A “nervous” Oliver Rowland broke the streak of German winners to secure a debut victory in the ABB Formula E Race at Home Challenge in a dramatic fifth round on the Tempelhof track in Berlin.
With the simulator racing series dominated to date by German duo Maximilian Guenther and Pascal Wehrlein, the British driver spoiled the party to become the first non-German winner of the championship, in his rivals’ own backyard.
Rowland triumphed in the second round of the BRDC Esports Championship at Monza earlier this week and made it two online race wins in a sensational few days for the 27-year-old.
Highlights: Rowland keeps Vandoorne at bay to take victory at Tempelhof
But despite his recent online racing successes, Rowland admitted after the race that he was sweating under pressure from Mercedes-Benz EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne.
He said: “After the last few weeks I have been unfortunate, so I was keen to just stay out of trouble. I knew that Stoffel was fast so I didn’t really want to fight him, so when they started fighting together I just took the opportunity when it came!
I was worried because Stoffel was so fast, I had to be really perfect and then in those last few laps I was so nervous, so I was just trying to hold it together.”
Overall Formula E Race at Home standings after five rounds
Image credit: Eurosport
“After last week I was a bit disappointed, I had put a lot of practice in and then the first corner was taken away from me, so this week I thought I would just do it as I go and it seemed to work. I think the pace has been pretty good the last three rounds, I just haven’t put it all together.”
Vandoorne started on Julius Baer pole position for the third time in the competition, but was overtaken by Daniel Abt early in the race, with the German later losing his lead to Rowland, who held off a late challenge from second-placed Vandoorne.
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver Abt was the best of Formula E’s real-life winners in his country’s capital, with the 2018 Berin E-Prix winner finishing third after an impressive lap saw him qualify on the front row alongside polesitter Vandoorne.
Championship leader Pascal Wehrlein (Mahindra Racing) finished in fourth, while winner of the first two races Maximilian Guenther (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) crashed out to finish eighth, a hammer blow in the 22-year-old’s title challenge.
There was chaos at the first corner as several drivers crashed out, with Abt, Vandoorne and Rowland running away from the pack to contest for the lead in the race.
The provisional results see Wehrlein remain top of the driver standings on 82 points, however the German’s lead has been cut to just four points, with Vandoorne taking second place on 78 points with Guenther in third on 71 points.
Earlier in the day, sim racing expert Kevin Siggy took a commanding victory in the Challenge Race, to take a firm lead in the championship standings.
The ABB Formula E Race at Home Challenge continues with round six on Saturday 30 May, live on Eurosport 2 from 15:30 BST