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Virgin Racing treating Esports rounds as "real race weekends"

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May 9, 2020, 11:04 AM

Sam Bird reckons his Envision Virgin Racing team is approaching each round of the Formula E Race at Home Challenge Esports competition “as if it were a real race weekend”.

The eight-race series, which will conclude with a double points finale, runs in partnership with Motorsport Games to raise money in support of the UNICEF coronavirus relief fund. 

Bird was the last of the 24 official championship drivers to enter the online championship owing to poor internet connection, but ran as high as fifth on his debut last weekend. 

His teammate Robin Frijns climbed from sixth to finish second in the race around the Electric Docks circuit, which was created specifically for the rFactor 2 sim racing game.  

Bird said his team was holding regular meetings either side of each round to keep the staff race sharp. 

“I would say Envision Virgin Racing are taking this opportunity, because it is an opportunity, to still try and use it as if it were a real race weekend,” he said in an online FE press conference. 

“OK, there’s intricacies of the real car that are not there in the sim world.  

“It’s much more a case of driving flat-out because there’s only a couple of things we can change.  

“However, we’re having meetings online, we’re talking all the time, full intercom systems. 

“It’s taken really seriously just so that everybody can keep fresh in this very strange time that we’re going through right now.” 

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Every driver in the Formula E Race at Home Challenge runs with a fixed set-up and all cars have equal performance. 

The Esports competition also does away with the real-life power increases of Attack Mode and Fanboost. 

Notably, the virtual FE cars have two gears rather than a single-speed direct drive powertrains. 

BMW Andretti driver Alex Sims, whose teammate Maximilian Gunther has won both points-paying races so far, reckoned the game offered a realistic representation.  

He told Motorsport.com: “When you boil it down to the fundamentals of how you achieve the lap time, it’s pretty damn similar. 

“It just feels very alien to me on a simulator, I'm terrible at them. 

“But maybe if you are Stoffel [Vandoorne] or Max or some of the really good simulator drivers, they may well have got ways to get the feedback from the simulator to understand how to get the lap time to a representative level.  

In the pre-season test race around the shortened Monaco FE circuit, Gunther topped qualifying with a 51.6-second lap – 1.6s slower than the real-life time of polesitter Jean-Eric Vergne in the 2018-19 E-Prix. 

Speaking for the latest episode of his team’s ‘Re:charge @ home’ podcast, Jaguar driver James Calado added: “What is realistic is the racing side of it, where you try and respect each other.” 

Watch the action on Motorsport.com

The third round of the Race at Home Challenge (Saturday 9 May) is available to watch via the Formula E website, Motorsport.com, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch. The stream starts at 1530 BST. 

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Maximilian Günther, BMW I Andretti Motorsports

Maximilian Günther, BMW I Andretti Motorsports
1/15

Photo by: BMW Motorsport

Maximilian Günther, BMW I Andretti Motorsports leads at the start

Maximilian Günther, BMW I Andretti Motorsports leads at the start
2/15

Photo by: BMW Motorsport

Simona de Silvestro

Simona de Silvestro
3/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Maximilian Günther, BMW I Andretti Motorsports

Maximilian Günther, BMW I Andretti Motorsports
4/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Neel Jani, Porsche

Neel Jani, Porsche
5/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Pascal Wehrlein, Mahindra Racing

Pascal Wehrlein, Mahindra Racing
6/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Daniel Abt, Team Abt

Daniel Abt, Team Abt
7/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Stoffel Vandoorne, Mercedes

Stoffel Vandoorne, Mercedes
8/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Maximilian Gunther, Andretti Autosport

Maximilian Gunther, Andretti Autosport
9/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Start action

Start action
10/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Track action

Track action
11/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Track action

Track action
12/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Track action

Track action
13/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Start action

Start action
14/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

Maximilian Günther

Maximilian Günther
15/15

Photo by: FIA Formula E

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About this article

Series Formula E , Esports
Drivers Sam Bird
Teams DS Virgin Racing
Author Matt Kew