Sun 28 June 2020
Virtual Race Of Champions
Reigning World Rallycross Champion Timmy Hansen put in a stunning performance to eclipse 15 fellow superstars of global motorsport and win the first ever Virtual Race Of Champions after a thrilling day of online sim racing action.
The event, organised in partnership with Motorsport Games, followed a similar format to the real-world Race Of Champions. Some of the biggest names from Formula 1, IndyCar, Le Mans, World Rally, RallyX, Formula E, W Series and other major motorsport disciplines went head to head in identical cars. They faced off on virtual versions of some of the most iconic venues of ROC’s history, such as the mixed gravel and tarmac roads of the original Gran Canaria track plus the twists of Riyadh and London’s Wembley Stadium.
The tracks were built from the ground up in sim racing game Assetto Corsa and had never been used in competition before, ensuring a neutral platform and fair competition for all the participants. Like the real-world Race Of Champions, drivers had to showcase their diverse skill set to adapt to a wide variety of machinery – including a VUHL supercar, KTM X-Bow, a rallycross car and the classic ROC buggy.
The Grand Final boiled down to a battle between reigning World Rallycross Champion Timmy Hansen and the reigning NASCAR Mexico Champion Ruben Garcia Jr. In the end the Swede saw off his rival to become the first ever Virtual ROC Champion of Champions, before being embraced by his mother Susann and brother Kevin.
Afterwards a delighted Hansen said: “It's crazy to win this – and we do have atmosphere here because Kevin can definitely celebrate! It’s such an honour to be invited to this race. It’s always been a big dream of mine because I’ve been watching the Race Of Champions since I was a kid, seeing all these great names compete. Of course I’d love to have been there in person but this is how it is and I’ll take this any day!
“I had the arena for the Grand Final because we were racing in the rallycross car around Gran Canaria. But I’d practised before the race and I made sure not to make any mistakes, and it got me all the way here.
“To be honest Kevin was always faster than me in sim racing, but when we couldn’t start this rallycross season and all this virtual racing started happening I treated it like any other competition and I’ve just been practising. I’ve put in many hours, and now it feels great that I did... We’re coming to the end of this season of virtual racing and I’ll be back to real world racing next weekend, but this is a fantastic way to finish it off.”
In the semi-finals, Hansen beat reigning DTM Champion Rene Rast. The other race saw the end of a spirited run by 2020 Formula E Championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa, who was beaten by Garcia.
At the quarter-final stage the ‘legends and champions’ were separated from the ‘sim racing experts’. The World Rallycross Championship provided three of the legends in action, but two of its champions went out. World Rally and RallyX legend Petter Solberg was defeated by Hansen while double World RallyX Champion Johan Kristoffersson fell to Rast.
In the sim racing section of the quarter-finals Felix da Costa defeated the 2020 Formula E Race at Home Champion Stoffel Vandoorne while 2020 Le Mans 24H Virtual Champion Raffaele Marciello was knocked out by Garcia.
The drivers were earlier split into four groups of four, battling for the right to line up in the knockout stages.
Vandoorne dominated Group A with three wins out of three, while Marciello took second place with two wins. That meant 2020 IMSA Virtual Champion Bruno Spengler bowed out, despite a single win against Marciello’s Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual Champion team-mate Louis Deletraz.
Felix da Costa and Garcia both progressed from Group B with two wins each. But it was very bad luck for W Series Esports League leader Beitske Visser, who also took two wins only to be knocked out on countback of fastest laps. It was also an early goodbye to the youngest ever IndyCar Winner Colton Herta, competing from the other side of the Atlantic.
Solberg made it through the groups with a perfect record, topping Group C with three wins out of three. All three other drivers took a single win each, but it was Kristoffersson who progressed with the fastest lap time – just three thousandths of a second ahead of 2010 ROC Champion of Champions Filipe Albuquerque. Great Britain’s triple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx was another legend who went out on countback.
Rast and Hansen progressed from Group D at the expense of the reigning ROC Champion of Champions Benito Guerra, who triumphed last year in front of his home crowd in Mexico City. Another previous ROC Champion of Champions Romain Grosjean had been due to compete in this group but the Haas F1 driver was called away to deal with a family matter, though he was thankfully able to return later for the Virtual ROC Nations Cup...
eROC World Final
Great Britain’s 2019 eROC World Final winner James Baldwin saw off three other sim racing specialists to repeat the feat and take the crown for a second time.
Following a competition that was open to sim racers from all over the world, Germany’s Nils Naujoks and Arthur Kammerer joined Englishman Ethan Dean as the fastest racers to take on Baldwin for the title. But it was Baldwin who prevailed with three wins out of three, followed by Naujoks who took two wins.
Baldwin went on to take on the brand new Virtual ROC Champion of Champions Timmy Hansen around Gran Canaria – and the sim specialist showed his prowess by winning again. The result also earned him a place in the ROC Nations Cup as part of Team All Stars alongside Formula 1 star Romain Grosjean.
Baldwin said: “That’s not bad for a Sunday evening’s work! Switching from the Vuhl to the rallycross car in quick succession was tough but I thought if I had a clean run I should have the edge. I couldn’t see Timmy so I don’t know if he made a mistake, so I just kept pushing throughout the whole run. I haven’t done any real life rally racing but I’ve done a fair bit on the sim. Of course Timmy is a much better rally driver but I managed to hook it up.”
Virtual ROC Nations Cup
Formula 1 star Romain Grosjean and sim racing ace James Baldwin ended the day’s action by taking a fine victory for Team All Stars in the first ever Virtual ROC Nations Cup.
After the individual event, many of the drivers teamed up in pairs to battle for national and regional pride, again competing on the historic ROC circuits. And what a festival of action it was – as Team All Stars prevailed in the final against the might of Team Sweden’s World Rallycross champions Timmy Hansen and Johan Kristoffersson by two heats to one.
In the first heat Baldwin beat off the challenge of Hansen, who then had to keep racing single-handed after problems for Kristoffersson’s sim rig. The newly-crowned Virtual ROC Champion of Champions managed to defeat Grosjean before Baldwin prevailed again in the grand finale.
Grosjean said: “Congratulations and thanks to James, who won that for us! I always like the Race Of Champions for its atmosphere, and I have good memories from when I raced there before – and it’s been the same even while we’re all back at home on the simulators. So thank you very much to Fredrik Johnsson for organising it so we could all have such fun. The kids still love to play with the trophy I won at the 2012 Race Of Champions – it’s the biggest one I have at home – so they’ll be happy that James has won something else for us. Now I can’t wait until we get back for the next real world Race Of Champions!”
Baldwin added: “I had a head start over Romain because I had an extra day of practice, but I’m delighted that we got the win in the end. Sim racing has boomed over the past few months and this is a great way to cap it off. Now I can’t wait to watch the real world racing again, which will be awesome, so good luck to Romain next weekend in Austria!”
Team Norway’s father and son duo of Petter and Oliver Solberg were among the early favourites but they fell to Team All Stars at the semi-final stage. In the other semi-final Team Sweden defeated Team Portugal’s Antonio Felix da Costa and Filipe Albuquerque.
The Virtual ROC Nations Cup action began with six duos split into two round-robin groups. The Solbergs dominated Group A for Team Norway, winning all their races, while Team Sweden also progressed at the expense of another father and son pairing, Team GB’s Andy and Sebastian Priaulx. Group B was a very tight affair but Team Mexico’s Benito Guerra and Ruben Garcia Jr went out as Team All Stars and Team Portugal progressed.
This brings the Virtual Race Of Champions to an end for 2020. We hope you enjoyed this festival of online motorsport and we look forward to welcoming you back for or next event. Keep up with all the latest news at www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook and @raceofchampions on Twitter and Instagram.