10 Contestants Secure Spots in 2022 ‘Toyota GAZOO Racing MENA Esports Cup’ Finals
The first round of the national qualifiers of the Toyota GAZOO Racing MENA Esports Cup - which is officially sponsored by Toyota Motor Corporation, represented by Toyota GAZOO Racing, to keep pace with the evolving global esports and virtual car racing landscape - kicked off recently. Incredibly talented simulator drivers from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus and Kuwait vied amidst an electrifying atmosphere and fierce competition to claim their seats in the finals scheduled to take place in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in October.
Following the remarkable success of the first edition of the Toyota GAZOO Racing MENA Esports Cup last year, the championship now returns with an even wider range of participants and a more advanced structure comprising national qualifier rounds that present everyone with a fair chance to showcase their talents, win and represent their countries during the finals.
The national qualifiers commenced in Jordan on Thursday 28 July, followed by Egypt, Lebanon and Cyprus, while Kuwait qualifiers took place on Thursday 4 August. Contestants brought out their best on the renowned Japanese Fuji Speedway track to compete for only two positions available to represent each country, with the third-place winner becoming first reserve in case the first or second-place winners are unable to show up to the finals.
In Jordan, several drivers excelled, most notably Ghaith Abu Taa, Moath Shishani, last year’s runner-up Izz Bustami and Hamzeh Al Hendawi. As the Feature Race neared, the competition remained close and drivers swapped positions using different racing strategies. Ultimately, Ghaith Abu Taa took the win, Izz Bustami earned another chance at the championship title after securing second place and Moath Shishani came in third.
In Egypt, which joins the Toyota GAZOO Racing MENA Esports Cup for the first time this year, Hazem Zaki dominated the national qualifiers race from the start, while four other drivers battled fearlessly for second place in the Sprint Race and Feature Race. Mohamed Wasel eventually widened the gap from the remaining drivers to qualify for the finals alongside Hazem Zaki, with Mohamed Raafat claiming the third spot.
In Lebanon, only one position was at stake, as last year’s champion Sami Joe Abi Nakhle automatically qualified for the finals. However, it was clear from the onset of the national qualifiers that a new star was emerging as young Karl Etyemezian outperformed a host of acclaimed Lebanese racers to assert his seat in the finals, followed by Wassim Abou Khalil in third place.
The race was equally exciting in Cyprus, with the top four drivers only six-tenths of a second apart before Panagiotis Petsas won the Sprint Race with minor time score differences among the contestants.
In the decisive Feature Race, strategies varied and the battle was underway from the first corner where Demosthenis Michael swooped to the lead. Positions changed hands several times throughout the race due to strategies and bold overtakes, resulting in Yiannis Hadhicharalambous crossing the line first, 3 seconds ahead of Panagiotis Petsas, who outpaced third-place winner Demosthenis Michael by just 1 second.
In Kuwait, Khaled Dashti dominated the race from start to finish, with Mahdi Bulayyan confirming his stance as the most prominent contestant to qualify to the finals in Jordan alongside Dashti - a feat he accomplished successfully by maintaining his pace during the races and keeping the competition at bay. Meanwhile, the battle for third place raged on amongst the remaining drivers and was eventually won by Abdullrahman Al Thefiri, who became first reserve for Kuwait in the finals.
Upon concluding the first round of the national qualifiers, all eyes turn to the second round during which six more drivers from Mauritania (12 August), UAE (13 August) and Morocco (14 August) will move on.
The third round will include Oman (25 August), Saudi Arabia (26 August), Qatar (27 August) and Bahrain (28 August), with the finals being held between 6 and 8 October in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
National qualifiers for all countries will be streamed live on the Desert Fox Racing YouTube channel via the following link: t.ly/snqa
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