Ever since ETCR was announced, I was thinking about which drivers should be competing, and also had a couple of drivers I really wished for to compete.
Now that Cupra has confirmed Mattias Ekstrom and Jordi Gene, I'm going to shortlist a couple of drivers I think would probably do a good job in PURE ETCR, deciding factors being their racecraft, prior electric racing experience, racing in sprint races and touring car racing experience.
For those that maybe don't know PURE ETCR technical concept is based on four or five door production touring cars, with an electric motor with 300 KW of continuous power and 500 KW max power that equals 680 bhp. Cars will be rear-wheel driven with a single gear and a 65KW battery. These cars will race in short sprint races of 8 to 10 km distance in Rallycross battle race format.
Also, the Rallycross-ish format of PURE ETCR will also make it a very interesting competition and will demand precision, speed, and a lot of controlled aggression. Because of that, drivers like Ekstrom, who has done Rallycross and also DTM, will know how to work their way around PURE ETCR sprint races.
1. Stefano Comini
Stefano is a true hardcore racer. Two time TCR International series champion, he would probably find it easy to adapt to the cockpit of an electric TCR car. Once electric TCR was launched as an idea, I have read an article about Comini saying he would like to be a pioneer of Electric racing, and I was on board immediately because in that time he has started his Race Republic brand, with completely bonkers design and colors, that looked really aggressive and a bit Sci-Fi, and I could almost immediately connect him and that branding with ETCR concept. Also his racecraft will probably be put to its limits in commanding the PURE ETCR car, because when the conditions are challenging Stefano always displays some badass driving. He is now working on his Race Republic Academy where he is tutoring drivers, so in that respect he will probably be a great team-mate to have.
2. Nelson Piquet Jr.
Nelsinho is a driver that needs no introduction. When you look at his racing CV, three things stand out - obviously Formula 1, but when looking at the sort of races that will be contested in PURE ETCR, Piquet Jr. has competed in Formula E, where he was the first champion, so he knows a thing or two about electric racing, and he has experience of racing in multiple Rallycross championships, so the format of competition will be familiar to him, and he will probably find it easy to be competitive. That said, racing open wheel cars probably comes more natural to him, but he would probably be a great contender in PURE ETCR. Also a very important factor that comes with having a driver of this caliber on your grid is additional media presence, which is very important for a brand new championship, so having Nelsinho would probably be a very good thing.
3. Jean-Karl Vernay
Another great champion, with great knowledge of TCR machinery and a fierce competitor in his own right, "J. K." will definitely enrich the grid of a championship like PURE ETCR with his unique charisma and approach. From a couple of opportunities to interview the 2017 TCR champion, I figured out that he knows how to approach most bad situations calmly and also doesn't fall back from a good fight on track. The "X" on his helmet comes from his karting days when he was supporting Fisichella (Trulli and Jos Verstappen). He is very technical, knows how to apply his own or the knowledge given to him by his engineers and adapt, so I think that could make him a great competitor. Something interesting is that he has experience of Indycar, so he knows how to approach racing closely at high speeds. All-round a knowledgeable and fierce racer.
4. Jose Maria Lopez
Lopez comes home! Since PURE ETCR is promoted by Eurosport Events, Lopez could return to the people who were at the helm when he was winning regularly in WTCC. All the ingredients are there - he has Formula E experience, and also his turing car racing days, so he has more-less the perfect skill set to be competing in PURE ETCR. Races driven in the World Endurance Championship will probably also be a valuable experience when tackling a complex car such will be the one in PURE ETCR. Sprint races and close contact racing will be something he would have to get used to again, and he would be a great competitor.
5. Abbie Eaton
Most people will probably recognize this British female racer from her driving on the popular Amazon Prime show, The Grand Tour, where she was entitled as the test driver and drove all the cars for the power lap board. When looking at her racing CV you will find interesting championships, but again more-less all the different qualities that could be right for PURE ETCR. She has driven the electric Jaguar I-Pace which is sort of an electric touring car, and also she has the experience of racing in the TitansRX which is a rallycross championship, so she could be an interesting option for this championship. This year she showed great talent in the preparation period for the all-female racing championship, W Series, where she will race in open-wheel single-seater, so her speed and focus are as ready as they can be.
That would be my top 5 picks, but some of the more interesting names to also consider could be Johan Kristoffersson, Rob Huff, Loic Duval, Nico Muller and Katherine Legge.