Esports-Van Buren wins all-star battle after Verstappen pulls out

By Alan Baldwin

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - Red Bull Formula One driver Max Verstappen pulled out of the second All-Star Esports Battle on Saturday but Rudy Van Buren, the 'World's Fastest Gamer' in 2017, made sure there was a Dutch winner anyway.

The 20-lap race on a virtual Indianapolis road course featured a cast of top drivers and gamers, competing remotely, after the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak brought motorsport to a standstill.

Van Buren, a former simulator driver for McLaren who now performs the role for the Mahindra Formula E team, finished third in last weekend's first All-Star race and this time won from third on the grid.

McLaren Shadow esports racer Kevin Siggy was second with Portuguese gamer Nuno Pinto third.

Spaniard Dani Juncadella, who races in the German Touring Car (DTM) championship, was the highest finishing real racer in fourth.

Others who failed to make it through the heats to the 20-car final included former F1 racer Juan Pablo Montoya and Brazilian Tony Kanaan, both winners of the Indianapolis 500.

Verstappen finished 11th last weekend in a race hastily put together by Torque Esports and www.the-race.com after Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was cancelled.

He had been due to return but the Dutch 22-year-old said instead that he would be racing on Monday in Team Redline's 'Real Racers Never Quit' esports race, live on YouTube and Twitch.

"So great to see so many of you are enjoying the sim racing we do online. I hope we can put on a show for all race fans to enjoy," he said on Instagram.

Formula One is also organising a virtual race on Sunday in the absence of the Bahrain Grand Prix, one of five rounds postponed due to the fast-spreading virus.

Australia and the Monaco Grand Prix, a glamorous fixture on the calendar since 1955, have been cancelled entirely.

Britain's six-times Olympic cycling champion turned sportscar racer Chris Hoy will represent Red Bull in the F1 race, his first venture into esports, along with Austrian racing driver Philipp Eng.

Former McLaren F1 driver and current Mercedes Formula E racer Stoffel Vandoorne will also feature.

McLaren's Lando Norris and Williams's Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi are in a 'Not the BAH GP' at 1800GMT on Sunday organised by Veloce Esports that also features Real Madrid soccer goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and golfer Ian Poulter.

Nico Hulkenberg, who left Formula One at the end of last year, has a busy weekend -- the German competed in Saturday's all-star event and will also appear in Sunday's races. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Fallon)