Brazil isn’t the first country that comes to mind when you think about Forza, but the number of players located there is growing faster with each passing year. Phelipe “ZooM” Reis is one of those players, and his continued success in the Forza Racing Championship has led him to joining Sauber Esports, the official esports team of Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 that’s operated in conjunction with Veloce Esports.
Phelipe has been playing video games since he was 3 years old, but he was always passionate about cars and racing – and loved Formula 1. When he first got his PlayStation 2, he would pretty much only play racing games like Burnout, Need for Speed, and F1. However, he wouldn’t start playing Forza until he acquired his Xbox 360 and Forza Motorsport 4 a few years down the line, but even then, he exclusively played career racing.
Phelipe grew up in a state located at the southeast of Brazil called ‘Minas Gerais,’ but he couldn’t afford too many games due to elevated prices. “The situation was not the greatest at home,” he recalls. Phelipe started on Forza Motorsport 4 as his introduction to the Forza franchise and focused on career mode, which allowed him to discover the tracks, cars and customization available in the game, as well as Forza’s unique and accessible handling model. However, it wouldn’t be until Forza Motorsport 5 when Phelipe would start playing Forza competitively. He bought his Xbox One console in January 2014, and since then, he’s been on his way to becoming a professional esports player.
His early days on Forza Motorsport 5 introduced him to other players like ‘FRF Cezar,’ ‘SBR Blackout’ and ‘SBR Ssoloking,’ all of whom helped Phelipe to truly get a grasp of the game. He became focused on leaderboards and public hoppers with his friends, and with eventual practise and time, he became the best Brazilian player within a year on the game – battling it out with other titans in the community such as ‘Chronic’ and ‘DTM Lionel’ for world records on the leaderboards.
“At this point, we did not have any kind of ForzaRC or even serious competitions in Brazil,” Phelipe recalls. “When the first ForzaRC season begun, Brazil was not allowed to participate due to the prize, as the Ford Focus RS was not commercialized here. Then, I got involved in the ESL Season 2 and made my way through the semi-finals.”
Whilst the Forza scene in Brazil continues to grow faster year by year, there’s still some lack of skill mid-field, according to Phelipe, who says the reasoning for this is simply due to the lack of national competitions. “Compared to EMEA, as you know just ‘Wesley’ and I have some comparable pace, so it’s a huge delay compared to them,” he says. “With NA this gap is very reduced, and I believe the mid-pack is very similar, almost the same – we just don’t have that many front runners.”
With the 2018 season of the ForzaRC, Phelipe believes he’s been able to improve his skills throughout the year. “I’m feeling very pleased with my performance,” he tells me. Once he beats Wesley in his region, the racing becomes easier for Phelipe in comparison to EMEA and NA. That allows him to garner many points and achieve the incredible leaderboard position he now has. Currently, the 18-year-old Brazilian Forza player is number one globally in terms of Forza Points on the ForzaRC leaderboard, and with 3 second-place finishes in the Rivals Qualifiers, Phelipe continues to not only make improvements in his driving but show his overall strength and skill level out on the track.
He’s also raced for multiple teams in the Forza esports scene, too. From Japspeed Racing to TX3 and most recently, Sauber, Phelipe has been able to race side-by-side with some of the best in Forza Motorsport. Because of this, he’s been fortunate enough to meet “a lot of cool people, different and fast guys,” he explains to me. “You learn about partnership and team work, and it also teach you as a person,” Phelipe adds. “And on that point, I thank those teams so much for having me.” However, switching teams so often can also have a downside to it as well, as it typically means leaving friends behind. “The bad side is having to leave behind great environments and teammates,” the Brazilian Forza driver tells me. “Loved all the teams I’ve been apart of, but a HUGE respect for the #JSRMandem in particular, those guys are simply amazing, and I love them.”
Right now, Phelipe is currently racing for the Veloce-backed Sauber Esports team, and this is something he most certainly can be proud of. It sets him up for not only the remainder of the ForzaRC 2018 season, which consists of the Series 2 Playoffs in Mexico City on the weekend of September 28th-29th and the Forza Racing World Championship finals in London, England on the weekend of October 20th-21st, but also the future of Microsoft’s premier racing esports series on Forza Motorsport 7.
“Having the team Sauber behind me is what makes me more excited about the future of esports,” Phelipe tells me. “When F1 teams get involved, you know that big things are coming, and to be part of one the most historical and huge teams in F1 – it’s just a huge pleasure and I can’t thank them enough for having me at the Sauber family! TX3 is a great team with great talents, the change was just a better opportunity of going bigger.”
When Phelipe switched from TX3 to Sauber, he made the decision to change his Gamertag from HardBR back to ZooM, which used to be his name when racing for JSR. As I spoke to him, he offered some interesting insight on why he changed from ZooM to HardBR when joining TX3 – and why he’s changed it back for his new venture with Sauber Esports. “Most people in the community knew me as JSR ZooM when I was rising on the game and joined my first international team, so that was the GT that made me recognized,” he says. “At the other hand, Hard BR was my first GT – and all my Brazilians friends call me that. When I joined Sauber, I decided to go back to the most famous one, as it is better for my own marketing.”
In terms of Forza Motorsport 7, both the game and esports series Microsoft has developed for it, Phelipe believes that it’s heading in the right direction now – specifically mentioning Turn 10’s commitment to listening to the community and asking ForzaRC drivers for their feedback. He noted that this doesn’t only show a commitment to improving the game and adding new features based on player desires, but it also shows Microsoft’s faithfulness in the Forza Racing Championship. Overtime, Phelipe hopes Forza Motorsport 7 and the ForzaRC continues to evolve based on fan-feedback with improvements regularly introduced into the core gameplay experience to make it better and more enjoyable for everyone.
However, the best part of the ForzaRC experience for Phelipe is undoubtedly the fact he gets to travel around the world and meet up with fellow drivers across new locations by just simply playing Forza Motorsport 7. “This, in my opinion, is the best part of all,” he tells me, as these are locations he likely would’ve never had the opportunity to visit if it wasn’t for the ForzaRC. Not only has Phelipe been to Seattle multiple times for the 2018 Pre-Season Invitational and Series 1 Playoffs, but he’s also been to historical events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, considered one of the most prestigious races in motorsport. This event also had actual Forza drivers on the podium last year following the racing action of Season 3 of the ForzaRC, dubbed ‘The Porsche Cup.’
“We have such cool guys at Forza, both good friends and funny guys, and it’s always good to meet people you used to know only by gamertags – and have a laugh with them, talk about life,” he says. “Playing alongside Forza legends is unique.”
Phelipe will visit two more destinations in 2018 that he’s never visited before. These include Mexico City at the end of September for the Series 2 Playoffs, and of course, the beautiful English capital of London for the Forza Racing World Championship finals being hosted this October. “Visiting new places is always very exciting,” he tells me, before mentioning that his starting pole position at Mexico gives him “a huge chance” at making his way through to the finals whilst fighting for that podium finish. “If all of this goes right, I will be in a great position for the London world finals,” he adds.
Overall, the next 12 months will be some of the most important for the 18-year-old Brazilian driver’s career, Phelipe believes. “It’s my contract time with Sauber and I’m looking forward to doing my best for the team, show them my value and consolidate as one of the best players in the game,” he explains. “If I can do that, I’m sure even better opportunities are about to come.”
But for those who would like to follow in his footsteps, Phelipe has a few words of advice, and these apply to everyone around the world – no matter where you reside. “My best advice is to keep your head up – putting max effort into everything you do, whether it’s Forza or not,” he says. “If you want to be into the best in the world, you need to give it everything and never give up.”
“Try to race against the best players, learn with them, learn how the game works, but also understand yourself as a person,” Phelipe adds. “If that’s what you want to do, what you want to be applied – do things because you like them, that’s the most important thing ever. You can’t be the best if you don’t do it for yourself.”
Thanks to Phelipe “ZooM” Reis for taking the time to speak us amidst all his practise for the upcoming ForzaRC Series 2 Playoffs on the weekend of September 29th. You can follow Phelipe over on Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date with his racing performance.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he keeps the website updated with new and relevant content, including news stories, reviews and opinion pieces for the games he likes writing about the most. He also tweets too much, probably.