Wednesday 3 June 2020

Leclerc impresses in virtual Rallycross debut.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc impressed on his World Rallycross Esports Series debut at the Yas Marina Circuit over the weekend. 

Whilst the world is slowly returning to normal following stay at home orders due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many professional drivers took to sim racing and Esports to entertain their fans.

Charles Leclerc is one of many real-world racers who took to sim racing like a duck to water streaming Formula 1 races, lawnmower racing, truck simulator driving, and over the weekend he made his rallycross debut.

It was an eventful debut for Leclerc who was involved in multiple incidents throughout the qualifying stages battling his way in-and-out of traffic, as well as rolling his car in Q3, to taking a race win in wet conditions in the fourth qualifier, but unfortunately, he was unable to progress to the semi-finals after finishing twelfth in the intermediate classification.  

Whilst he missed out on a place in the semi-finals, his shire speed came to the fore in the fourth qualifying race. The rain came and he showed pure speed from lights out. And, despite Henrik Krogstad crossing the line first, Leclerc was declared the race winner after Krogstad was awarded a jump-start penalty.

Following the fourth qualifying race, Leclerc admitted: “In the rain, I am quite good. While in the dry [conditions] I am struggling but not massively compared to the others.”

In the build-up to the FIA World Rallycross Championship Esports Series, Charles practiced with the Dall’olmo brothers. Killian Dall’olmo is the reigning DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series Rallycross Champion, while his older brother Quentin Dall’olmo won the Abu Dhabi Sim Racers eSports event this past weekend. 

Speaking after the race about Charles Leclerc’s performance, Quentin said: “We did few races before the event and for the first time on the game he [Leclerc] was really good but sadly he had no chance with a lot of contact with the other drivers. But if he does the next round with more training he could have a really good result.”

Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen (event winner) was an unstoppable force in the series opener in Abu Dhabi, with 2019 World RX Champion Timmy Hansen and Henrik Krogstad rounding out the podium. While Kevin Hansen had the pace but after a few incidents he finished the final in fifth place. 

Kevin believes that Leclerc had the potential to make it into the finals, but was involved in too many incidents.

“I think he [Charles Leclerc] has the potential to be in the finals. It was a shame that some drivers took him out during the races,” Kevin Hansen said.  

World Rallycross commentator Andrew Coley was also quite impressed by Charles Leclerc’s performance on debut.

“To me, it was clear [Charles] Leclerc had put the laps in, he had the pace. But he was really unlucky at the start, quite often through no fault of his own. It can happen in real life too, for instance, an unlucky Q1 draw can be hard to recover from. But to me, he looked fast, and as I understand it he enjoyed it.”

Charles Leclerc training with World RX driver Matvey Furazhkin
Footage Supplied By: FIA World Rallycross Media.

Getting up to speed in a virtual RX Supercar came quite quickly for both van Gisbergen and Leclerc. Coley said that he'd love to see Leclerc and Van Gisbergen get a test in rallycross. 

“I’d love to see him [Leclerc] and Van Gisbergen have a test in real life, and then to see the smile on their face when they get out of the car!” Coley said.

“But in the meantime the more they’d like to enter WorldRX’s Esports the better, I’m really grateful for their time, and I know the fans are too.”

Speaking after the qualifying races, Leclerc admitted that his virtual rallycross debut was very cool. “It was fun! Hopefully, I can do the next event,” he said.

The FIA World Rallycross Esports Series will return on 21 June 2020 in Hell, Norway. 

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