With the motorsport season on hiatus, online racing has come to the fore. Darren Cox lays out his plan to future-proof the genre, even once the real-world events have resumed.
Never before has the world of virtual racing had such interest taken in it. With real-world racing in shut-down across the globe, fans and drivers have turned to the world of Esports racing in a way that they never have before.
At Torque Esports, the team did a phenomenal job to put The Race All-Star Esports Battle together in little more than 72 hours, and a live audience of over 500,000 and way over a million views all in, demonstrated that people will watch virtual racing if you have a good, credible product.
Together with the Veloce’s ‘Not the Australian GP’ event that also took place last weekend, this was a watershed moment. Since then, NASCAR, IMSA, IndyCar and now Formula 1 have entered the arena with their own take on virtual racing.
But while this increased exposure is great for the business of virtual racing, it is also important that those of us who are endemic to the sport do our bit to ensure the wellbeing of the community.
Virtual racing is not a new thing – in fact, it’s been around for decades – supported by a solid and loyal base of competitors and teams. It is vital that this community is not swept away in the landgrab for eyeballs as empty schedules need filling.
This is why we paid an appearance fee to all the pro gamers who appeared in the All-Star race yesterday. And it’s why we will continue to match Esports pros with real-world stars as the All-Star series of races grows and develops.
It also makes me wonder why Formula 1 has so far made no mention of the F1 Esport racers that the teams have spent the past three seasons investing in and developing as part of its latest virtual offering.
There is no way of knowing when real-world racing will resume, and the situation as we see it now will likely last for months. The isolation will take its toll on some people and ensuring the wellbeing of the community is key.
The events themselves provide a mental stimulus and personal interaction that will become increasingly important, but we will also encourage the real-world stars with huge social followings to reach out to their fan base with dietary and exercise tips.
I have already reached out to Rupert Svenson-Cook at Veloce, Dom Duhan at rFactor and Team Redline and rights holders from the big real-world series including F1 with the suggestion of forming the Esports Racing Alliance [ERA]. This would be a loose coalition – no committees, no leaders – that would work together for the benefit of the community.
As well as looking after the interests – financial and physical – of the community, this group would also oversee the scheduling of events to avoid clashes and implement a level of cost control.
While I firmly believe that the dial has been moved in terms of the validity of virtual racing as a standalone sport, we have to be mindful of what might happen when on-track racing returns and ensure that virtual racing is left in a strong and stable position and not left trawling through the pieces of an over-inflated burst bubble.