The second season of The Race All-Star Series powered by ROKiT Phones starts on Saturday with the first round of a five-round campaign.
One of the newest additions to the All-Star Series are teams, which include Mercedes-Benz-AMG Petronas Esports, Aston Martin, BMW, Bentley, Williams Esports and Venturi.
Each team has two drivers representing it at every round and, while not every driver is competing a team in the championship, both the pro driver and the simracer contests have team representation.
The pro driver line-up with the most esports experience between them is BMW’s duo of Bruno Spengler and Philipp Eng.
Spengler, aside from finishing as one of the highest-scoring drivers in Team Redline’s Real Racers Never Quit championship, made the grand final of both the third and fifth All-Star Series rounds.
Eng, for his part, made three grand final appearances, and was a standout performer in the third edition, beating simracers Nikodem Wisniewski and Petar Brljak en route to fifth.
On the other side of the coin, Bentley will field two drivers new to rFactor 2 in Seb Morris and Alex Buncombe, although their real-life GT racing pedigree is considerable.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport and Williams Esports both have one real-world driver who’s also proven to be super quick in the virtual world, and one who’s yet to earn their stripes.
Mercedes has got its F1 reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez in one of the cars, the Mexican having been a mainstay of the All-Star Series and having made the grand final in all the previous five rounds.
Its other driver is Anthony Davidson, someone who has worked to develop previous entries of Codemasters’ F1 game series but is far from the quickest or the most experienced virtual racer yet.
Davidson recently took part in F1’s virtual Australian Grand Prix, where he finished 15th.
Meanwhile, Williams will have a driver pairing of Agustin Canapino and Jack Aitken.
Aitken, its F1 team’s new reserve driver, has had decent All-Star showings but it’s Canapino who is expected to set the pace within the team, his esports career stretching back years.
Aitken has only recently taken part in sim races whereas Canapino’s esports career stretches back for years.
Canapino first raced in a GPVWC league back in 2006 and dipped in and out for a decade, in that time taking a total of 15 race wins.
More recently he was in the team that finished second in the iRacing 24 Hours Nurburgring and has taken a race win in the Digital Nurburgring Endurance Series.
The touring car champion’s spot in the team gives Williams Esports a chance to establish itself as the pro driver team to beat.
Of course, when it comes to esports experience and accolades, the simracers are leaps and bounds ahead of the real world pros.
But when they’re faced against one another, it becomes much harder to pick a favourite than it is with the pro teams – hence the five different winners in the first five All-Star Series rounds.
Team Redline is the only outfit to have two previous All-Star Series winners, with Rudy van Buren and Kevin Siggy representing the team.
Van Buren has been arguably the best driver throughout the entirety of the All-Star Series to date, finishing all of the first four grand finals in the podium positions, but he did not have a successful three-round Cup season.
Erhan Jajovski, who dominated said Cup season, is the only other past All-Star winner who is part of a two-man crew.
He’ll be racing alongside fellow Triple A Esports driver Risto Kappet, and together they are two of the quickest drivers on rFactor 2.
Along with Hany Alsabti, they won the GTE class in rFactor 2’s 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, and they also came first and second in the rFactor 2 World’s Fastest Gamer qualifying event.
Kappet also finished second in the championship in the 2017 GPVWC Superleague season, only being beaten by van Buren.
All-Star Cup runner-up Nikodem Wisniewski is also in for the whole season but as a part of the Williams Esports team.
Him and his team-mate Kuba Brzezinski are one of the best simracing duos around, winning the rFactor 2 12 Hours of Sebring and season two of the ESL Mapfre Racing Series together.
Even outside of rFactor 2, they finished the WTCR Esports championship in first and second, with Brzezinski taking the title.
The five-week-long second season of the All-Star Series starts on Saturday at 4pm GMT. All the action can be viewed live on The Race YouTube channel.