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