This weekend in Las Vegas at the CES show, home to the Consumer Technology Association, brands and businesses from all over the world will be exhibiting their designs and creations which will be available for the consumer in the near future. These innovative pieces of technology includes Faraday Future, a title sponsor to the Formula E Dragon Racing team, and their first car – an electric, self-driving, self-parking beauty that can accelerate from 0-60mph in 2.39 seconds.
As well as the technology on show, the FIA Formula E championship will also be very present at the event. CEO Alejandro Agag and FIA President Jean Todt will be involved in panel talks in which questions will be asked in how the sport can continue to grow and interact with fans of the future, all whilst using tech to help and guide that journey. In addition to the talks and promotion of the all-electric championship, Formula E will also be hosting the biggest simulation race the world has ever seen. 30 individuals racing for a share of an $1 million prize fund, 20 professional full-time Formula E drivers and ten of the best international sim racers. But what is simulation racing and what will its future look like?
“Probably every Motorsport fan at least once dreamt about becoming a racing driver but of course that world is only for the chosen ones,” Lukáš Redl of Virtual GP tells me. “Luckily, there comes video games. It’s like in football when you are not exactly the biggest talent, you can buy a FIFA video game and play it at home, with friends. You can buy either an arcade game, which is just for fun, or you can get serious and enter the world of sim-racing.
“That requires a certain dedication as the main emphasis lies on an accurate physical model and you will spend many spend hours just by learning how to drive the car. Don’t forget that these simulators are virtually the same to those used by F1 teams. Forget the mechanical arms and moving seats and focus on the simulating software itself – it shares the same core with the sim racing video games that you can buy for £30!”
Although sim-racing and video games have been around since the dawn of the arcade machine, it hasn’t been taken seriously until the last decade or so. A spike in popularity during the 1990s meant that sim-racing started to make its way into the mainstream and the craze soon caught on.
“There was a boom of sim racing games and racing games in general in the 90s, series like Grand Prix or Gran Turismo on the more serious side. However sim racers had to wait until 2005 for the first truly realistic experience. That’s when rFactor was released, followed by iRacing a couple of years later. These two sim racing video games have become leaders in the industry with very accurate physical models.”
So with sim-racing beginning to receive positive recognition in motorsport, championships soon began to appear within the motorsport community.
“The sim-racing community is the most important factor in championships. There are competitions held by game publishers and developers in Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo or Project CARS but it is hard to get sponsors as there is not much you can offer them. Then there are commercial-based championship with a high level of professionalism, big prize money and sponsors involved. iRacing has probably the best sim racing drivers in the world at the moment with a lot of worldwide championships despite a lot of focus on NASCAR-based events for the US sim-racers, in addition to rFactor and Assetto Corsa which are trying to become a pioneer for sim racing in the world of eSports.”
“The industry is growing rapidly and people keep looking for new opportunities and new challenges. Sim racing is right there, ready to be grabbed by them!”