Chesterfield driver Rhys Yates is getting used to drinking his tea out of his shoe.
The 28-year-old won his second successive eSports WRC Shootout on Sunday, beating the World Rally Championship’s best gamers at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal event.
Along with the rest of the world’s fastest rally drivers, Rhys was scheduled to have been competing on the gravel roads of northern Portugal for the last week. But when the real-time round of the WRC was cancelled due to the coronavirus, the organisers of the Matosinhos-based event moved quickly to bring competitors together for an online version.
And, as was the case in Argentina last month, Rhys won the Vodafone Rally de Portugal eSports WRC Shootout.
And that meant another trainer full of tea, in another ‘shoey’ celebration, for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver.
Talking about his decision to mirror Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo’s victory celebration, Rhys said: “Normally, I wouldn’t be drinking my tea from my shoes, but another win means we really have to do it all again. Somebody suggested we take some champagne after the second win, but I want to save that for when we’re back in the actual rally car and taking out first win in the WRC.”
Talking about Vodafone Rally de Portugal eSports WRC Shootout, Rhys added: “When I won Argentina last month, there wasn’t so much pressure because I was pretty new to this gaming thing. But now I came to Portugal and the weight of expectation was there.”
Having competed in Portugal last year, Rhys had an idea of what was coming terrain-wise. And he was well-acquainted with the potential pitfalls. His 2019 Rally de Portugal run was hit hard when he suffered two punctures in one stage. Despite that, the former English Rally Champion charged back into contention with some stunning times over the final day’s most famous stages.
“The competition uses the official WRC 8 game and one of the stages we drove on the sim was Fafe – that’s one of the most amazing stretches of road around. It was fantastic to be there and pushing.
“Of course it’s not the same as the real thing, but the nerves, the stress and the competition are the same. And the key to winning is the same: keep it neat and tidy and push like hell! That’s what I did and that was enough to win again.
“It’s fantastic to win another eSports WRC Shootout, but like everybody out there I’m really looking forward to getting back to the actual events. There’s a real camaraderie around in the WRC; when you get to the end of a stage on the rally or when you go into the service park, there’s plenty of chat to be had. But when I finished the stage here, I get off the sim and go into the living room to see what’s trending on Netflix!”
Rhys’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed by Automovel Club de Portugal (governing body of Portuguese motorsport) president Carlos Barbosa, who offered his congratulations for Sunday’s result.
Barbosa said: “Congratulations to Rhys Yates, he’s done a great Vodafone Rally de Portugal eSports WRC Shootout. For sure we were cheering for the national drivers, but rallying is like this. Yates was the fastest and was the fair winner of the first edition of the event.
“It’s a shame we weren’t able to host the real rally this weekend due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this was an excellent way to give the fans some thrills and some return in the investment for event, drivers, sponsors and the WRC.”
Rhys can’t wait for the real-time sport to start again, so he can start chasing that ambition of drinking champagne from a shoe.