The finalists, including 2018 champion Jon Armstrong and 2017 victor Lohan Blanc, emerged from more than 12,000 players who contested 12 qualifying rounds during the regular season. All were played on the official video game of the World Rally Championship.

The finale of the fourth edition of the eSports tournament will be fought out in Llandudno as the penultimate leg of Wales Rally GB, round 12 of the real-life championship, reaches its conclusion after a gruelling day’s competition in the mid-Wales forests.

The eSports final will be played on 8, the latest version of the hugely popular game which was launched last month by publisher Bigben with significant updates to increase player realism.

Finalists will face each other in 11 special stages using identical rigs provided by Playseat® and steering wheels provided by Thrustmaster.

Mika ‘MIHALO’ Laitinen (FIN) scored six wins to qualify with the highest points ahead of Dylan ‘NOEL’ Noël (FRA) and Lohan ‘NEXL’ Blanc (FRA).

Peter ‘SUBEE203’ Suborits (HUN), Jonathan ‘JONNO’ Holmes (GBR) and Armstrong (GBR) all qualified with rounds to spare, while Marko ‘STAATTINEN_FI’ Räisänen (FIN) and Jukka ‘JHTL85’ Lehtinen (FIN) secured their places at the final opportunity.

Young-Chan Kim (KOR) received a wild card entry to the final. The 20-year old won a play-off hosted by manufacturer Hyundai, beating nearly 2,000 rivals during a multi-week selection programme.

Ulsterman Armstrong, who drove in the real-life in 2017, recovered from a crash to secure the crown 12 months ago in a thrilling final. His success came just a year after being inspired to try the game when watching live coverage of the 2017 eSports Championship final.

“This season I have been aiming to qualify for the final and focus on that as it requires a different approach to the qualifying rounds,” he said.

“I have found it difficult to practise lots this year and my best result was third at the last event. The final should be a good challenge and 8 is more realistic than 7 so I hope this will suit me even more.”

Each finalist will compete in eight special stages during Saturday’s finale. The top four will go on to the grand final which will be held over three more stages at 18.00.

The total prize pot exceeds €30,000. The world champion will drive away in a brand-new Hyundai i20 road car and enjoy a high-speed co-drive with Hyundai Motorsport’s Dani Sordo ahead of RallyRACC – Rally de España later this month.

The eSports final will be played on the new 8 game

The runner-up will receive a stylish Anonimo Militare Chrono watch. Third will win a gaming rig, comprising a Playseat® racing chair and a full set of Thrustmaster equipment (racing wheel, pedals, handbrake).

The final will be contested inside Venue Cymru Theatre in the heart of the Wales Rally GB service park in Llandudno. Fans are welcome to watch the finals from 18.00 and can play 8 for free during the rally. Admission is free.

Last year’s final was followed by more than 2 million people with that figure expected to increase significantly via coverage on numerous TV networks across , Asia and Africa.

Fans can also follow the action on the + digital platform at www.plus.com and on social media channels including Facebook, The Official Game, Hyundai Motorsport, Thrustmaster, Playseat and gaming.

The eSports Championship powered by Hyundai is organised by 8 publisher Bigben and development studio Kylotonn.

It has been a feature of the ’s official video games since 2016. A copy of the game is the only entry ticket needed to have a shot at the world crown. Worldwide over 200,000 players take part in the weekly challenges and eSports tournament, collectively playing three million stages each month.

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Wales Rally GB, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.