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Legends Tackle Virtual Indy On Memorial Day Weekend

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 23 2020

Racing legend Mario Andretti is a rookie all over again this weekend.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Racing legend Mario Andretti qualified fourth and finished third in the 49th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 31, 1965, a drive that secured him Rookie of the Year honors in a race headlined by Jim Clark’s dominating victory.

Fifty-five years after his Indianapolis Motor Speedway debut and 51 years after his lone Indy 500 victory in 1969, Mario is scheduled to compete on a virtual version of IMS during today’s Torque Esports/Engine Media’s‘ All-Star Legends event.

“I have a pretty steep learning curve ahead of me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a rookie at Indianapolis,” the 80-year-old Andretti joked earlier this week. “I’m trying to learn as quickly as possible and I hope I can deal with some of these young stars. I’ll just commit and hope I’m competitive.”

A former Indy 500 champion, winner of NASCAR’s Daytona 500, Formula 1 World Driving Champion and four-time INDYCAR champ, Andretti will make his esports debut on the rFactor 2 simulated version of the 2.5-mile Speedway oval. 

The Race All-Star Esports Series powered by ROKiT Phones features leading stars of world motorsport from Formula 1, INDYCAR, sports cars and more. Saturday’s three-hour event will air live on ESPN in the United States at noon (EDT), graduating from its regular weekly spot on ESPN2.

Andretti is one of seven former Indianapolis 500 winners in the field _ joining native Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi (1989 and 1993); Colombia’s Juan Pablo Montoya (2000 and 2015); Brazil’s Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002 and 2009); Brazil’s Gil de Ferran (2003); Scotland’s Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010 and 2012) and  Brazil’s Tony Kanaan (2013). With the addition of Andretti, the group has combined to win 13 Indy 500 Borg-Warner Trophies.

Andretti made a total of 29 Indy 500 starts through 1994, highlighted by a controversial runnerup finish to Bobby Unser in 1981 and another second-place result to Danny Sullivan in his famous “spin-and-win” victory in 1985. Mario led 11 of his 29 IMS starts for a total of 556 laps/1,390 miles _ ironically, one more lap-led than archrival A.J. Foyt Jr., first four-time Indy 500 winner.

Additionally, two-time Formula 1 World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso has committed to Saturday’s event. Alonso, the Spaniard who made his esports debut in the series last weekend, will return to the virtual version of the famed oval where he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2017.

Alonso qualified fourth in his first esports event last week in the Legends Trophy on the virtual version of the Zandvoort road-course in the Netherlands. He was scheduled to compete in the 2020 Indianapolis 500, which originally was planned for Sunday but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 104th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has been rescheduled for Aug. 23.

“I was looking forward to heading back to the Speedway and racing for real this weekend but the All-Stars esports event is a great way to keep sharp,” Alonso said. “These guys in the Legends Trophy are all great champions and everyone’s racing instincts really transfer across into the virtual world. I’m also getting the chance to race against some absolute legends of Indy including Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi. That is an incredible opportunity.”

Andretti won his F1 world championship in 1978, while Alonso claimed his titles in 2005 and 2006. They join “Emmo” (1972 and 1974) and Jenson Button (2009) as Formula 1 champions in the field.

The combined record from the esports entry list features:

_ Six F1 World Driving Championships, 1,462 starts, 81 wins and 67 poles.

_ 13 Indy 500 wins, 13 INDYCAR titles, 2,906 starts, 204 wins and 246 poles.

_ 21 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, three World Touring Car Championship titles, two World Rallycross Championships, one World Rally Championship crown and an FIA World Endurance Championship title.

A number of drivers on the entry list have real-world experience at the Speedway, including Andretti, Fittipaldi, Montoya, Castroneves, de Ferran, Franchitti, Kanaan, Adrián Fernández, Bryan Herta, Mario Dominguez, Max Papis, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Oriol Servia.

Other entrants and Indianapolis rookies include Andy Priaulx (three-time World Touring Car champion); Darren Turner (three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner); David Brabham (Formula 1 driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner); Emanuele Pirro (Formula 1 driver and five-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner); Jan Magnussen (Formula 1 driver and four-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner); Jason Plato (98-time British Touring Car Championship race winner); 

Mika Salo (Formula 1 driver and two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner); Petter Solberg (Former World Rally Champion and two-time World Rallycross Champion); Tiago Monteiro (Formula 1 driver and World Touring Car Championship race-winner); Tom Coronel (World Touring Car Championship race winner) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (Formula 1 driver).

Esports races also are broadcast on Eurosport in the UK, online throughout Eurosport on their digital platforms and on The-Race.com’s YouTube page. A 90-minute highlight package is distributed globally via 71 international networks reaching more than 610 million homes.

The Race All-Star Series powered by ROKiT Phones Legends Trophy will be supported Saturday by the Pro Cup, which features current-day racers and factory entries from Mercedes-AMG Petronas AMG Esports, Bentley, Aston Martin Racing, BMW, Hyundai, ROKiT Venturi Racing and Williams Esports.
The Sim Masters competition featuring the world’s best professional sim racers also is on the program.

“We started this series 10 weeks ago to provide motorsport fans with much-needed entertainment while real-world motorsport was on hold,” said Darren Cox, Torque Esports president. “But the championship quickly developed a life of its own in attracting some of the biggest names in world motorsport. 

To have the likes of Mario Andretti and Fernando Alonso join our event is just staggering. We have drivers in the race who are absolute legends at Indianapolis and plenty of other amazing stars who never had the opportunity to compete at this incredible venue. While it is a different experience to race here virtually, we have guys in this field who are just thrilled at the opportunity and blown away at the chance to race at Indianapolis against the likes of Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.”

The Legends Trophy aces will contest two races during Saturday’s event, including a reverse grid battle for the second event. 

Torque Esports recently expanded with the acquisition of Frankly Inc. and WinView, Inc. The soon-to-be-renamed company _ Engine Media Holdings, Inc. _ will be at the forefront of esports, news streaming, and sports gaming across multiple media platforms

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 23 2020
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