New Zealand’s Nick Cassidy will join Envision Virgin Racing regular Robin Frijns this weekend as the duo take part in Formula E’s inaugural esports competition, ‘Race at Home Challenge’ in support of UNICEF’s global COVID-19 campaign.

The 25-year-old was one of the team’s official rookie drivers taking part in the Marrakesh in-season test earlier this year – in which he finished quickest overall setting a new lap record. Cassidy will take the place of Sam Bird who is unable to participate for the opening events due to technical issues.

Following the temporary postponement of the all-electric race series amid the coronavirus outbreak, championship organisers have created a virtual series allowing Formula E drivers to compete safely wherever they are in the world. Running in parallel will also be a separate sim races tournament with players competing for money can’t buy prizes.

Using the highly realistic rFactor 2 software, often found in professional simulators, the drivers will compete across a nine-week series in a ‘race royale’ style format and will feature touches such as live commentary from Dario Franchitti and Jack Nicholls. Fans will be able to follow all the action via Formula E’s website, Facebook page, Facebook Gaming site, Twitch and YouTube channels, as well as the Envision Virgin Racing’s driver’s own Twitch channels, starting with a pre-season test event on Saturday, 18 April from 15:30 (BST).

Nick Cassidy said: “Following the successful test in Marrakesh I’ve kept in close contact with the team and I’m really excited to be able to support them as a sim racer for the start of the upcoming series. Esports have grown massively in recent months and I’ve been fortunate enough to have competed in a few races already, it’s an extremely competitive environment and highlights the skill needed to compete. It’s great to be back in the world of Formula E – whilst in the comfort of my own home – and I’m hoping to bring in a strong point haul for Envision Virgin Racing.”

Dutchman, Robin Frijns: “This will be my first chance to try sim racing and I’m really excited! I’ve seen a lot of my peers competing in different races over the last few weeks so it’s great to be involved now, I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch-up quickly. With no sport happening at the moment it’s great to give our fans, and partners, something to enjoy whilst having as many current Formula E drivers competing as possible. The prize money going to UNICEF is a fantastic initiative from the championship too and one that I’m fully behind – anything we can do to aid charities during this pandemic is hugely important.”

Sylvain Filippi, Envision Virgin Racing’s Managing Director: “It’s great to have Nick joining Robin to complete the Envision Virgin Racing esports team for the upcoming races, he proved just how quick he was on-track at the rookie test and I know he’s been successfully competing in some other sim races recently so I’m really positive heading into this weekend. Whilst Sam [Bird] won’t be able to drive for us in the first few races – due to technical issues – he will be hopefully joining the team later in the series. I think it’s a great initiative from Formula E and one we’re excited to be involved in, particularly the partnership with UNICEF which is incredibly important during this pandemic.”

Sam Bird, Envision Virgin Racing driver, said: “I’m disappointed to not be able to compete in the first few rounds of the Formula E esports series but I’m really excited to be supporting the team from home and can’t wait for my opportunity to jump into the driving seat further down-the-line.”