The début of the EuroNASCAR Esports Series at Daytona International Speedway also saw the début of Iker Lecuona on four wheels. The MotoGP rider, who finished twenty-eighth in the maiden race for the newly-formed sim racing league, has committed to the full schedule.
“I never drove a race car in real life so Daytona was my very first experience in car racing,” Lecuona said, per EuroNASCAR.com. “[…] This car is quite difficult to handle and at the beginning I made way too many mistakes, I didn’t even think I could finish the race. But in the end I had a lot of fun, so it’s great to be back!”
The 20-year-old Spaniard raced in the Moto2 class from 2016 to 2019, including the full 2018 and 2019 seasons, as he recorded two podium finishes. He made his MotoGP début in the 2019 finale at the Valencian Grand Prix, racing for Red Bull KTM. He was scheduled to run the full 2020 MotoGP slate with KTM’s Tech 3 team until the season was plagued by postponements and cancellations due to COVID-19.
Lecuona joined the EuroNASCAR Esports Series as part of an alliance between his home track Circuit Ricardo Tormo and Fordzilla, a sim racing programme run by the Ford Motor Company with branches in other European nations. Circuit Ricardo Tormo also hosts the Whelen Euro Series‘ GP of Spain.
“The event format is quite different compared to what I’m used to, but it’s very funny and challenging,” Lecuona added. “I made it to the final race of the evening despite some mistakes, so I am training hard to be better already at Watkins Glen (International)!”
On the Daytona road course, he qualified tenth in his heat race before finishing twenty-eighth. Unlike other sim racing leagues formed in the wake of the pandemic, the ENES impacts the real-life championship with the best-finishing driver earning points for their respective teams. Guillaume Deflandre, who ran four races in 2019, won the opener.
Although it is mostly fun and games for Lecuona now, he is eager to return to actual racing once the opportunity is available.
“I can’t wait to go back to the track, of course,” he said. “My first season in MotoGP will be very special. I’m one of the only 22 riders who can compete in the championship and obviously I am looking forward to being back with my team and at the track.”