Honda Racing’s quartet of WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup drivers will be at the heart of the action when the new Pre-season Esports WTCR Championship launches this weekend.

Esteban Guerrieri, Nestor Girolami, Tiago Monteiro, and Attila Tassi have all committed to the new initiative from the WTCR series organiser Eurosport Events and RaceRoom, which will be contested exclusively by professional WTCR drivers and other real-life wildcard entrants, and is being billed as a teaser before the 2020 season can get underway.

The Championship comprises six rounds, each of which will include a 10-minute qualifying session followed by the WTCR’s traditional pole position shootout for the fastest five qualifiers, plus two 12-minute races – the second of which will feature a partially reversed grid.

As was the case with the Championship’s forerunner, the Esports WTCR Beat the Drivers series, Honda again praises Eurosport and RaceRoom for introducing this contest in order to give fans a fix of touring car action during the Covid-19 pandemic, and is proud that the four drivers who are due to campaign the real-life Civic Type R TCR this year have all shown the same commitment.

While this primary intention to entertain remains, there is an additional motivation for the drivers as they go head-to-head to beat the racers they will face in real-life WTCR competition.

Esteban’s form in the Beat the Drivers series culminated with a win in the final race at the virtual Sepang – the first for a real-life WTCR driver on RaceRoom – and a seventh-place finish in the standings, ahead of a number of sim racing professionals.

The Argentinian, the real-life 2019 WTCR runner-up, is under no illusions however that the stakes are different in an all-pro-driver field, and is taking nothing for granted heading into the new contest.

Nestor showed strong form at Sepang too, bagging an impressive top-10 finish, and will contest the full series on the home simulator that he used to prepare for real-life WTCR rounds last year – having returned from Argentina to his home in Spain last month.

Having made strides on the simulator platform he was least familiar with during the Beat the Drivers series, Attila, 20, is eagerly anticipating the quickfire nature of the upcoming Championship and keen to put his dedicated preparations to good use.

Though Tiago’s family and business commitments mean he has not been able to commit the same hours of practise on the RaceRoom platform that others have, he is up for the challenge and recognises the importance of his participation in the series.

The Championship will commence at the virtual version of the Salzburgring on Sunday (June 14), and will take in events at the Hungaroring, Slovakiaring, Ningbo and Macau, before concluding at Sepang on July 19.

Each event will be broadcast on Eurosport International, running to a 48-minute format.

Pre-season Esports WTCR Championship schedule

June 14 – Salzburgring
June 21 – Hungaroring
June 28 – Slovakiaring
July 5 – Ningbo
July 12 – Macau
July 19 – Sepang

Esteban Guerrieri said: “I definitely come into this series with confidence, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is a new competition and anything can happen. Just as it is the case at a normal race weekend, I just need to do the best job I possibly can – and if we can replicate the form we have been able to show on the RaceRoom platform then we should be well-placed to score good results. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve, hopeful of bringing home more success for Honda and, of course, ready to entertain the fans.”

Nestor Girolami said: “I enjoyed taking part in the Esports WTCR mini-series, but I have really been looking forward to this driver-only contest for some time. Esteban’s win and the strong result I was able to achieve at the end of the previous competition are the perfect motivation for a strong run in this Championship. We can already see who was looking strong from the previous contest, and I’m confident we are among them – particularly now I am back at home and competing again on my regular simulator again – but of course now we have more real-life competitors, so I’m sure the competition will be tough!”

Attila Tassi said: “I was happy with my progress in the pre-season Esports series and how we finished the final round, particularly seeing practise hours paying off, and that gives me confidence going into this new Championship. I think the shorter races will make for some extra entertainment, which will make it even more crucial to execute everything perfectly, but I feel ready for that challenge. We of course are looking forward to being back on track as soon as it is safe to do so, but all the time that is not possible this is the best way to stay sharp – especially considering we are facing our real-life opposition.”

Tiago Monteiro said: “This whole period I’ve increased my knowledge of sim racing, but I haven’t had the chance to practise as much as some of the other drivers on RaceRoom, which requires you to put in some time before you can master some of its quirks. I’m not expecting miracles, but I’m certainly here to participate and have fun, and I’m motivated to do the best I can as part of a four-driver Honda effort once more. This is another good initiative from WTCR, as the main priority right now is to make sure we’re putting on a show for the fans before we can safely get back on track again.”