Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc will compete in the FIA World Rallycross Championship’s official Esports Invitational series, joining a field of 20 professional racers.
Scuderia Ferrari’s Leclerc has come to the fore as one of motorsport’s biggest stars during the COVID-19 pandemic, embracing video game streaming through his own Twitch channel regularly.
Leclerc, who has already competed in F1 and GT-based competitions and who will also take part in the Virtual Le Mans esports race, will now go off-road for the first time, competing in World RX’s Dirt Rally 2.0-based series.
World RX previously held two standalone events on the weekends of its cancelled opening two rounds of the season, at Circuit de Catalunya and Montalegre respectively, but has radically revamped the structure of its esports offering.
A four-round series has been created, beginning with Yas Marina this Sunday. Two venues which lost their real-world 2020 rounds due to the logistical difficulties around calendar reorganization, Hell and Cape Town, are also included, with Höljes completing the quartet.
Leclerc will be facing an exclusively pro driver field, a first for the World RX Esports event after fielding a mix of professional and sim racers in previous events. Those two categories will now be split into separate races.
In addition to Leclerc, the series has added drivers from several other disciplines to its entry list for this weekend.
Fellow Ferrari F1 alumnus Mika Salo will return for his second World RX Esports race, having joined the field for the series’ second virtual event at Montalegre.
BMW factory driver Tom Blomqvist, son of 1984 World Rally champion Stig Blomqvist, is one of two GT aces joining the series, along with works Audi racer Kelvin van der Linde.
Münnich Motorsport has drafted in its WTCR star Esteban Guerrieri to race alongside its World RX driver Timo Scheider.
2016 Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen, who recorded a podium on his World RX Esports debut in the Montalegre event, will also have a familiar face to race against, as he’s joined by series rival Scott Pye.
World RX champion Timmy Hansen and his brother Kevin, who finished third in the championship last year headline the real-world rallycross line-up, joined by GC Kompetition’s Rokas Baciuška, Xite Racing owner/driver Oliver Bennett and Scheider.
DirtFish-backed ARX2 champion and RX2 frontrunner Fraser McConnell is also joined the virtual World RX field for the first time at the Yas Marina series opener.
Catalunya winner Mattias Adielsson, who finished third in the European Rally Championship’s ERC1 Junior category last year, will not be joining them however, as he’s been moved to the sim class race.