good top fifteen’s, Wensing needs to be very cautious about 2018. The 75% rule coming into effect is likely to drop him down the field if he continues to run into troubles and as such needs the help from the increased Radicals presence with the likes of Thompson and Tierney helping out.
Out has to come the poor finishes, because World’s Fastest Gamer showed that even for a race, Wensing can race with the elites of simracing.
64) Jake Robson – Independent
The star of a developing team, everyone needs to ask where Torque Freak would be without Jake Robson and where they are going to be now. Robson is incredibly versatile, putting his hands to any and all vehicles that includes runs in Socks Out Racing in the NASCAR Camping Trucks all the way up to the McLaren MP4/30. That versatility has come with a lot of pace and Robson more often than not does just that bit better than you were expecting, always managing to find the top quarter of the field.
I think that teams need to seriously consider Robson as a viable member of the team because I think at a stronger team, he could kick into another gear and shock a lot of people to potentially be the next Alex Simpson in terms of pace. Watch Robson, he is a star of the future.
63) Sebastian Schmalenbach – Pure Racing Team
Sebastian can be accused at times of being a bit part player at Pure but there is no doubt in the ability that Schmalenbach has as a driver. Those who saw him in the 24-hours of The Nurburgring, saw a driver who was not in the fastest Pure car GT3 wise but mastered his vehicle where all his rivals dropped around him and then staved off a lightning charge from Vendaval and Juan E Lopez who put in the race of his life to fall short.
The determination to hold on when the times were falling around him was uncanny and arguably this drive is more than enough to justify how good of a racer Schmalenbach is because those lesser in concentration would have buckled. I want to see more of Sebastian in 2018 because I know on his day, he can cause upsets like the one he showed on home soil.
62) Kim Eriksson – Black Star Racing
Kim Eriksson has been the Black Star workhorse and will continue to be that workhorse heading into 2018. Nailing the Porsche more times than not, Kim made everybody fear him in terms of how consistently quick he was.
Kim is one of the few drivers that fully suits a vehicle and while you could pick out a handful of quicker Porsche drivers, Kim has all the qualities to make a great driver. Good qualifying pace, ability to scrap in a tough race, ability to run away with races, overtaking, defending, the kitchen sink, Eriksson has the lot. However Kim’s ability in a Porsche may be taught right down the Black Star tree, there has been a good effort to translate into a GT3 outfit. It has taken a while since the VLN earlier but Kim has the potential to make a strong qualification.
61) Olli Pahkala – Team Redline
For all the money in the world, it was looking like it was going to be another good year for Olli however from amazing beginnings looking at top five finishes, Olli completely dropped off of the cliff in the second half of 2017. Maybe it is down to the ISRF dealings he has had to go through, maybe it is down to the fact that Olli is being pushed in many directions in terms of simulator, but it is clear that Olli’s results dramatically faltered in the final half of the year.
Olli is rarely a top 20 driver, when you consider three lots of third places in the WCS prior. And with Redline’s philosophy to splinter off and race the series for the most money, I think this has been the best we have seen of Olli for a long while. Only when iRacing becomes a world leader will we see Pahkala at his best.
60) Ilkka Haapala – Orion Racing Team
Ilkka was at his underrated best in 2016 however in 2017, that slightly began to fall away but by no means was it a bad season. Ilkka still finished a respectable twelfth in the championship but was benefited by a lot of absence as he finished four times inside of the top ten while unable to break past eighth place.
However it would be his early showings in the World’s Fastest Gamer qualifying that would light everybody up to why Haapala is an underrated driver as he made sure everybody saw how hard he could scrap against Redline’s Freek Schothorst at Suzuka. Ilkka does need some more pace and it is clear that the pace is in the vehicle. It is now about how it can be extracted for the future and how Ilkka can make himself more regular inside of the top ten.
59) Jack Sedgwick – IneX Racing Team
Jack Sedgwick is a quick driver. When you consider how Jack has been positioned as one of the best anchors in the world, often he gets overlooked for the role that he produces. The issue this year has been about seat time, having only two Blancpain starts this year, time to showcase ability has been the issue for Jack but there have still been good showings such as the run at SimExpo.
Jack doesn’t get enough credit for holding IneX together at a time when IneX capitulated last year and threw the Blancpain title away. My issue is that Jack’s style doesn’t suit a number one driver, I’m not sure if Jack can transition that way but I think if he really pushed for it, he could be that driver. Jack’s success can partly be attributed to who his dynamic works well with.
58) Mario Bertolotti – JIM Racing Team
The move surprises me but seeing who has gone to JIM in the last few months, it suddenly makes sense to me. Joining Bertolotti is D’Acunto, Gobbi and Ragusa, there we see the Mivano exodus happening. Mario Bertolotti arguably was being set up to be the next Tomasso Carla, Bertolotti made his statement in 2017 through Racespot Raceday and the Porsche work that he did. Bertolotti was not the fastest but he scrapped and clawed his way into the title picture.
Mario has a lot of grit and that grit could give him anywhere from three to five positions and the move to JIM is very interesting. Going from a team on the rise to a team seemingly stagnant, I wonder how much Bertolotti can push the needle. It’s a good signing for JIM and one that has to be capitalised on.
57) Alex Sadler – Radicals Online
A refreshing talent in the simracing circle, Alex Sadler is one of the hot prospects for the next few years. Plying the trade earlier in the year at Blue Flag, Sadler made a name for himself in the Formula Renault Sim Cup and consistently challenged those at the top being the likes of Marceno, Van Loozenoord and Silvasti.
Sadler though could be likened to a World War two bomb. You could find him at any moment with the potential to go off. Sadler took victories, fought hard and looked very impressive and the move to Radicals will massively help Sadler in the long term. It may take a little time for Alex to adjust to the MP4/30, but it is evident Sadler is being groomed for success and it may soon be time to look at Sadler as a driver who can go and dice with anyone.
56) Philippe Leybaert – TT Racing
“Mr 2K World Cup” had a year that was very respectable but not to the standards of previous years. Arguably the most complete Skip Barber driver in the world, Philippe had a very good year finishing second in the 2K World Cup on two occasions and looked very quick again over the year. And coming off of creating his own team too, Philippe made a big statement as well in the Skip Barber Race Series taking a victory in the inaugural season.
Philippe is a tactical mastermind to and knows exactly when to push and when to wait and that sense of timing which you get more time to mull over in slower vehicles is a strength Philippe maximises. Philippe makes a home for himself in the Skip Barber and I think that asides from winning it all, there is not much more he can do.
55) Dmitri De Matos – Real Championship
Dmitri is a cog in a Real Championship team that has created an unbreakable bond with his teammate to almost shock everyone by nearly taking the VLN Porsche crown which some would say was robbed from them in the final round. However the way that Dmitri evolved in 2017 would be more than enough to why Dmitri should be classed as a very good driver.
Effectively being the lead playing an anchor role, Dmitri brings maturity to the young French team he resides in and the maturity in his results is part of the reason why three victories have come into the duo this year. However Porsche’s are all well and nice, you also have to deliver in this landscape in GT3’s. I think De Matos will be relied on more in 2018 to help Real Championship deliver at a level which the world is expecting.
54) Djawad Karoni – Real Championship
You could say Karoni has been the standout driver for Real Championship in 2017. The anchor that in reality should be the lead, Djawad has obtained a great turn of pace and not only that but some patience as well. I struggle to find a time where the Real Championship vehicle has been out of position and looking beaten up and bruised and even then, they managed to pull the result in their favour and that is a testament to Karoni’s driving.
Karoni is no nonsense quick and knows how to deliver perfect in laps before nailing the out lap. I would love to see how Karoni would adapt to GT3 knowing that he has drivers like Yohann Harth he could rely on in 2018. Karoni though works best as a team with Dmitri De Matos so eyes on the pair of them into 2018.
53) Cem Bolukbasi – FA Racing G2
Cem Bolukbasi became one of the most important drivers in the world overnight thanks to G2 jumping into simracing. Despite having done not a whole lot since then, the question has become about Cem and his future but when applied, Cem can mix it with the big boys, proved by retaining his licence for 2018 for the WCS and also showed a string of top ten finishes which highlights how talented Cem is.
However there are now questions on his schedule for 2018, whether he will be the rFactor guy now or if he will pick and choose his platform based on money. Cem needs a base for 2018 or he will never be able to be 100% in any race and that will be the biggest worry heading into 2018. Cem needs teammates too, because Fernando Alonso by no means will be racing all of the time.
52) Jeremy Bouteloup – VRS Coanda Simsport
Jeremy Bouteloup is a very curious case of a driver because he can be the most versatile in the world yet that isn’t his job at Coanda. Then you question what his role is within the team and being a reliable anchor, Jeremy this year has been the man to anchor home GT3 or GTE efforts in a season where Coanda’s GT3 and GTE efforts have not been their strongest suit.
They have got better over the course of NEO however Jeremy potentially needs to be pushed a little harder. Arguably though, Jeremy makes this list for a brilliant race at SimExpo where he would take third in the Porsche and prove why Coanda made the move for him. On his day, Jeremy can scare any team or driver. I want to see more of those days however, as they have been a little few and far between in 2017.
51) Gernot Fritsche – Independent
Gernot Fritsche is probably the most successful driver nobody has heard of, mainly because he has found his home in the classics and that is where the Austrian stays. Thirteen times a CTC championship winner, Gernot has proven time and again just how dominant he can be however in 2017, that dominance has began to fade.
The rise of drivers like Moreira, Norolampi and Macias has put Gernot’s position under threat as the best driver but for a legacy, there will not be a doubt about Fritsche’s ability to make the race revolve around him. When a move needs to be made, Fritsche waits on it and makes it when it counts. When he needs to put in fast lap times, he steps it up to the next gear. There isn’t much more Gernot needs to prove however I am pretty sure he wants to maintain his status at the top of the CTC.
50) Christopher Demerritt – Broken-Aero Racing
Christopher DeMerritt made a lot of people stand up and stare in a fantastic Indy 500. Making the decision to pit late on before three late cautions took effect, DeMerritt showed how lethal he could be in a matter of a few laps. Christopher in the 200 laps I have been able to see him this year demonstrated how to stay calm under pressure, how to make a tactical decision in a clutch moment and demonstrated how to pull off a clutch move when everyone is watching.
Inherently, I am not the best when it comes to judging oval potential however I do believe this could be a launching pad for Christopher into the future and that launching pad is going to need to see DeMerritt move into a position to fight hard wherever he goes towards the front. If Holgate can, so can DeMerritt.
49) Alex Arana – GTros
Alex Arana is one of the fastest in the world. I have seen no real issues with Arana’s pace as consistently he has been the lead for GTros that has qualified the car right at the front. The issue comes from Arana’s issue on finishing events. Consistency has been a massive issue all year in VLN and even in the World Tour events too and it is something that Alex has to address in the near future. If he sorts that out then Alex could challenge anybody inside of a GT3 vehicle and nail it, as seen in the final round of the VLN where he won by over a minute.
However there is a more pressing issue that must be eradicated from Alex’s game and that is the intentional wrecking. There is no place in this sport for people who decide to ruin things for everyone else, no matter the excuse.
48) Sonny Kanchin – Asbury Motorsports
There are not many men faster in a MX-5 than Sonny Kanchin and the Heusinkveld MX-5 World Tour has been the proving ground of Kanchin’s choice. Kanchin has been able to prove that he can be the fastest over a hot lap, the fastest onto the lane, in the lane and then back onto the out lap and still have enough fuel to finish the event.
Going in the last two seasons first and second along with a fairy tale season this year which has seen Kanchin win all bar two events. Well on his way to a third title, I think Sonny would be very well suited to maintaining his level but I feel that he could have an even larger star power if he finds a second vehicle that he could attack very well. No doubts about his talent but he is one cog away from a well oiled machine.
47) Florian Woithe – JIM Racing Team
Florian’s year has been a turbulent one but one that holds promise on the horizon. After the Pure capitulation back in the summer, Florian made the jump over to JIM which instantly raised eyebrows and has put JIM from cult heroes to perennial race contenders.
While Florian has not been memorable in terms of on track action this year, he has officially made JIM very relevant and along with the likes of Melkilla, Dunkel and at the time Patrik Holzmann, JIM are in an unbelievably better position to where they were 12 months ago. JIM now have taken a lot of people in from Mivano, have added a very strong real world contingency to their team and have become one of the most lucrative teams for investors to buy into.
Florian needs to be at the forefront of what is happening into 2018 and being in a good position in Blancpain qualifying is helping.
46) Eero Nomm – Team Buschfink Racing
Eero is the ultimate league driver and by plying his trade from series to series, Eero becomes the best driver to rarely go up against the mainstream opponent and as such he protects his aura. Not only is Eero a champion inside of the MX-5 World tour but he has been a perennial front runner in the Absolute Beginners league and to top that off, he looked brilliant in BOSRA before the league became defunct.
Eero can do it in any vehicle at any time and arguably is one of the few Buschfink drivers that makes a major impact in terms of creating a hype. I think that moving into more mainstream races for Eero would also go against him too so I think that the brand of Eero’s racing is fantastic, I do think though that maybe he could push the envelope slightly further.
45) Julian Rodriguez – Teo Martin Esports
As much out of nowhere as Teo Martin was this year, Julian has become the most central figure around the team move into Esports. Julian was the mastermind behind a rise to prominence from Teo Martin which has seen them collect a fantastic Glen victory over the course of six hours.
It was Julian’s style of driving however that sets the precedence for this team to start making headway. Almost like an army general, Julian is no nonsense and does the dirty work when required and probably looks like a completely unearthed gem for teams moving forward. Julian can lead the team from obscurity to unbelievable glory if the cards are right and I have no doubt in his abilities moving forward. He has the skills, the determination, but maybe needs to flaunt those traits more.
44) Maximillian Wenig – Pure Racing Team
Max Wenig does not get the credit he deserves as a driver who can be one of the best in the world on a good day and a driver that has shown over this year that there are signs of why Pure have him on their books. While Max has not been the most utilised part of Pure over this year, his drives have been majorly impactful both for the better and the worse.
It is worth reminding that Wenig’s pedals let him down in the 24 hours of the Nurburgring which costed the A team a shot at glory while the drive that got him on this list was a heroic effort to make the chase in the ADAC GT500 which left Wenig short of Coanda’s Mack Bakkum. Wenig’s skill is often sold short by normally being the anchor to a team but I think with a bit more of a spotlight, Max could be a bright spark for 2018.
43) Antoine Higelin – Apex Racing UK
Antoine has moved from a good to a great driver over the last season and has made himself a lot more relevant within Apex.
Higelin’s early start to the WCS season highlighted a genuine sense of pace which could be down to a maturity level increasing and a larger drive to make results happen. I think though Antoine has benefited from a lot of drivers leaving Apex as it has brought the spotlight more firmly on him and I think because of that, he has had more specialist help and has been able to kick at the highest level. More and more we are seeing Antoine become a top ten and a top five challenger and that level of diversity at the top is needed to push further forwards in Apex’s rebuild phase.
Antoine could be a podium contender in 2018. Mark my words.
42) Lukas Jedstadt – MSP Phoenix Racing
Lukas has been the top star at MSP for a little while now and his consistent ability to put MSP on the map is commendable. While there were some troubling issues at the start of the year with the VLN race which descended into chaos, Lukas comfortably picked himself up and subsequently got some of the first gold for MSP with an Audi 90 win at Road America.
Lukas is most well known for his GT3 ability yet somehow MSP don’t seem to make much of an impact in Blancpain despite the obvious ability. I think Lukas suffers from the ECW effect where he is too big to be in a small team but too small to be in a big team and it would rely on Lukas finding some magic or someone taking a punt. What I do know is Lukas has shown he can win at a World Tour level even if it was just Kamel and could be a great driver to work on development in 2018.
41) Nuno Moreira – Independent
Nuno has been the man of the moment within the CTC and as humble as he is, I wish Nuno would sell himself more. There has not been a driver over this past year within the CTC that has been as consistent and has speared forward a classics revolution at GSRC. Nuno understands the limits of his abilities but Nuno does so much more than that when time requires it and his offensive and defensive capabilities have won titles without needing to resort to luck.
I don’t know many drivers who after a poor start to the year can rally off four victories in the last five events to steal a championship but Nuno can reach a level that a lot of simracers just cannot find. Nuno is cementing down a division and with stern challenges with an average top split SOF at 4200 in broadcasted races. I am not one to merely say that there has been no challenge for Moreira this year.
40) Michael Partington – Evolution Racing Team
I have nothing but praise for the breakout season that Michael has had. All the signs are there for a great driver with desire in abundance, tactical awareness and a pace that should put him in the WCS this year. Michael Partington earned a move to ERT in the fall and the move that came after a second place in the iRacing Grand Prix Series in season three was met with a lot of appreciation in World’s Fastest Gamer as he finished third overall and made himself a candidate for qualification.
Even if it doesn’t happen this year due to the limiting of positions and some torrid luck, Michael has earned the respect of everyone in the paddock and as a driver and the ability and potential he has knowing the jump he made from rF2 over to iRacing, I would have probably signed him if I still had a simracing team.
39) Kazuki Oomishima – Radicals Online
One of the deadliest blades within the WCS, Kazuki has been long overdue the almost destined victory his talent deserves however another year of frustration has met him. While it is position seven in the championship and he beats the legend that is Greger Huttu, This was not the Kazuki of three years ago who could challenge for race victories.
I won’t take anything away from Kazuki who scored an impressive seventh place finish on home turf, there wasn’t too many standout drives but a collection of respectable finishes which keep people guessing about how Radicals will respond in 2018. Kazuki needs to find more pace and the question is now about whether Radicals is the best home now for Kazuki. I wonder if something is going to have to come from outside of the box thinking.
38) Thomas Arends – CoRe SimRacing
One of the better drivers in the CoRe development scheme, it was a very good year for Thomas Arends. Being a part of a successful Blancpain campaign in the CoRe Silver machine. Arends was for the large majority the man who brought the team through without disrespect to Janne Kiuru.
Arends is one of the many drivers in CoRe who bring a lot of promise into 2018 and for his development, Arends should keep within CoRe for the time being. Thomas is not yet complete as a package which was shown at SimExpo where he bottled the GT500 and more composure in decisive situations will be needed from Thomas to truly step up to the plate. Any other year, and Arends would be the hot prospect heading into the next year.
37) Elmar Erlekotte – Rennsport Online
There are four horsemen of the apocalypse, four wrestling horsemen, and then there are the four horsemen of Rennsport Online and each to their own have been sensational this year. I can only think of one occasion where Elmar Erlekotte has made an error and ultimately it didn’t matter as the race was already in the hands of a teammate.
Elmar is just a canny driver and he can be completely missing from a race one minute to maing four passes in two miles the next. Over the course of four hours too, how often is the race done and dusted after an hour and a half with Elmar? The MX-5 is on lockdown for the four horsemen and time will tell what it is that these drivers will do next. I hope that Elmar continues to impress.
36) Ricardo Orozco – Positive Sim Racing
Looking for all the world like the perfect replacement for Diogo Oliviera, Ricardo has had a great season and it could be one that leads to a WCS seat in 2018.
Orozco shot into fame in 2017 through the iGPS where he found a home and created scrap after scrap with Michael Partington throughout the year. Ricardo would come out on top and with some great Road to Pro races under his belt, he is the man on the bubble in tenth position with drop weeks applied.
Ricardo is like greased lightning when it comes to starts and where his overall pace seemingly struggles, he is not too new to the idea of gaining early positions. More than that though, Ricardo knows how to force mistakes out of drivers too, most famously with Davy Decorps at Monza. Orozco is not safe for the WCS and one of the favourites to go through by the form book. It all depends however on if Ricardo has staved of the early season jitters.
35) Simon Cattell – IneX Racing
I find Simon quite baffling as a driver because I had never seen him with much pace at all and then from deep in left field, he smacks back some stunning anchor leg work in the Blancpain championship. I think it is those sorts of breakout performances in a year that go a long way to appreciate the skills of a driver like Cattell.
Cattell does what a lot of drivers fail to do and that is the basic of bringing a car home. It doesn’t matter that he isn’t the fastest, Simon is clean and consistent and nothing more is needed from a driver who has brought IneX home to some great finishes this year. A small increase in pace would be more useful as it would strengthen a small area of weakness and too much reliance on others but Simon is a perfect mould for the definition of an anchor.
34) Jouni Silvasti – Independent
Jouni doesn’t do teams. He doesn’t think that he could possibly gain anything more from being in a team when he knows how to set a Formula Renault up and decimate a field.
Jouni Silvasti came to my attention in AOR where he became one of a select group of champions that includes the likes of Kerry Knowlden, Justin Brunner, Christian Koch and Jean-Francois Godin however Jouni stands apart because he has been able to showcase it on more than just a niche level. Racespot Raceday saw Jouni garner mainstream attention and put himself on a level with ex-WCS level talents such as Maarten Van Loozenoord and up and coming stars like Simone Maria Marceno and Alex Sadler.
Jouni is not leaving the Renault anytime soon and you will struggle to find a better driver in that ring.
33) Jamie Fluke – Apex Racing UK
Very similar to Antoine Higelin, Jamie Fluke has proved that he is more than just there to fill up the numbers as his fantastic consistency served him well over the season to finish eighth place overall in the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. Fluke has proved over the past year that he is no fluke as his run of five consecutive top ten finishes at the end of the year goes to show just how important form can be. Jamie isn’t lavish with the way he drives but the Irishman knows that the long game is the most important one and that was emphasised in the few IGPS races he ran through the summer.
I could easily see Jamie pushing for top five finishes this year and I hope to see that happen from a very talented driver.
32) Tomasso Carla – Thurstmaster Mivano
Thanks to two great signings, many people forget just how important Tomasso Carla is to Thrustmaster Mivano. Arguably the face of Mivano in native Italy, Tomasso is one of the best all rounders in endurance racing, able to both anchor and lead a team beautifully.
Within a Daytona Prototype or the HPD, Tomasso has always placed himself and his team towards the front, making sure that at some stage the talk is put on them. And it shows in the massive upswing in Mivano results in the World Tours and though this winter where Mivano are legitimately contenders now in any race they enter. I think Tomasso needs to think about LMP1 for the future. Either he needs to be a key specialist or be able to nail all forms of GT vehicles because the one weakness right now seems to be GT3.
31) Patrick Langkau – Rennsport Online
The no nonsense man of the four horsemen of simracing, Patrick Langkau does not mess about in the MX-5. One of the drivers to make a real difference when it came to VLN, and the GT Academy finalist knew throughout the year about what it takes to win and win well. This was showcased off well in one of the latter rounds where he pulled out almost three seconds early in the opening lap due to some drama behind and never decided to look back.
The only thing I think though when I look at Langkau is that a driver of his quality and prestige should be doing more overall and I think Langkau could push himself to get onto that next level and join the GT effort. We know that Rennsport are learning and are not the fastest in that field but I do not have doubts yet on why Patrick has been fantastic for some marvellous races.
30) Paul Malokas – Evolution Racing Team
2017 was the year Paul Malokas went from good finisher to title challenger and what a season he put together. Suddenly finding wins out of the back pocket and charging towards a one on one showdown with his own teammate in Arjan De Vreede, the new guard of the 2K World Cup have come fully into bloom.
Paul is not the fastest driver but he is a master of fuel saving similar to the likes of a Joshua Chin and not only does he maintain a great fuel saving ability, he is able to make it happen in any car and track combination he sets his mind to. This came into a better light with the move over to Evolution from Positive and Paul has been given a licence of freedom. I think he still has a ways to go inside of the GT3 circle but the signs are there for Paul to make a stunning anchor for ERT in the future once he finds somewhere in the realm of six tenths of a second.
29) David Williams – VRS Coanda Simsport
David Williams is almost entirely different to everyone else at Coanda and has had a great season picking up momentum in unexpected areas. Falling in love with the Porsche all year, David showed some amazing pace in the Racespot Raceday events along with the big guns coming out at SimExpo when he outperformed a lot of expectation to finish second in singles competition. Not only did he do that but he then went on to be a part of a team with Jake Hewlett and Nick Rowland that showed up everyone on the WFG stage and to top that all off, David was a very reliable anchor for Mitchell DeJong to the point where David has become the biggest road all rounder.
With a WCS place up for grabs too, David has shown what it means to maximise every opportunity that comes your way and I hope for next year that David finds continued success.
28) Arjan De Vreede – Evolution Racing Team
Finally, after years of trying, it is finally Arjan’s year. Two World Cups under his belt in the Skip Barber and a big team change means the Dutchman has been a very busy man. The Skip Barbers are some of the easiest vehicles to drive but some of the hardest to master and that has been the case in the changing of the guard for De Vreede.
Arjan can be in any pack and come out in the battle no matter what has happened to him and when he is on it, you will rarely find the man to stop him. But it is more than just skippies for Arjan as his work now to evolve into a GT3 driver has also been very successful and for a driver that is smoother than the butter on your toast in the morning, Arjan also brings a very tactical mind and could also be very useful off the track as well as on it. We will see where he will progress to in 2018.
27) Fabrice Cornelis – Vendaval SimRacing
Belgium’s highest iRated driver and a brilliant prospect for the future, Fabrice has forced himself into the conversation in 2017 after strongly putting Vendaval on the map in the major races. Fabrice is quick, target driven and knows what to do when it is expected of him and the strength of making everything look so easy is such a tough skill to master. And as a popular streamer, Fabrice is a very interesting character to be dealing with at any time because he can show any set of emotions at any given time.
However, despite the fantastic pace that has been shown which has brought some great victories, the times where things have begun to sour, Fabrice has been in and around it on more than one occasion. The question remains on whether Fabrice has gotten Coen into more problems or not, and so does the question on whether Coen has to work a lot harder because of it.
26) Tobias Czerny – Rennsport Online
The two brother’s Czerny have ruled the roost in VLN since the inception of the series and are the masters of the four hour system.
Tobias proves that any formula that is given usually comes up as solved. Tobias had a fantastic run in 2017 winning almost every race in VLN, proving the total dominance in pace. You don’t really need to say much more about Tobias as he forms one half of the core unit of the four horsemen in terms of the Czerny Brothers and the dominance they have shown goes to the mastery of dealing with faster traffic and dictating the pace. I have never seen a faster car hit Tobias Czerny off and that is the truth from a heads up driver. I hope that he continues that into 2018 and I also think that Tobias could even go further and use his skills higher up in formulas once LMP1 gets released.
25) Alex Czerny – Rennsport Online
Alex Czerny isn’t necessarily the defacto leader of Rennsport Online but more rather the big bully who has already got your tamagotchi. Alex along with Tobias continued the fabled reign of MX-5’s in 2017 that is seemingly never going to end on this patch of form. Alex along with his four horsemen teammates have destroyed the competition on several occasions and that has come down to Alex’s meticulous dedication and practice to master a machine like not many others. And Alex encompasses something all the other members do well. Easygoing with traffic, able to be the fastest man during a stop and able to assert an influence on a race no matter when or where.
Alex and Tobias are very similar as well being twins and it is almost like having just one person drive at times, however Alex beat Tobias in the last race and that is what separates them.
24) Alexander Vos – Heusinkveld CORE Motorsport
Alexander is eye candy. One of the most beautiful drivers to watch when he is in the groove, Alexander is like a swan in the way he serenely moves through races. However 2017 saw the swan trying to break a man’s arm as he struggled to find any real sense of momentum in the latter half 2017.
There were some good races at the beginning of the year but largely from a season where I thought Alexander was going to become the best in the world, There was just a case of not really living up to the billing. And I think that because the victories have come in lower formulas, the achievements seemingly get diminished because of that and 2018 should be the big recovery for the entire team too because every fan knows just how good Vos can be and I would like to see that consistently.
23) Coen Klopman – Vendaval SimRacing
Coen Klopman has become a fantastic driver over the last twelve months and paired along with Fabrice Cornelis, they have made Vendaval a freakishly strong force heading into 2018. While the results have not gone the way of Coen, the determination and drive has been there, being in multiple winning positions and having a lot of misfortune fall his way. This was first documented at the Glen when SimatoK would take out Coen with a little over an hour to go, robbing Coen of a certain victory before having to try to claw back a lap and a half down to under a minute in comparison to Mivano.
Coen has been an anchor having to race like a lead is not healthy for a team and the work that Coen consistently has to put in must be a toll that he has to constantly pay. Coen needs to be able to have the pressure relieved off of him to be on the same level as an Isaac Price however qualification to Blancpain would be the true comparison.
22) Marcus Hamilton – Thrustmaster Mivano
In 2016, Marcus Hamilton was desperately trying to put Friction Racing firmly on the map by trying to hold off a Mitchell DeJong who gave so much as he collapsed on the floor after his effort. Fast forward a year and a bit and Marcus Hamilton is almost household in endurance as the man who always can.
Making the move to Mivano once Friction fell to ashes, Marcus has made a massive effort to push Mivano to the top of the tree and arguably has been Mivano’s greatest ever signing along with Frederic Evers. Hamilton doesn’t strike you as a lead but somehow he gets a job done and I wonder how well he would do as an anchor heading into 2018. Marcus Hamilton as an entity is not memorable but as a unit, he becomes irreplaceable and he deserves the credit that is rarely given. I would love to interview Marcus too.
21) Frederic Evers – Thrustmaster Mivano
Frederic Evers is no longer an underrated driver, and arguably is one of the best in the world for acting under clutch situations. How many times has Mivano this year needed to go to the well and the water that Frederic brings back is enough to water the 5000? Petit Le Mans and SCO round one have been prime examples and I seriously worry for anybody that has to come up against Evers in a World Tour event.
Frederic is the best in the world at getting around traffic and keeping lap times consistent. And it isn’t just endurance where Evers can excel. I have seen Frederic race in such diverse things as the Pro Mazda and that Pro Mazda can be a difficult machine that only some of the best have mastered. I think Frederic has the potential to be the best in the world in endurance circles but he needs to make sure Mivano have the year that everyone knows they will have.
Evers could be the best forEvers.
20) Kay Kaschube – Heusinkveld CORE Motorsport
I will be honest, I have always been underwhelmed by Kay Kaschube as a driver as I had him overhyped towards me. Kay though has been at the same level as last year in my opinion which is clear to see when everyone around has been making strides.
Pushed as the leader, there has to be responsibility with Kay to why they were out of the title picture so early into the Blancpain season and that the victories of 2016 have been limited just to the Nurburgring in the Porsche and also the GT500 win in world tour terms. Kay is a great driver and I will not dispute that however as someone who is supposed to be the antithesis of Maximilian Benecke, I think Kay fell short of the mark this year.
To get better, Kay has to target a top five minimum in Blancpain as well as win one of the four World Tour Majors being Daytona, Spa, Le Mans or the Nurburgring in the top category; nothing short of that would be deemed as acceptable.
19) Joni Tormala – Independent
Leaving IneX was a bombshell that has caused quite a stir in the community over the last month. Joni has always been a very good driver however the results have declined in the last year. Joni is a fantastic driver who has got multiple wins in the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series and if anything, he should have had more help to maintain it. Instead, Tormala’s season has been defined by Blancpain where he has been very good this year and has been a massive reason why IneX collected a top five with that team however since leaving, the question becomes where does he go?
Joni has the capability to surprise many however I think Tormala is destined for a move to somewhere like FA Racing G2 who have very good crossover ability like Tormala has. 2018 is going to be a new frontier for Joni and one that is going to be a major test of his talents.
18) Joni Heikkinen – Black Star Racing
Not many drivers can be like Joni Heikkinen. Someone who dominated the Nordic challenge, dominated the eSM finals and also looked amazing in the Porsche Supercup too. Joni is the king of Porsche’s and at every step of the way, hardly a soul has been able to come close to him. Joni has some scintillating pace and he uses that at every step of the way, looking almost impervious and never putting a foot wrong. And it shows overall. there is a reason why Joni will have a rally drive heading into 2018 and that comes down to a brilliant work ethic and a chance to showcase simracing on the world stage. This potentially means a reduced schedule for 2018 and that could put Black Star in some jeopardy overall and I think a lot of fans will be wanting Joni Heikkinen for 200 as he looks to make waves on two frontiers.
17) Marcus Jensen – Apex Racing UK
Marcus Jensen is the Nico Hulkenburg of simracing. He rarely enters a scrap and is widely forgotten during most races but still manages to draw some fantastic top five finishes.
Many saw Marcus as just a side note in the 2016/17 road pro series however clearly that hasn’t been the case in a stacked series that saw the likes of Huis, Bakkum and Schothorst redefine a meta in 2017. Marcus is the definition of consistent and rarely would you see him outside of the top ten with the great form he has had leading the Apex team in the second half of the season. At such a young age too, what is to say Marcus cannot be a factor for the next twenty years at least?
Jensen makes a lot of people turn and ask about just how good he really is because Marcus could be champion material in the future, coming through a fantastic academy system that is churning out a lot of young talent and making everyone wonder which unknown is going to take the WCS by the scruff of the neck next.
16) Joshua Rogers – TTL Esports
Josh Rogers has staked a monumental claim in to be arguably the star of the future.
A dab hand in any vehicle he sets his mind to, Josh already proved within the V8 realm that he could go along with the Blancpain pace he has. However the Formula One qualification is the biggest showcase of just how good Josh has been. Top of the table with four rounds left and with two great wins at Suzuka and Monza, Josh is looking a dead cert for the top ten next year and could be a driver on the shopping list for everyone. Also keep in mind that he kept Jarrad Filsell honest throughout the entirety of the V8SCOPS season.
I see nothing but positives for Josh moving forward and everybody who has kept an eye on simracing will now be aware of how much Rogers has changed the balance of power. TTL may be fortunate now to have Josh, but on this form, for how much longer?
15) Davy Decorps – Orion Race Team
I have a lot of time for Davy Decorps as a driver who with no expectations, went out to race, earned a lot of respect and nearly stunned the world. Driving to the point of injury, Davy stuck it to Freek Schothorst to bring the race down to the final race of the World’s Fastest Gamer qualifiers and very nearly stole the race early on too.
But more than just one series, Davy is one of the drivers who gives it back the most to the iRacing community by racing up against the up and coming drivers like Nicklas Rasmussen and Ricardo Orozco. Decorps is a massive factor in developing the talent of the future by giving them all the yardstick to aim for. Decorps knows very well what his limit is and he knows that stints like the one he pulled out for WFG won’t come about as often as many will be expecting however Decorps has earned a lot of fanfare around him and suddenly has become the star of Orion.
14) Jarrad Filsell – Trans Tasman Racing
Jarrad is one of the most humble human beings on the planet and he will be the first to tell you that he doesn’t deserve to be this high on the list however Jarrad has been a god of pace and performance all year. The races that he ran in Racespot Raceday were sensational on top of the V8 SCOPS title that was collected for the second straight year. And while Jarrad makes everything look so easy, it is the technical knowledge that he has and is able to translate so effortlessly to others that makes him invaluable as an asset.
I think Jarrad has also done incredibly well in Blancpain this year too and I wouldn’t be too shocked to see him push on even higher in simracing overall. Jarrad is a very special talent and should be considered on a level similar to those who are world class overall.
13) Justin Brunner – IneX Racing
Justin Brunner was my first ever hero in simracing. As a 17 year old with limited understanding and just a view of AOR as an understanding, I saw Brunner as one of the best as he manhandled a Pro Mazda to three successive titles.
Since then, Justin has transferred and flourished into one of the best GT3 drivers in the world today without ever looking like truly one of the greats. It was the subtle nature of Brunner’s efforts as a lead that put IneX in a fantastic position all throughout the year and into a podium come the end.
What also comes apparent is how Brunner manages the simracing success on top of his USF2000 races which he has looked deadly in all year and it is only then you can look at just what a talent Justin is. I do expect to see a reduced schedule but Justin right now is in the best form of his life.
12) Martti Pietila – VRS Coanda Simsport
Martti reminds me of a secret agent. He slips through races unnoticed, has bagged a couple of kills and walks away with a tidy profit. Martti has the position gaining ability of those who run in the back of the field but has managed to make the top ten and also the top five his home over the course of the year.
Undoubtedly Martti has some of the best race pace in the field and has shown time and again how to use it, however the cost comes at some mediocre qualifying performances in comparison and that is not the idea moving forward. Without any question, Martti needs to be working on the one lap run because everybody knows that he masters overtaking probably better than anybody in the world right now and not only can he do that, but he can bring forth another driver into the Coanda dominance.
11) Greger Huttu – Team Redline
The five time champion in iRacing circles showed his age this year as in between a move of houses and WFG preparations, Greger did not look like the Greger Huttu of old that would pick apart anyone and everyone that would stand before him. It feels like the old gunslinger is running low on bullets at high noon and a once impervious driver is starting to see fresher talents get away from him.
Greger still had some great results with pole positions and a few stern challenges in second, but Greger faded fast in the middle of the season to the point where at one stage he has just six points from four races. I think Greger could run a reduced schedule and race around all the simulators in the future and I think he doesn’t have to prove anything anymore because of the titles he has won again and again. Has Martin Kronke snuffed out the old sheriff of iRacing?
10) Juan E Lopez – Vendaval SimRacing
Juan arguably has made the most of opportunities in 2017 and has been mightily impressive to the point of unrecognised world class calibre. Juan has been a spearhead for Vendaval and in the early months, there was not much you could say against his performances. Consistently mixing it in the BMW against the champions and beating them thoroughly on occasion, plus an agonisingly close near miss in the 24 hours of the Nurburgring made sure to put Vendaval on the map for everyone to see.
Juan has been fantastic all year long and often doesn’t get enough credit with superstars like Cornelis, Klopman, Kaidesoja and Kekkonen all in the team plus so many others. Juan’s role will be key in the 24 hour events and I would not be surprised to see Juan lead Vendaval to one or two major victories next year.
9) Jan Sentkowski – Team Heusinkveld
Jan is not the quickest driver, and I make this very clear when I write these lists because it isn’t always about being the fastest. Jan was always somewhere towards the rear of the top ten in qualifying in the VLN races and it was through some great driving, determination and the ability to maintain a level of control as others lost their heads around him that led to Team Heusinkveld taking the VLN crown. With a few victories under the belt too, Jan does not come across as a lead driver but more rather a reliable anchor however one that has adapted to lead Heusinkveld into the eyes of the simracing community.
I think it has been a tough challenge also to qualify for the Blancpain championship which had to be the goal for them this year but only time will tell if Jan will lead his team to glory in 2018.
8) Isaac Price – CoRe SimRacing
Isaac Price is the reason why CoRe have burst out onto the world stage and challenged the world at their game. Being arguably the greatest anchor in the world, Isaac has been pushed hard all year to create the results needed to make Blancpain successful with recovery drives at Silverstone and also manage a tough WCS campaign in the McLaren which he mastered well. Top that off with WFG and F1 Esports, it has been fantastic for Isaac however the latter two I cannot include in my reasoning.
Isaac is not only a great driver but a fantastic brain to have on a team because he has found something out of Rasmussen and many others that simply did not exist two years ago and not only that, But Isaac has proven over the last couple of months that he can race and race well being a lead and not an Anchor.
More of the same for 2018, simply a fantastic year.
7) Mack Bakkum – VRS Coanda Simsport
Here stands a driver up there in ability but sometimes neglected for being in a team with greats already.
It has been a massive year for Mack as he stood up and showed everyone why Coanda were right to sign him. Qualifying through the Road Pro Series, Mack made quick work of the competition, smashing home podiums late on in the season and mincing it right at the top end with the Huttu’s and Kronke’s. The consistency to finish was up there with seven top five finishes and Mack made sure everyone saw his ability. Mostly that was done in the ADAC GT500 which, in front of the crowds, Mack turned up the style to make the winning move with minutes to go to win the race.
Mack in just a simple term, is ruddy fast. No more, no less, and still scaring all that stand before him.
6) Maximilian Benecke – Pure Racing Team
Maximillian Benecke is like Stephan Curry in a Pure that looks like the Golden State Warriors.
Max has been the driving factor behind a dominant Pure team that can turn up and walk through anybody at any given moment. The consistency of Benecke’s performances in terms of the sheer dominance has been highlighted on more than one occasion in VLN, in Racespot Primetime Events and in series like NEO. However for all that success, there has to be a side of caution. The angry side flared up against Tormala at the Nurburgring and that ruthlessness from Benecke needs to be channelled properly or he begins to risk his credibility.
Max drives at a level that most people only dare to dream of being half as good as and a talent like his should be challenging for titles everywhere he goes. It didn’t happen in Blancpain, it needs to happen there this year.
5) Freek Schothorst – Team Redline
Many would forgive you at the start of the year for thinking Freek Schothorst was a side project for Redline in 2017, but my how everyone was sorely mistaken. Freek had a great qualifying into the WCS and then built some brilliant podium results into scoring third overall in the championship which is fantastic for a debut season.
However the true grit and determination of Freek this year came in the form of his World’s Fastest Gamer qualifying where on a B – Grade drive, he fought hard for top positions and thoroughly battled in a series many expected him to walk and dominate. Freek has not had it easy this year and I expect him to continue to work hard knowing he fell an inch short of a year’s deal with McLaren. I would like to see Freek take center stage a bit more as he has the ability to go and be a champion.
4) Bono Huis – Team Redline
FSR’s darling made a massive impact in 2017, although most of his achievements I unfortunately for this list cannot discuss. While he did win the Vegas e-Race and get an automatic seat at the WFG table, Bono’s iRacing World Championship form was brilliantly consistent in the early stages to the point where he would have won half a dozen races and a title if it wasn’t for one other man.
I think a lot of criticism on Bono has been unjust this year as he has been stellar at picking and choosing the moments to attack along with doing what is required to finish strongly in an event. It is a little disappointing to see the results start to tail off when the WFG came up however Bono has proven to be the best all rounder in the world today and arguably should be the leader of Team Redline moving forward. I don’t know how Bono’s schedule is going to look however I am sure that he will be right in the fight wherever the money is.
3) Mitchell DeJong – VRS Coanda Simsport
Mitchell is one of those kids at school who can do everything and is popular and has probably stolen your girl too.
Mitchell’s 2017 has been a barnstormer and could have been even better had it not have been for a thriving Rallycross career. While WCS races have been missed all season, the reality has been that Mitchell looked for large periods like the biggest challenger to Kronke all year, looking insanely quick as usual. Factor in the fact Mitchell had to qualify for the Blancpain championship and then drove his socks off t be agonizingly close at Spa Francorchamps, here you have a special lead driver. And what makes Mitchell get respected even more is how he has translated the Rallycross which he races in real life and consistently goes out and wins at the highest level.
It is fantastic to see how Mitchell gives back to the community in this way and 2018 could be the season where he shows the world that he is the best.
2) Frederik Rasmussen – CoRe SimRacing
If there is a star of simracing’s future, Frede is the man who is going to be that megastar.
Frederik did some incredible things in 2017 and the most iconic of all had to be his Blancpain success, scoring every single pole position in the season. And it was that power of placing the car at the front that kept the pressure on all the rivals and made it nigh on impossible to dislodge frede as a driver. SimExpo could also be classed as a defining moment as he made the pass on David Williams to take the ADAC Simracing Trophy. Then you factor in his performances in the Road Pro series and you seriously have a driver who performs even better under pressure, can handle the quickest machines in the world and can make it all look like child’s play.
Frede is one fantastic driver and here is someone who could dominate simracing for the next twenty years if he wanted to. Its time to make good on 2018.
1) Martin Kronke – VRS Coanda Simsport
Who else? When you go unbeaten for an entire season, conceding just 60 led laps across the year and having the time of his life, I think anything short of first can be classed as an insult.
Martin has the uncanny ability of making smooth and fast go hand in hand and never having a look at being out of shape. Factor that in with some excellent pace and the ability to slowly break his opponents tenth by tenth as if he was a dentist pulling teeth out. And not only that, Martin is able to do so with as minimal incident points as possible, only looking like he had any resemblance to humanity at Monza when he had to fight back twice to win.
Martin is very humble about what he has achieved and has been stereo-typically German all season long and it will take an almighty challenge to knock him off of the top spot. One more race and he could be the all time leader for consecutive wins, and I think that will be the stamp on the record books that is fitting of his ability.
And so, 2017 comes to a conclusion however the Sim Racing Observer is not done with this year. We have a super special announcement to deliver tomorrow and it is going to fundamentally change how we look at Simracing on iRacing and what will be the meta moving forward. Have a happy 2018 and keep on watching, supporting, racing and winning.