Dmitriy Illyuk of Ukraine has secured the first gold medal at the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games by clinching victory in this evening's Drifting Cup contest. Driving a Nissan 200SX, Illyuk defeated Michal Reichert in the final battle to ensure his nation took the spoils at Vallelunga.
The participants for the Top 16 battles were decided during Friday's qualifying session, though not all would make it as far as the circuit this evening. The contest was staged using a knockout format, beginning with a round of 16 before moving to the quarter-finals and then a pair of semi-finals. The gold and silver medalists were decided by a grand final, while the bronze was awarded to the winner of a third-place match-up.
The major upset of the round of 16 came when Belarus eliminated Lithuania. Benediktas Čirba was second on the leaderboard yesterday, but his evening ended early as Dmitry Nahula outscored the Lithuanian to advance to the quarters.
There were no such problems for the other hot tips as Russia, Finland and Ukraine eliminated Hungary, Kuwait and Estonia respectively to secure safe passage with unanimous decisions from the judges.
But the expert panel were split when it came to the contest between Italy and Latvia, who were tied not once but twice during the round of 16! It was not until the third run – staged in driving rain – that Federico 'The Sheriff' Sceriffo defeated Edmunds Berzins to send the host nation into the quarter-finals.
Two teams ran unopposed in the round of 16 to progress to the quarters: Portugal went through due to engine problems for Georgia, while gearbox gremlins scuppered Austrian hopes and ensured safe passage for the Czech Republic.
The quarter-finals began with Portugal and the Czechs facing off, but all three judges were unable to pick a winner and a second run was required to decide who would reach the semis. Ultimately it was Michal Reichert who took victory over Diogo Manuel Dias Correia, eliminating yesterday's top qualifier.
Next up, Russia overcame Norway with a full house of judges to book a spot in the last four. The Sheriff then put the host nation into the semi-finals with a superb display against Nahula in the Belarus car, sliding his way to a unanimous – and very popular – decision. Finally, in a heavyweight match-up, Illyuk bested Juha Pöytälaakso to ensure that Ukraine would take its place among the semi-finalists while Finland missed out on a potential medal.
The semi-finals saw Reichert representing the Czech Republic against Russian ace Fedorov, while local star Sceriffo took on Ukraine's Illyuk. The first-mentioned battle ran first and produced a vintage performance from Reichert to defeat the mighty Fedorov and book a spot in the final battle. Italian hearts were broken in the next contest as Illyuk scored a unanimous win over Sceriffo, ending the host nation's gold medal hopes in the Drifting Cup.
Things got even worse for Italy in the third-place playoff as Sceriffo made contact with Fedorov almost immediately, sending the Russian into the gravel bed. Following lengthy deliberations the battle was judged in favour of Fedorov.
Given the fact that a gold medal was at steak, the final was never going to be settled in one run. And so it proved to be as the first battle resulted in a split decision, ensuring Reichert and Illyuk would need to go again. The second was evenly matched as well, but after much deliberation the judges eventually handed victory to Illyuk.
The Ukrainian was therefore awarded the very first gold medal at the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games. He was joined on the podium by Reichert and Fedorov to cap an incredible evening of Drifting Cup competition at Vallelunga.
Dmitriy Illyuk: "We did it! Thanks to everybody who supported and believed in us. I felt the support and I'm really happy. Taking the gold medal was the target from the beginning because I was the first guy registered by the Ukrainian ASN. I'm feeling proud that I did it."