“The most beautiful man in sim-racing” (at least according to our esports commentator, Luke Crane!) is back on top of his game once again. In 2017, Kamil ‘Khaki’ Pawlowski was one half of BAM esports, the team that won the Pro Class Championship in the previous SMS-R Series. Things change quickly though in the world of Project CARS esports, and it wasn’t long before the BAM team folded, leaving Khaki out on his own.
Where others might have faded into the background, this Polish pilot thrived and secured a worthy personal sponsorship from Thrustmaster. For the 2019 SMS-R series Khaki remained a free agent, unable to enter the teams competition in the Pro Class. That left him to battle hard to earn a place in the Challenger Series, which he duly achieved. In the online competition that followed, Khaki had a rollercoaster season including a disqualification in Race 3, but he still collected enough points to earn his place in the Finals at Mercedes-Benz World.
At the LAN Finals, Khaki’s experience of these high-pressure situations shone through, and he dominated both races in the Challenger Class to earn his second Project CARS world championship title. We sat down with for a chat with him after the Finals to get some more insights into his remarkable story.
How have the days been since you won the Challenger Series? Has the win sunk in yet?
After a couple of days, it did sink in eventually. I’d say I feel very relieved and happy right now! The whole day of the Finals is really worth mentioning. The huge load of emotions that happened that day was insane. Excitement, thrills, stress, happiness, euphoria, confidence and exhaustion. This is the bag of all of the mixed feelings and experiences which all happened in just a couple of hours! Nothing can beat the blissful feeling of that accomplishment.
You came into the SMS-R this year with a lot of attention on you since you were part of the previous Pro Champions, BAM before the team folded. How did you deal with that pressure in the first few races?
If I had represented BAM in Pro Class again, I'm sure I would have needed to deal with more pressure and a feeling of being a target for everyone else. However, I had felt that by representing ourselves as individual drivers in the Challenger Class, all of us started the season with a blank canvas, regardless of any previous achievements in our sim-racing careers. I didn't feel any additional pressure from being a champion of the previous SMS-R season, so I could purely focus on racing and bringing good results, without any extra stress.
You qualified for the Finals in second place after a rollercoaster of results in the online championship. How did you feel after the disqualification in Race 3?
I felt really scared for the whole week after Race 3, waiting for the final online race at Watkins Glen. Looking at the points table after the third Race, I was really afraid of scoring an unsatisfying result in the last Round, and thus not qualifying into the Finals. In the end, this stress gave me the motivation to prepare as best as I could for Race 4. I put a lot of hours into practice for that one to make sure I could be as fast and consistent as possible, and this translated into the victory and a spot in the Mercedes-Benz World Finals.
As you said, you bounced back from Race 3 with a dominant win in Race 4. Was this the moment that you believed you could win the whole tournament?
I knew I had a potential to fight for the podium way back before that moment, but I try to avoid visualising successes. I just do everything that I can to achieve success without thinking about it too much, by simply focusing on hard work and systematic practice. This is what always pays off in any sport and sim-racing is no different in that matter.
What did you think of the Finals at Mercedes-Benz World, and how did you prepare for the travel and the unique environment of a LAN event?
I will never forget it! It felt very special in such an amazing venue. Thanks to the organisation of some great people, the whole Finals were wonderful. I really looked forward to meeting all of my fellow competitors, and it was a perfect opportunity to spend some quality time together.
I started preparing for the travel as soon as possible after the online championship results were confirmed. After that, all I needed for the environment of the LAN event was a smile on my face!
You seemed incredibly calm in the Finals. Did the experience from previous LAN Finals help you?
I feel like racing live in LAN competitions in front of crowd is my type of environment. I actually feel quite comfortable there. That may sound surprising and weird, but all of the extra factors present on live competitions don’t affect me in any negative way. They don’t make me nervous or stressed at all. It just makes me more focused, helps me to push to the limit even further without making mistakes, makes me more consistent in the races and simply faster! I also have a very useful ability to quickly adapt to different racing wheels.
Who did you think your biggest rivals in the championship would be? Did you expect to be battling with Mr Van Ommen in the Finals?
The results from the online stage of the SMS-R showed that everyone was capable of winning, even those who didn’t qualify into the Finals, so I was imagining that we could all battle for the victory! Looking through the prism of the last online race at Watkins Glen, where I had such an intense battle with THR_Dalking in the lead, I thought he would be potentially the toughest rival. However, Mr Van Ommen’s strong result in the first LAN race of the Finals at Nurburgring GP made me aware that he was the driver I should really keep my eye on.
You dominated the Challenger Finals, winning both races, and once you got into the lead you pulled out big gaps on both occasions. How did you prepare to push the limit of the car like that without making mistakes?
As we were driving front-wheel drive cars in the Challenger Class, it is less scary to push the car to the maximum limit without risking a major mistake which would cost you a lot of positions. I put a lot of effort before the finals to prepare myself in best possible way. I did hundreds of laps in practice sessions. The car had no secrets from me, I knew how far I could push it in the race, in every single corner. My comfortable feeling in the LAN racing environment was also a very helpful factor when it came down to the serious door-to-door racing.
Very few of the drivers came to the Finals with a family member, but you brought your girlfriend along for support. Was it helpful to have her support, or did it put more pressure on your shoulders to have her watching you live?
I am so glad that she was together with me for such an important day! Who knows what my results would have been like without her there to cheer me on. She always raises my motivation to the skies, supporting and rooting for me when I really need it. Sharing the best moments of your life with the person you truly love is something magical.
It wasn’t the Pro Class trophy for you this time, but how did it feel to take another title in a Project CARS esports major?
I’m very proud to have defended by champion status in another major competition, and won another beautiful trophy! It was a different kind of experience in Challenger class, fighting all on my own without a teammate, but by no means was it less hard fought. Every competition like this is a wonderful experience which I will remember forever and achieving a success like that opens so many possibilities and opportunities. It makes me eager for even more. I will have a lot of stories to tell to my grandchildren!
Do you have any messages for your old teammates from the BAM days?
I would like to thank BAM esports and especially the former President of BAM, Pierre R. Mewt, for opening the gates for me to the huge esports world. Their help and support me back then set the stage for my first important successes and titles. Pierre and I never had an opportunity to meet in person, but I still believe it will happen one day. BAM esports always felt like a family, and I really wish all the best to all of my former teammates.
What’s next for Khaki?
There is no time to rest! Sim-racing is growing and building up very rapidly so there are tons of competitions, opportunities and occasions to compete at the highest level possible. I’m really looking forward for the future Project CARS competitions, and I’m also open for any sim-racing title out there, so I encourage you to follow my social media pages if you want to know more about my plans for upcoming esports competitions. I will also have some big announcement about new partnerships coming soon, so keep an eye out for that. It’s a busy time in my esports career and I’m really proud of that.
Follow Khaki on Twitter and Facebook.