At 73, Emerson Fittipaldi enjoying introduction to sim racing

Simon Hofmann/Getty Images For Laureus

Once a racer, always a racer.

That’s an adage Emerson Fittipaldi is proving true.

At 73, the two-time Formula One champion and Indy 500 winner is experiencing a brand new adrenaline rush in the form of esports.

Over the last few weeks, Fittipaldi has been competing in the Legends Trophy, an online racing series for drivers over 40.

The Legends Trophy is one of two virtual racing series created by Torque Esports in mid-March. Torque’s other racing series, the All-Star Cup, pits real-life drivers against some of the best sim racers in the world. The goal of both series is to provide alternative motorsports content while real racing remains on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I never tried it before, but my son (Emerson Fittipaldi, Jr, 13) started racing simulators when he was 6,” Fittipaldi said of sim racing. “I got involved because of him. He invited me to race, but I had to learn because I’m a dinosaur.”

Fittipaldi is the oldest driver competing in the Legends Trophy. Some of the younger “kids” he has been racing against include Dario Franchitti (46), Helio Castroneves (44), Tony Kanaan (45) and Jacques Villeneuve (49).

Like Fittipaldi, Gil de Ferran is new to sim racing but has enjoyed his experience so far. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Fifty-two-year-old Gil de Ferran is another driver competing in the Legends Trophy. Having looked up to Fittipaldi when he was younger, de Ferran is enthusiastic to be able to compete against him.

“I think if you ask any Brazilain racing driver, Emerson was really the pioneer and an inspiration to all of us,” de Ferran said. “I feel fortunate that despite our age difference I came across him for one season. When I just got into IndyCar racing, he was finishing, and it really was just a pleasure to share the track with him. It’s fun to that with him again.”

Like Fittipaldi, de Ferran is new to sim racing, but he enjoys the opportunity it brought to race against so many former competitors.

“At some point in my career, I came across at least 80 percent of the guys,” de Ferran said. “There’s kind of a fun camaraderie aspect to it. On the other hand, because I have another job with McLaren (as the Sporting Director), I actually don’t have that much time to practice. I feel frustrated with myself because my performance is terrible. I have to remind myself to not get frustrated because it has to be fun. I suppose those old juices start to flow again quite naturally.”

While both drivers came from generations that did not utilize simulators, Fittipaldi said he understood why current drivers compete in sim racing and build expensive rigs. In fact, he said that he’d “use them full-time” if he were racing in real-life today.

“It helps you learn the track, the setup of the car,” Fittipaldi said. “It has the bumps of the track, the curves, the wall – everything is exact. You go to a new track, and these guys already how to drive it. It’s amazing.”

While he has yet to win in the Legends Trophy, Fittipaldi continues to make progress. Two weeks ago, he was running in the sixth position on the final lap before he accidentally spun out. Fittipaldi said that it was pressure got to him.

“I have to learn, I have to improve,” Fittipaldi said. “These guys are so talented. My challenge is to get closer to them.”

Round six of the Legends Trophy takes place at 12 p.m. ET today at a virtual Lime Rock Park. Live coverage can be viewed by clicking here .

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

Eli Tomac wins Houston Supercross: Hunter Lawrence takes early 250 East lead


With his 47th career victory and third of the 2023 season in Houston, Eli Tomac closed to within one win of tying Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time Monster Energy Supercross list.

Tomac rebounded from last week’s crash by earning the holeshot in both his heat and the Main. At the start of the big show, he couldn’t shake Aaron Plessinger in the first four minutes and actually was in the process of losing the lead as a red flag waved for a crash involving Tomac’s teammate Dylan Ferrandis when he overjumped an obstacle and landed on Ken Roczen’s back fender as they raced for eighth.

“That was a tough race,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien, referencing his loss to Chase Sexton in the heat. “And honestly, I was just beat down after that heat race and was searching quite a bit and was basically losing speed everywhere. I just rode better, straight up in the Main. I felt better.”

In their heat, Sexton passed Tomac at the two-minute mark and then simply rode away from the field. At the end, he had an almost eight-second gap on Tomac.

“It wasn’t great by any means,” Sexton told Jason Thomas. “I feel like the strengths I had all day, I really lagged in the Main event between the whoop and the sand section. I think I could have walked through it faster. It was still a good ride; it wasn’t great. I expected after the heat race he would be fired up.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Jason Anderson scored his second consecutive pole, but he was not happy to finish third behind the two points’ leaders.

“We should be thankful every time we get to be up here,” Anderson said. “They’re making it tough on me, but all I can do is give my best.”

Tomac had to withstand a red flag and the distant second place finish in his heat to win the Houston Supercross race. In the post-race conference, he indicated that he did not make any changes to the bike and simply rode better.

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb rounded out the top five.

Ferrandis was fitted with a neck brace, but still able to walk to the medical cart. He was still being evaluated by the medical staff as the night came to a close.

In 250s Hunter Lawrence entered the 250 East opener as the consensus favorite to win the championship this year with Christian Craig making the move into 450s and his brother Jett Lawrence in the West division. He answered quickly with a huge lead in Heat 1, but it almost went awry in the Main.

Lawrence got a good start, but he was passed early in the race by two-time MXGP champion (2020, 2022) Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut this week. Vialle passed Lawrence on the first lap. When Lawrence tried to pass him back, Vialle scrubbed speed off a jump and pushed Lawrence wide, over the Tuff Blox.

Championships are made out of Lawrence’s response. He kept his composure and did not overcorrect before methodically working his way to the front.

“We had a little off track excursion. I wasn’t sure how hard across Tom was coming so I thought I’ll just go left, but then saw that was the side of the track. Thankfully I didn’t hit the Tuff Blox and got back on track safely. … Good start; put myself in position.”

Click here for full 250 East Main Results

Making a move from the 450 class to 250s, Max Anstie had immediate success. He finished second in his heat behind Jordon Smith and lined up with a great gate pick. He had to overtake Vialle in the opening laps and lost ground on Lawrence, that cost enough time to keep him from pressing Lawrence. This is Anstie’s first podium in the United States

“Honestly, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time to come up on these steps and man it’s a great feeling. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being on this 250, I feel like an 18-year-old kid. Everyday I’m learning.”

Smith backed up his heat win with a podium finish.

“It feels good to be back up here again,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time; a lot of injuries.”

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his debut in the 250 class was not unfounded. He finished fourth in his heat to advance to directly into the Main. During the early laps, he was circling the track in a podium position until a minor mistake sent him off the box. In the closing laps, he narrowly made an aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Martin held on to round out the top five.

Vialle was running in a podium position when went down with a 1:30 left on the clock. He ended his night seventh.

Chance Hymas was also making his 250 debut and scored a top-10 in eighth.

2023 Race Recaps

Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Houston coverage

Houston by the numbers
Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list