Honda Racing drivers made good on their pledge to provide the entertainment during the opening round of the pre-season Esports WTCR series, as all four battled away in the two races at the virtual Hungaroring.
Esteban Guerrieri, the 2019 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup runner-up, recorded a best result of second among the WTCR drivers in the first of the two 25-minute races after putting in a determined display.
Having started from the back of the 31-car grid, the result of confusion over server settings, Esteban made steady progress up the order at the beginning of race one, then took full advantage of a scrap between cars ahead to muscle through and make up three positions with two incisive moves just moments apart.
Though the regular sim racers were, as expected, out of reach, Esteban passed fellow Honda WTCR driver Nestor Girolami and pulled clear of the chasing pack thereafter to finish runner-up of the real-life racers in 19th overall.
His second race was over almost as soon as it had started, however, as a multi-car collision approaching the second corner left him at the back of the pack, before he retired from the race.
Tiago Monteiro looked for a long time as though he might better Esteban’s result in race two, after making a blistering start and rising from 23rd to 17th to lead the WTCR contingent.
Attempting to learn from the vastly more experienced gamers ahead of him, fewer than three weeks after making his sim racing debut, Tiago remained at the head of the real-life WTCR pack for a significant portion of the race, but was passed with a little over 10 minutes remaining.
The race ultimately ended in disappointment for Tiago, who had kept a number of competitors at bay with an impressive rearguard action but was spun around twice late on and ended up an unrepresentative 23rd, one place lower than he was classified in race one.
Nestor found himself in the thick of the action, which included completing a textbook touring car pass at the penultimate left-hand hairpin in race one, but was removed from both races in frustrating circumstances as a technical issue meant he could not see initial messages to slow down, or a subsequent notice to serve a drive-through penalty before he was excluded.
Both of Attila Tassi’s races came to an end in a similar way, though the Hungarian was involved in entertaining scraps in both encounters, and briefly ran second behind Tiago in race two.
The Hungaroring round was the first of four events that make up the pre-season Esports series, with the next due to take place at a virtual version of the Slovakia Ring on Monday 20 April at 7.30pm CEST.
Esteban Guerrieri said: “I put a lot of hours into training so I was quite positive about having some battles with the gamers. In qualifying I went into the race server and didn’t realise there were different settings that I thought were already pre-set, as they were in the practice server which was running all week. I thought these settings were pre-set off, but actually they were on. I checked all the parameters and I realised, but by then it was too late, so my inexperience played a part in this situation. Still, having a good pace, I moved up to P19 in race one. In the second race I was last again in the first corner, and then I got involved in Turn 2 in a big accident and that was it. But anyway, nevertheless it was good fun, it was nice and challenging. It’s a nice way of keeping competitive, sharing with the gamers and also with the fans.”
Tiago Monteiro said: “Considering that I only tried this game twice – last week and today – I was a bit surprised! The first race was a disastrous start; I got spun off and I was at the back, having fun with Norbert Michelisz and Attila for quite some time. In the second race, I went from P23 to P17 on the first lap, which put me in a good group with some gamers at the front who I was trying to follow – it’s impossible, but still, I learned from them. In the last laps everybody was very hot-headed and I got spun around twice. The last two laps were just a bit of a circus; I don’t want to sound too negative, but that’s a little bit of a downside of the simulation. It was an interesting experience, it was nice to fight, but we might need to add some more rules. I hope the show was good though, because that was the idea.”
Nestor Girolami said: “Unfortunately I got disqualified from both races because I didn’t see any signal to slow down. Normally when you cut a little bit you get one or two tenths of penalty, depending on how much you cut, but at the end, it didn’t show me anything, so I kept flat-out and I got a drive-through penalty – but I didn’t see anything again. I don’t know if it was a problem at my end, maybe for the next races I will need to change some of the configuration on the screen. This was a shame, because in race two I was fighting between P18, P19, with Tiago, with Attila, all the WTCR drivers.”
Attila Tassi: “I was short on anything more than a couple of practice laps before the competition, as I only downloaded the game one hour before qualifying, but even so I was really looking forward to it and actually the races were great while I was involved in them. Race two started really well with Tiago and I running 1-2 of the WTCR drivers, and even after losing some positions it was nice to be involved in some battles. The main thing with this was to have some fun with my team-mates and put on a show and I did that, so in the end the result doesn’t really matter.”