Esteban Guerrieri was robbed of an outright podium finish as he stunned the sim racing regulars in the second pre-season Esports WTCR round at the virtual Slovakiaring.

Esteban, the 2019 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup runner-up, started the second race from the front row of the grid courtesy of an outstanding ninth-place finish in race one, and looked set to claim a place in the top three for much of the 25-minute encounter, which was won by a Honda Civic Type R TCR.

A brusque shove from a rival meant Esteban dropped to fourth place in the opening laps, but he reclaimed third with 10 minutes to go thanks to a brave pass at the Turn 8 hairpin and, despite taking more hits from his assailant, kept hold of the position.

Though further hits from behind delayed him and meant the two leaders were out of reach, the Argentinian held firm in third until the penultimate lap.

Esteban survived an attack at the first corner – delaying his turn-in before swooping back ahead of his rival – but was then punted off into the gravel further round the lap and passed by a number of cars as he recovered to the circuit. He finished the race – won by the Civic Type R TCR of Esports racer Bence Banki – in an eventual 11th place.

Despite his disappointment, Esteban still finished as the highest-placed real-life WTCR driver in both races, racking up 12 points.

He had earlier set up his race two opportunity with an impressive charge in the opening counter, which included overtaking one of his real-life WTCR competitors, and later passing three sim racers in one lap, as he rose six places from his 15th-place starting position.

His 2019 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport teammate Nestor Girolami also showed flashes of speed, recording the fourth-fastest time of the WTCR drivers in qualifying.

He initially made up a couple of positions in race one before dropping down the order late on, then completed a strong comeback in the second race to finish 22nd.

Tiago Monteiro was blighted by lag issues during practice and qualifying in the early stages of the event, but raced to 23rd in the opening counter as he continued to increase his sim racing experience and knowledge of the RaceRoom platform used in the four-round WTCR series.

The second race started auspiciously, as the Portuguese driver – who won at the real Slovakiaring for Honda in 2016 – held position in the middle of the pack of real-life WTCR drivers on the opening lap. However, his race ended abruptly when he was hit.

Sadly, the evening was a much shorter affair for Attila Tassi. The opening race had barely begun when his computer froze and he lost connection with the server, after which he was informed that he could not rejoin the event.

Esteban Guerrieri said: “I did a lot of practise and I really got into all the details that you have to concentrate on to improve, not only on driving, but your drafting strategy, tyre degradation, race pace, also where and how you can overtake. The races were actually very demanding; they required a lot of focus and concentration and I liked that. In race one I just waited for the race to come to me and after half-distance I went to move into the top 10, so I could start near the front of the reversed grid. I managed that, and then in race two the pace was also good. The goal was basically the same, to stay with the leading pack, but I couldn’t do that as one of the other drivers kept crashing into me. I fought for the podium, but this guy then gave me a big hit and pushed me off completely. But it was still good fun and when I did the races, I felt like it was quite a workout. There is not as much physical work but a lot of concentration, a bit of stress – like in a normal race – and my body felt that.”

Nestor Girolami said: “I’m happy because before the races I had connection problems, but in the end it worked OK and the most important thing was I could take part. I manage to qualify two tenths behind Esteban, and among the leading WTCR drivers on the grid. Both races were quite exciting, fighting against the sim racers with a lot of respect. In race one, we struggled a lot with the front-left tyre temperature – it went too high – and I lost some positions at the end. The second race was much better; I could attack aggressively and finished 22nd, which was a good result. I want to congratulate WTCR for this event and also Honda, because a Civic Type R TCR won the second race! I’m happy with my improvement from the Hungaroring, and I’m sure there is a lot of more to come.”

Tiago Monteiro said: “The track is not my favourite, even though I won there, and on the computer it’s the same! In race one, I qualified 30th and finished 23rd, so it was a good recovery and I improved my driving a lot. At the end of the day you need to practise – so I improved a lot during the race because of that, because I did more laps in a row in a race than I was able to do the whole week. Race two starting 23rd was actually quite good until somebody put me off and that was it. That’s the frustrating thing for me here, that people take silly risks that they would never take in real life. But the important thing again, the main reason I’m doing this, is to entertain the fans – so I hope we gave them a good show.”

Attila Tassi said: “I again didn’t have much practice at all, I started my first lap 15 minutes before qualifying. I was doing quite well considering the circumstances, but then we had a very tricky qualifying session. I think I did two laps in race one and suddenly my computer just froze, and then I couldn’t join again because the organisers said that during the race I wasn’t able to do so, so I was out completely. I will maybe replan my situation and start to practice earlier before for the next race.”