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"Don't crack under pressure”: CAR Laige on defending the ForzaRC title

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This Sunday, after four incredible weeks of competition, the chequered flag will fall on season two of the ESL Forza Racing Championship. Over ten thousand different contenders, across a range of skill levels, have challenged the tournament’s $150,000 prize pool - a diverse field united by each driver’s willingness to push and keep pushing, to go up and beyond the very edges of their abilities.

Rubber has been burnt, leaderboards shaken and tracks dominated, we have seen some truly incredible drives. But the greatest challenge of all, and the crown jewel of the ForzaRC, has yet to take place. It will not be until this Sunday at the competition’s grand final that Season 2 will find its Champion - and the winner of $10,000.

Sixteen of Forza Motorsport 6’s greatest drivers have risen through the ranks, proving themselves ready to race off for this incredible prize. Twelve qualified through our weekly heats - a combination of Rivals events, 1v1s and sixteen-way Showdowns - while the final four were chosen from Season 1’s best performers, those who on the basis of their brilliant results won automatic qualification to Season 2's finale.

Throughout the competition, we’ve spoken with CAR Lightning about teamwork, BAM ASIX13 on race craft and with JSR Rayser JDM about car choice. Between the thoughts of these racers we have begun to form an impression of the many moving parts that must work together for a driver to compete at the highest level. But the question remains, what is it that brings them together, and what is it that makes a ForzaRC champion?

To answer this question, there was only one driver for us to turn to - one who requires little introduction. Winner of the first season of the ForzaRC, winner of - alongside countless other racing eSports events - the ESL FormulaE RaceOff, the reigning champion and the one driver of our sixteen Grand Finalists ideally placed to cast light on what victors are made of - CAR Laige.

The last time we spoke to the Frenchman, Laige had just won Season 1 of the ForzaRC. Since then much has changed for the racer, whose real name is Aurélien. He has graduated with a degree in International Business, has acclimatised in a new race team - after leaving Virtual Drivers by TX3 to join the eSPORTS+CARS stable - and most recently he took possession of his Season 1 prize: A 2017 Ford Focus RS.

“It's a great car,” Laige told us, clearly elated, “it has a nice shape and looks very aggressive in that black, I like that! And of course that engine, 350 bhp sounds pretty good!” He continued, “Being world champion is definitely a great feeling. Now I realise one thing at least: I've succeeded! I proved myself as the best of the world and I will remember it for a long, long time.”

It is great to see that Laige has been enjoying himself, but the champion has by no means been resting on his laurels. Settling in at a new team is not always a straightforward process and for Laige there have been some bumps in the road: “The main difference between eSPORTs+CARS and TX3,” he explained, “is the language. I mean, TX3 are almost all French speakers, which is my mother tongue. Now I am speaking English everyday with my teammates and it is a big change.”

Despite the language barrier, Laige has clearly had a great influence on eSPORTS+CARS. With an astonishing eight drivers qualified for the Season 2 grand final, the team is approaching the final with 50% of the grid already on lockdown. It will be interesting to see if CAR can carry their brilliant form into the Forza Racing Championship grand final.

The season 1 champion’s experience bringing home racing eSports titles will, of course, be an invaluable resource for the team. If anyone knows how to build a victory, it’s Laige: “The key to winning,” he told us, “is to keep calm, stay consistent, and don't crack under pressure. What makes a true champion is his ability to face every situation and make the right decision instantly.”

For an example, Laige brought us back to BAM Virtuosity’s Week 2 move on FcT Sam: “He was on the outside line, and crossed back right before the breaking zone to get in the inside. I've done exactly the same during a training for the French Championship last year. It's fun to see someone else do it!”

“There are many who are good enough to take victory,” he continued, “Lightning, Daveyskills, Rayzer, Chemical, Asix, and I don't know their weaknesses. It's always comfortable to not have to fight to qualify. But on the other hand, the showdowns are a training for the grand final and this is where you learn to manage the pressure and to fight with your competitors.”

“There are always advantages and disadvantages. Good thing is that I am sure to be at the final, and it's a supercar!” Laige said enthusiastically of the vehicle chosen for the grand final, the 2016 Audi R8 V10 Plus. “It’s great to race with a fast car I think it will make for interesting races. Strategic driving without many overtaking opportunities, and close wheel to wheel action where the tracks are wider with big breaking zones.”

“The best thing about the R8 is the sound of course, but it is a challenging car. It has big oversteer while breaking and big understeer while throttling! It is really hard to learn how it works and how to be consistent with it.” But at ESL we know that a tough challenge brings out the best in the challengers, and for our grand final we were never going to make it easy.

With only days remaining until the ESL Forza Racing Championship grand final is streamed live from Los Angeles, Laige may have his work cut out to defend his title. Racers who had more time to settle into Season 2 may have an edge on the champion this time around, but with the sheer tonnage of racing titles he has accrued, you should never bet against CAR Laige to take home the championship.

Can’t wait for the ESL ForzaRC grand final? Make sure that you tune in on the 11th of December, 11am Pacific / 8pm CET on Twitch or Beam to see how Laige fairs against the greatest drivers in Forza Motorsport 6. To keep up to date, follow ESL Forza on both Twitter and Facebook for tournament news and updates. You can also follow Laige on Twitter and Facebook as he attempts to defend his ForzaRC title.