The start of Season 2 of the V10 R-League is just around the corner!
The format has been revamped for an exciting new campaign, and there's new teams and new drivers taking part. One of those new drivers is sim racing star Enzo Bonito - who faces the daunting task of joining Season 1 champions Team Redline.
Enzo is already a well-known name in the world of sim racing. Just last month the Italian celebrated a superb win in the iRacing 12 hours of Bathurst - partnering none other than Max Verstappen.
But how will he fare in the R-League? We sat down with him ahead of his debut to discuss his hopes for the upcoming season, how he's acclimatised to a new style of racing, and the expectations that come with joining the titleholders.
Season 2 may be Enzo's first foray into the V10 R-League, but he's by no means a stranger to Redline - and that familiarity is something of a relief to the 25-year-old.
"It's a team I’ve been working with since 2013, when I basically started sim racing competitively. So I know the organisation really well and that makes me a lot more comfortable," Enzo told RacingGames.GG.
"But at the same time the guys did a fantastic job last season - they're the champions, after all - so it’s quite a lot to handle. You have to defend the title, but also improve as a driver and as a team, so it’s quite a bit of pressure!"
In Season 1, Redline (branded as Porsche24 Redline) managed to fend of Williams in a thrilling finale at Yas Marina to end the campaign as champions. That means all eyes will be on the team in Season 2, and Enzo believes their status as champions could be distracting for him as he gets up to speed.
He said: "I think if the guys didn’t win last year then we could focus on improving and being the best this season, and that would be a little easier to handle. I think it’s even more of a challenge to defend our title and prove to everyone we can do it again."
Getting up to speed
Despite the challenge ahead, Enzo believes the team is confident in their abilities and in a good place ahead of the season opener.
Enzo said: "The guys are really good at doing their job. We have a very complete team around us. Even though there’s not much work that needs to go towards the setup, there’s still a lot of things to work on in the background and for that the team has been doing great, I think. We are really confident."
Getting used to the car will be the biggest test for Enzo here. There's no real-world restrictions or rules here, meaning the car's V10 engines churn out 900bhp with no traction control, giving drivers a blisteringly quick car and a hefty challenge.
Enzo said: "At first, I didn’t realise how quick [the car] was! When I was starting my first laps, I was overshooting my braking point or locking the brakes.
"Every tiny bit of input counts and it makes sense. In that aspect, I quite like it because you can make a difference as a driver. The car is so sensitive, but it’s a nice car to drive and I'm enjoying it so far.
"I’ve never driven anything like this before, it’s new to me. I like the way the car can change direction quickly, I find it really fun. You can slide it just a tiny bit, just enough to oversteer. But at the same time you have to be careful because it’s so quick and the tyres overheat a lot!"
Not only will Enzo have to get to grips with his car, but he'll also have to adapt to the unique league style setup of the R-League.
This championship is less about the individual drivers, and more focused on the teams. Teams of drivers compete in matches to score points towards the league table, and for Season 2, the championship has expanded to accommodate two new teams. That means it will move to a two-division format, with playoffs and a grand final where the eventual champion will be crowned.
The two divisions of five teams will be created by seedings based on last season’s performances, with one of the new teams joining each division. The top three teams in each division will move into the playoffs, with the division winners going straight to the semi-finals.
For Enzo, this is an entirely new league setup, with shorter races and less pit stop strategy.
Enzo said: "This is quite a unique format and it’s something I’ve had to learn as I go along, because it’s like nothing I’ve experienced before. It takes some practice to get used to the setup and the rules, but it’s a lot of fun and I can’t wait to have my first battle on track.
"Also I’m a fan of the short races, they’re really entertaining for the spectators and the overall show. It’s super fun to have those kinds of short races because everything happens very quickly and you don't have time to react as a driver. You need to learn to use your driving skill instantly to make things move and shake on the grid."
Season 1 champions Team Redline will be defending their crown against Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team, BMW Motorsport SIM Racing Team, Jean Alesi Esports Academy Team Suzuki, Red Bull Racing Esports, Team Fordzilla, Williams Esports, and YAS HEAT. There's also newcomers McLaren Shadow and R8G Esports, a team launched by former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean.
But who will be Redline's main competition in Season 2? Enzo believes it's a case of who has the best of their nerves in these short races.
Enzo said: "Everyone has been practising so much and I think the gaps will be closer this season. Every team can have a shot - but I think Red Bull will be really great. I know a couple of the guys there and they have a great roster."
The lights will go out for Season 2 on 12 April, with two new circuits joining the calendar this year; Mugello and Silverstone.
Enzo said: "Mugello is such a nice track with this car! I like all the tracks so far, I must say, but Mugello is really cool. All those high speed corners are super fun, especially when you nail the apexes at high speed and stick to the kerb. Also Silverstone is a track that I like a lot for the same reason. All five tracks suit the car so well.
"I like that there are so many Italian tracks, but my favourite is Abu Dhabi. It’s a track that I’ve always liked - definitely one of my favourites!"
How to watch
V10 R-League Season 2 kicks off on Monday, 12 April.
Viewers in the UK can watch all the action from the best matchup of the week on BT Sport every Monday, with the remaining matches shown throughout the week!
Fans in the Middle East and North Africa can get all the action through StarzPlay.
ESPN will be showing the races to all those in the USA, Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Oceania.
Make sure to check local listings and video-on-demand services for exact times!