Alongside his teammates Daniele Haddad and Shanaka Clay, the 19-year-old has worked incredibly hard to improve his side’s fortunes. In Season 1, Aston Martin finished 5th in the R-League standings. But this term, after a string of impressive results, they’re through to the final - where they’ll face BMW.
We caught up with the young Scotsman to discuss Aston Martin’s brilliant form, their nail biting semi-final duel with McLaren, and the importance of teamwork in the R-League.
Against the odds
Much like BMW, Aston Martin were not among the favourites to reach the final at the beginning of Season 2. The reigning champs Team Redline, along with Williams, Red Bull, and McLaren Shadow were all much more fancied.
However, unlike the majority of the other teams in the series, Aston Martin began the campaign with an unchanged lineup. Blakeley believes being able to carry the team’s chemistry and mutual understanding over into the new season has been the secret to their success.
“It definitely took away that element of having to get to know somebody and build that chemistry all over again. We could just sort of pick up where we left off,” Blakeley told RacingGames in an exclusive interview.
“What’s unique about this series is that it’s very much a team sport - you can’t win it alone. You have to cooperate and have chemistry with your teammates, and be able to communicate… because it’s the small details that will make a huge difference when it matters.”
Preparation and putting the time in during preseason also helped the team refamiliarise themselves with the setup.
He says: “Having done it last year, we went into this season knowing it wasn’t our first rodeo - we knew what to do.
“Preparation started quite a while before the season started, almost as soon as we heard the announcement about tracks and format and the other bits. We were immediately working on it.”
The hard work certainly seemed to pay off in the early weeks of the season, when Aston Martin dominated their Group A opponents and shot straight to the top of the standings.
Blakeley says: “We took it match-by-match, there was never any planning involved. It was very much get on track and deliver when it matters. That’s what we did.”
Aston Martin began their campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of R8G before a 3-1 win over YAS Heat, results that Blakeley believes really gave them the early momentum.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” he says. “The first two rounds we had seven out of eight points. In the group stage, pace was never a problem.”
Aston Martin carried their generally excellent form in the group stage through to the playoffs.
In fact, they were at their very best during the 4-0 drubbing of Williams in the playoff quarter-finals. It’s a match that Blakeley looks back on with a lot of pride.
“It was the perfect start to the playoff,” he says. “It was 4-0, with pole position in both races, and a one-two-three finish in the team races. So it was very clinical and very well executed by the guys. Williams was really strong last year too, so it shows our work has paid off.”
However, overcoming McLaren Shadow in the semi-final was a completely different story. Newcomers to the R-League in Season 2, McLaren were undefeated in Group B and finished up with a mighty 13 points.
As expected, they proved to be formidable opponents, with James Baldwin particularly hard to beat. Blakeley, Haddad and Clay needed to be at their very best to overcome them.
Blakeley says: “That semi-final was a bloody roller coaster! But it was really good in that we never gave up.”
“We know that James is one of the best sim racers on the planet, but we still just focussed on ourselves and our own job.”
Aston Martin found themselves trailing 2-0 after the first visit to Yas Marina. To win the match, they needed to be inch-perfect in the second part of the tie at Spa-Francorchamps.
“We knew what we needed to do and we had confidence going into Spa, which as a team has been one of our better tracks. We’d also been constantly talking in between the races and we knew we could still win this - there wasn’t an element of doubt.”
While Aston Martin have undoubtedly been one of the best all-round teams in the R-League, Blakeley’s individual brilliance certainly stands out. But when asked if he sees himself as the lead driver of the team, he shakes his head.
“I don’t see myself as a lead driver because I can’t win alone, we need to be there for each other,” says Blakeley.
“You can’t be selfish in this league. I know I need to perform to give myself and the team the opportunity, but the same goes for everyone else. I am aware of what I need to do to help the team to win as a collective package. But you can’t be selfish, because if you’re selfish you lose.”
The R-League series is unique to many other sim racing championships as the focus is solely on the teams, and not individual drivers. As such, team work, tactical fluidity and adapting to one another's strengths and weaknesses is the name of the game here.
Blakeley says: “That’s the beauty of this league, the team harmony is very much brought to the forefront and is definitely more important than in other championships.
“It’s unusual as a driver because sometimes you’re used to thinking about a drivers championship and thinking about yourself, that element has been thrown aside because you’re focused solely on the best result for the team.”
How to watch V10 R-League final
Fans in the UK & Ireland can tune in to BT Sport 2 on Monday, 24 May at 8pm BST to catch all the action.
Those in the USA will be able to watch on ESPN3 at 6pm EST on the same day. Thanks to their expanded coverage, ESPN subscribers in the Netherlands, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Oceania will be able to watch the following day.
Check local listings for exact times!