They might not actually being doing it in the dirt but, the action will be just as fast and frenetic as World Rallycross aces take on a mixed bag on Sunday in the inaugural World RX Esports Invitational at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the venue scheduled to host the opening round of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship prior to postponement due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
However, in collaboration with Codemasters and Motorsport Games, using DiRT Rally 2.0, the World RX promoter IMG will stage the World RX Esports Invitational Catalunya Edition featuring an all-star line-up including World Champions, GT and WRC racers, Youtubers and some of the biggest names from the field of Esports.
The World RX Esports Invitational has also partnered with GameByte, to bring all the action to gamers around the globe.
The 2019 World RX Drivers’ Champion Timmy Hansen was quick to commit his support to the initiative, but the four-time 2019 World RX event winner has modest expectations for his Esports debut. “I’m looking forward to the event a lot, and I’m looking forward to that focus and excitement I feel when racing,” the Swede said.
“I’ve done no sim racing before this and I haven’t played much at all so this will be a big challenge for me. I have no idea how competitive I will be. I’ll try to get some practice before the race, but I know a lot of guys have a lot more sim racing experience than I do. I hope I can qualify for the semi-finals. It will be fun to be racing against fans, but I think the sim racers will most likely be too fast for me.”
Hansen also had a message for World RX fans amid these challenging times. “Let’s all do our best to follow government instructions and stay inside,” he said. “If we all do our part we can stay safe and when things return to normal, the racing season can start again.”
Timmy will be joined by younger brother Kevin from the Team Hansen squad. They will race Peugeot 208s in the event, which will run to a similar format to real World RX, with four qualifiers, semi-finals and final format on Sunday. The top 10 drivers at the Intermediate Classification will progress to the semi-finals.
The Peugeot 208 is the car of choice for many participants, with two-time World RX Drivers’ Champion Johan Kristoffersson, of Sweden, making his return to the sport in a similar car for his DiRT debut.
Super1600 ace Marius Bermingrud, from Norway, will also line up in a 208, along with former Esports World Champion and real-world rally driver, Jon Armstrong, and Americas Rallycross podium finisher in 2019, Cabot Bigham will also take the wheel of a 208.
Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud, a seven-time World RX race winner will compete in the Audi S1 he tied on points at the top of the World RX Drivers’ Championship with last season. One of his 2020 GC Kompetition team-mates, Dutchman Kevin Abbring, will compete in a Renault Clio.
Oliver Bennett from the UK will appear in his regular Xite Racing BMW Mini and RX2 International Series double champion Oliver Eriksson will race an OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta MK8. His former RX2 rival, Henrik Krogstad, who will race for Yellow Squad in 2020, will drive a Renault Megane.
Germany’s Timo Scheider has reason to be confident ahead of the inaugural World RX Esports Invitational, he made his World RX debut at the Catalunya circuit in 2015, and took the TQ (top qualifier) position in 2017 on his way to a first World RX podium, in P2.
The former DTM champion is new to sim racing however. “I never did sim racing before I started with one event recently. I am looking forward to some competition even though I am not an expert at this kind of racing.
“In such a difficult time we have around the globe at the moment this is a good option. Nurburgring gave me a dynamic Esport setup, with Fanatec steering wheel and pedals which is super cool, but if you don’t know how to use it it’s anyway difficult,” he said.
“Most important beside all the fun though is that we all need to understand at this difficult time that nothing in life is guaranteed. So, stay safe, stay home and we all will manage to get back to real racing ASAP.”
Outside of the World RX contingent, Spanish rally driver Cohete Suarez will race a Renault Megane, and World Endurance Championship driver Nicki Thiim, from Denmark, will drive an Audi S1. Swedish rally driver Mattias Adielsson will also make his first rallycross start, also in an Audi.
Joining the professional drivers will be YouTube celebrity Jimmy Broadbent, who will race a Ford Fiesta MK8. He will be accompanied on the grid by fellow YouTube sensation, FailRace.
Pre-event qualifying was also held to find the three fastest rallycross Esports racers to join the field. From over 8,500 entries, the Czech Republic’s Lukas Mateja was third and will race a Peugeot 208, just like France’s Dall’olmo brothers Killian, the DiRT Rally 2.0 rallycross world series champion who has recently signed for SET Esports, and Quentin, who topped the time sheets in the qualifying session.
“I’m super excited to join this event it’s amazing to race with all these famous drivers who have a real experience in motorsports,” said 20-year-old Quentin.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to race with the World RX drivers and the other professionals. These are the drivers that we follow each weekend when they race so to drive with them is awesome.
“I think I will be competitive enough to race for the win but like we know, it is rallycross so it isn’t always the fastest who wins.”
Paul Bellamy, the Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of Motorsports Events at IMG, the promoter of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, said: “With the tough times we are all experiencing at present due to COVID-19, we are delighted to play our small part in bringing some joy back in to people’s lives by staging the World RX Esports Invitational.
“We are thankful for the support of our partners, the teams and drivers in making this happen at such short notice and we really hope it brightens up everyone’s Sunday.”
The event will be streamed live from 14:00 BST on Sunday April 19, and will be shown on World RX YouTube, Facebook and on Motorsport.tv.
World RX Esports Invitational – Catalunya Edition
EVENT SCHEDULE, Sunday, April 19
|14:00||Live show starts|
|14:05||Qualifiers Round 1|
|14:25||Qualifiers Round 2|
|14:45||Qualifiers Round 3|
|15:05||Qualifiers Round 4|
All times in BST (UTC+1)