Why Did It Take Six Years For The GOAT Of Trackmania To Get The World Title Back?
After winning the World Cup in 2013, 2014, and 2015, the greatest Trackmania player of all time has done it again. Carl-Antoni "Carl Jr." Cloutier showed his prowess in the Trackmania Grand League (TMGL) World Cup of 2021. Why did it take so long for the GOAT to reclaim the title?
The World Cup has been part of the competitive Trackmania scene for 15 years now, with the first Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) in 2006. Throughout the years, Trackmania has undergone many changes. The most recent and notable change was the release of the new Trackmania game in 2020, with a new season of TMGL. With the new game, developer Nadeo revived the World Cup, after a hiatus of three years.
The ESWC has not hosted another Trackmania World Cup since 2015, so it was Carl Jr. who won the last three events. Nadeo took over, and organised World Championships in 2016 and 2018. Carl Jr. finished third and second in those events, but to be fair to him, he only got two chances in five years since his reign at ESWC.
What’s very clear in Trackmania esports, is how consistently the top players stay at the top. Carl Jr. got third in his first ESWC in 2012, and he has been one of the greats ever since. It’s not just Carl Jr. either; out of the four grand finalists in the 2018 World Championship, three made their way into the Grand Finals again this year. Sébastien “Affi” Affolter was the only rookie who managed to get a spot amongst Carl Jr., Thomas "Pac" Cole, and Martin "Kappa" Krompolc.
Affi went into the Grand Finals with nothing to lose. In an interview before the match, he explained: “I’m against three world champions. I’m not sure what I’m doing there, but I’m just going to go all in and see what happens.” He was feeling confident, though, as he came out strong in the semi-finals earlier that day. “I could challenge Carl Jr. in the semi-finals, so why not.”
The pressure, however, was on Carl Jr. and Pac. These two veterans have shown to be the most consistent in the regular Trackmania Grand League season. Pac just came out of his semi-finals, and didn’t have much time to prepare for the Grand Finals in between the matches. But sometimes it helps him to still be in the zone: “I think in the last world cup, in 2018, I came straight from the consolidation finals, so I was sort of ready then, but we’ll see. I’m hoping I feel ready, and it’s all down to this one last match to see who’s the new champion.”
In the Trackmania World Cup, the Grand Finals are played in a 1v1v1v1 cup mode. Each round, the players can earn ten, six, four, and three points for first, second, third and fourth place respectively. A player goes into ‘finalist mode’ when they reach 140 points. From there, they have to come first in one round to secure the win. After every four rounds, the map changes, but most maps are similar in difficulty.
Carl Jr. said he’s always a nervous player, but he didn’t show any nerves on the tracks. The pace, at which all four grand finalists were driving, was insane. More often than not, the winning time in a round was just a few tenths of a second away from the world record on that track. All players were pushing themselves to the limit for their share of the €15,000 prize pool.
When Carl Jr. got into ‘finalist mode’, Pac was on 128 points, Kappa on 103, and Affi on just 85. Carl Jr. won the World Cup the round after he got finalist, not giving anyone else the chance to get into a winning position.
Carl Jr.’s win shows how dominant he is in Trackmania esports. None of the players made it easy for him, but he stayed focused. After the match, he was still shaking. “I had a rough first map, but still ended up with a good number of points. Then, on map two, it went super well. After map two, I’m like: ‘Alright, it’s my World Cup to lose, I just need to play safe, and I’ll get those six points,’ but the thing is, Pac got all the 10 points.”
In the group stage, Carl Jr. won every single round. In the finals, playing it safe wasn’t enough. After three maps, Pac had equalled his points, and he had to risk it all. “The pace was way too fast, man. It was an unbelievable match, and I think it’s the final where I’ve seen the best level out of Pac, or out of us together, since we did a lot of these competitions together. I think we were really in top form.”
Honestly, Carl Jr.’s top form was never really gone. He has won six Zerator Cups, four TMGL Steps, and if he didn’t win something, he most likely came second. The World Cup was just another fantastic performance from him, and he knows it. “It was a sick World Cup for me, I’m proud.” It’s been a while, though, since he has won a world title. “That’s one more reason why this World Cup means a little bit more to me, since it was super long ago. It means a lot. Even if it’s online, I’m still really proud of what I did, and I’m just super happy with it.”