Three of Portugal’s leading motorsport stars will compete for national pride against the FIA World Rally Championship’s young hotshots on the country’s virtual rally roads this weekend.
This week’s WRC fixture in Portugal was called off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but fans can enjoy three nights of #RaceAtHome head-to-head sim action in the Vodafone Rally de Portugal eSports WRC Shootout (22 - 24 May). The tournament will be streamed live on Facebook.
Portugal’s home heroes are former national rally champion and WRC support series regular Bernardo Sousa and double national champion José Pedro Fontes. They will be joined by MotoGP World Championship rider Miguel Oliveira, runner-up in the 2018 Moto2 series.
The WRC challenge will be headed by WRC 2 high-flier Rhys Yates. The young Briton made a remarkable virtual driving competition debut to win last month’s eSports WRC Shootout on Rally Argentina’s roads – with a learner driver plate fixed to the back of his gaming rig.
He celebrated with a ‘shoey’ – downing a celebratory drink of tea from his shoe before ripping up the learner plate!
Bolivian WRC 3 driver Marco Bulacia, who lost to Yates in the final, returns in a bid to exact revenge. They will be joined by Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet, who lifted the WRC 2 world title in 2019.
The eight-strong field is completed by driver / co-driver partnership Sean Johnston and Alex Kihurani from the United States.
The shootout will use WRC 8, the official video game of the WRC and all competitors will drive Rally 2 category cars. Fontes, Bulacia, Johnston and Kihurani will be at the wheel of Citroën C3s, Oliveira and Loubet will pilot Hyundai i20s and Sousa and Yates will drive Fiestas.
The eight drivers will be pitted against each other on their simulators in a series of knockout special stages.
Friday night’s quarter-finals will take place on the iconic Fafe test, which climaxes with the famous big-air jump close to the finish.
The fastest driver from each pairing advances to Saturday’s semi-finals in the Amarante stage. Sunday’s title decider will be fought out over two tests. The Viana stage will precede a second pass through Fafe.
Fans can watch the tournament live on Facebook at 21.00 CET each night. The English language version is available on the WRC page at facebook.com/WRC with the Portuguese version streamed at facebook.com/rallydeportugal.
Alongside the shootout, the seventh round of the hugely popular eSports WRC Championship will also take place this weekend on Portugal’s roads. Scheduled on 21 - 24 May, it is open to all players of the WRC 8 game.
Automóvel Club de Portugal president Carlos Barbosa said: “Unfortunately, this global health emergency brought by Covid-19 prevented us from hosting Vodafone Rally de Portugal this week.
“But there’s nothing preventing us from hosting a virtual rally, precisely during the week Vodafone Rally de Portugal should take place. So that’s what we’ve decided to do with professional drivers, at the same time as the Portuguese round of the eSports WRC Championship, aimed at all WRC 8 players. May the best drivers win!”