It’s been billed as a bit of fun. Among all the serious Esports competitions that have taken off since the coronavirus lockdown started, Red Bull Homestretch is all about having a laugh.
No engineers on Zoom calls, no over-the-top analysis, no controversy – except of the tongue-in-cheek variety. Just nine smiling drivers, all having fun.
A star-studded cast of rallying, rallycross, and race drivers, plus motocross champion Ken Roczen and Chicago Cubs baseball player Kris Bryant took to Gran Turismo Sport for an Esports event with a difference. Three six-lap races on road, dirt, and in karts, with no flags, no penalties – whatever happens, happens.
Despite the laidback nature of the event, it was the rallying and rallycross superstars that dominated.
Former World Rallycross Championship team-mates Timmy Hansen and Sebastien Loeb diced for the victory in the opening road race at the Red Bull Ring, with Hansen prevailing ahead of Scott Speed – who was the only entrant racing with a controller, and had come into the lead battle late on – and Loeb.
In the dirt race, which took place on the fictitious Colorado Springs course, it was again Hansen, Loeb, and Speed dicing up front with IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe joining the party. This time Loeb won, fighting back after being pushed out wide on the opening lap. Hinchcliffe took a surprise second ahead of Speed and Hansen.
When it came to karting, contested on the fictitious Tokyo Expressway course, there was a big twist. The usual suspects again battled it out up front, but halfway through the race commentator Tom Brooks announced that whoever finished third would in fact be declared the winner – leading to an interesting fight of drivers trying to avoid the victory.
Third, and the win, went to Loeb after Hinchcliffe and Hansen collided towards the end of the lap, elevating Loeb from fourth. The Frenchman had been in first for much of the second half of the race, but slipped back into the more favourable fourth place after a collision during a four-way fight for the lead.
Hinchcliffe was again second, while Speed took third after being first on the road. Hansen narrowly missed out on the win, finishing a fraction behind Loeb, while Bryant, who impressed by running up front for much of the race, rounded out the top five.
The inaugural Red Bull Homestretch was the first edition of a competition that will run for six weeks, with a new event being streamed each week on Twitch and Red Bull’s website.