The world is in the state of lockdown. The pandemic put a stop to all large and small social gatherings in many countries. And professional sports events are in their core large social gatherings that take place regularly during the whole year. So yes, professional sports events took an indefinite hiatus all over the world. And there’s no definite answer when all those competitions will continue. While this means the complete shutdown of most professional sports, racing can go virtual without any consequences.
Most sports videogames are played with controllers. They demand a completely different set of skills than real sports. You can imagine LeBron James getting swooped in NBA2K or Leo Messi getting his ass handed to him in a game of FIFA 20 by anonymous 18-year olds who are very good at playing video games. But racing? That’s different. Sure, you can play racing games with a controller, and that can be lots of fun. But, if you’re into sim racing, the wheel is the way to go. Add to that realistic physics and handling present in top tier racing simulators and you have a realistic version of one of the most popular sports in the world. A virtual version that demands the same skill as real racing. This is why some of the most popular racing competitions moved to virtual racetracks.
These competitions gather both the sim and real-life racers and they both are competitive driving cars around virtual tracks. This shows just how hard sim racing is. It also shows that if you have the skills to be a champion in virtual esports racing events, you can hold your ground against those who compete in real-life races each weekend. It’s basically the same. A wheel, set of pedals, and a ton of skill, focus, and patience. Knowledge about how each car behaves on the track and the ability to use that knowledge to your advantage. The only major variable not present in sim racing is the effect of G-Force. But even without G-Force effects sim driving can be as demanding as the real deal. The audience acknowledged that, showing that virtual racing events can be quite popular and as exciting as real ones.
Nürburgring Endurance Series Brings Endurance Racing to eSports
Another member of the growing eRacing professional racing championship is the Nürburgring Endurance Series. The digital version of the endurance series gathered many drivers, both from real and virtual tracks. The first race was an astounding success. The excitement of endurance racing transferred perfectly to iRacing, prompting organizers to continue with the eSports series.
The second race gathered even more teams. The Giti Tires all-female racing team managed to snag top-ten finish in their class in their Giti liveried Audi RS3 LMS TCR. Other classes saw a mixture of real-life and sim racers on the podium, further proving that eRacing is the only sport where those who drive on real and those who drive on digital tracks can clash on equal terms.
Formula 1 Virtual Gran Prix Reinstated Fading Interest in the Sport
Formula 1 is seeing a steady decline in viewership for years now. The most exciting racing sport of them all wasn’t in the best place before the start of the 2020 season. And then the whole pandemic chaos came and the situation became even worse. But then the decision has been made to organize a virtual F1 competition. The inaugural race didn’t see real-life drivers but it was a ton of fun. Best of all, it reached incredible viewership numbers.
The absence of real-life drivers was justifiable. They had to adjust to the F1 2019 video game, where the Virtual Gran Prix takes place. But the second race brought six F1 drivers along with several former racers. And it was even better than the first race. Having time to prepare, F1 racers were competitive. Leclerc won and the event had lots of interesting moments.
The next race, taking place on April 19th, will see fewer real drivers but we are sure it will be a fun watch. While the F1 season might start in Austria at the start of July, the Virtual Gran Prix will keep the viewers entertained until that happens. And by the looks of it, the Virtual Gran Prix could expand F1’s fading audience numbers.
NASCAR Break Viewership Records After Moving to Digital Racetracks
The second top tier racing championship to sail into virtual waters is NASCAR. The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series gathered a number of NASCAR stars and sim racing pros. The simulator where racing is taking place is iRacing, probably the most advanced racing simulator available to the broad audience we have today. And results are even better than with the F1 Virtual Gran Prix.
The first race broke all TV audience records when it comes to eSports events. The race was exciting and didn’t differ much from the real thing. And it seems fans loved it. Their interest was even greater for the second race, which had even bigger numbers. The numbers were so high FOX Sports decided to broadcast all remaining eSports races. Despite some incidents, it seems the virtual NASCAR championship is a real hit among fans.
Formula E is the Latest Racing Series to Launch eRacing Season
Another racing series decided to launch the official sim racing championship. Formula E, the racing championship that takes place in vehicles powered by electric engines, will launch a racing series spanning over nine weeks. The difference between Formula E virtual championship and other events we mentioned is that this one won’t have sim and real-life racers racing together.
Instead, each weekend there will be two separate events. One for Formula E standard racers and one for professional sim racers. That’s not what we like to see but at least the winner of the pro sim championship will have the chance to compete in the real-world Formula E championship, once it continues.
Races will take place in rFactor 2, another advanced simulation platform, and will be quite different than ones taking place in real life. In virtual races, each new lap will see the driver on the last place eliminated. Once only ten drivers remain, they will drive the final lap with points being awarded just to those ten finalists. This seems interesting and we can’t wait to see it in practice.