Formula E's Race at Home Challenge gears up for Round 2
BMW Andretti driver Maximilian Guenther established an early Esports points lead over his Formula E rivals with victory in the first championship round of the Race at Home Challenge.
The series was launched in partnership with Motorsport Games in an effort to fill the current coronavirus-enforced pause on the racing season.
Around a virtual Monaco FE circuit, Guenther scored a composed win in the pre-season test race ahead of Mercedes competitor Stoffel Vandoorne. But the Belgian fought back during the first of eight points-paying round last weekend in Hong Kong, where Vandoorne snared pole position and led the opening lap comfortably.
He looked odds on for the win, until he tagged a barrier and dropped to sixth - while Guenther inherited the lead and held off Nick Cassidy to the flag.
Cassidy, the reigning Super Formula champion, will not take the challenge to Guenther again, however, as Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird makes his sim racing debut.
Bird, a winner in every season of FE to date, has been helped by FE to install a 150-metre ethernet cable in his home and now has the internet capabilities to compete.
In doing so, he rounds out the full 24-driver Formula E line-up, making the Race at Home Challenge the single biggest Esports championship supported by official series drivers.
Speaking in the pre-race online press conference, Bird said: “I’m really excited to join everybody else, I felt a little bit left out!
“I can’t wait to go racing this weekend. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the simulator trying to improve, trying to find lap time.
“I seem to be closer to where the pace is, so I’m optimistic I can do OK. I seem to be more consistent and quicker, which is great.”
Preparation has been fierce for each race - double FE champion Jean-Eric Vergne and his DS Techeetah team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa, currently leading the 2019-20 points - were swapping set-ups ahead of Hong Kong when both guest starred on Autosport’s dedicated Formula E podcast Current Affairs.
But the real-life reference points have been partially reset for round two this weekend as the field will compete on an all-new circuit.
Rather than use a pre-existing FE track on the rFactor 2 videogame, the race will take place on a computer-generated layout set in Jersey City - near to the real-life New York E-Prix venue in Brooklyn.
The next race (Saturday 2 May) is available to watch on the Formula E website, as well as Motorsport.com, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch with the stream starting at 1530 BST.
The Race at Home Challenge runs in support of UNICEF, to support families and children affected by the coronavirus through the closure of schools and losses of income.
As well as the main race for the official championship drivers, the Race at Home Challenge also encompasses a grid for the best of the sim racing world.
The champion after eight races will win a real-life test in a Gen2 FE car later this year.
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