Plan B becomes Plan A

If you think e-racing simply involves professional drivers playing Forza on their Xboxes, think again. This highly competitive, ultra-realistic form of motorsport involves all the stakes of real-life motor racing minus the threat of crumpled metal.

In the indelible words of Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan, until they’re punched in the face.”

If a world without live sport is that punch in the face, e-sports must surely be a significant plan B. 

E-Racing Simulator SVG Interior

And in just a few short weeks into self-isolation, it’s not just returning punches; it’s dropping bombs and that’s most evident in the rapid mainstream penetration of online motorsport. 

Most international race categories and/or drivers are now pivoting to provide motorsport fans a new digitised experience. Live broadcast e-sports and highly entertaining simulated racing events that would otherwise be impossible in real life are now possibleat the drop of a hat and for a fraction of the cost.  

Not that e-racing is cheap. Professional sim racing set-ups can cost tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

What you must know about e-racing is that it’s not simply playing video games.  

Using incredibly powerful simulation software capable of accurately modelling every minutia of vehicle physics, track conditions, tyre degradation and aerodynamics, along with that expensive simulator hardware, the racing experience for drivers is very challenging.  

Lacking only the seat of the pants feeling you get from real world racing, e-racing is decidedly tricky. Even accomplished racers on some of the more popularised racing platforms like Gran Turismo or Project Cars would struggle to make a full lap without crashing. Simulator use is commonplace by most race teams these days, and the accepted credibility from motorsport fans of sims as a training device brings credibility to e-sports as well.  

E-Racing Aston Martin Red Bull

The accuracy of the simulation is part of the appeal for spectators. But the real drawcard of e-racing as an alternative to genuine motorsport right now is the experimentation with the sport that would otherwise be impossible. 

Case in point: Formula 1 star, Max Verstappen competing in the recent BP Supercars All Stars E Series, or indeed those iconic Australian touring cars racing at the Silverstone or Catalunya grand prix circuits. All in the same television broadcast.  

You can pit drivers from other racing disciplines against each other, allow off-the-wall wildcard entries or fan competitors, see how drivers might handle cars from a different category, or even a whole different era. E-sports introduces diversity to the viewing experience that would be supremely difficult to replicate in real life. 

Global e-sports has seen enormous growth in the last two years. 2019 saw the sport grow 27% on the previous year with projected revenue of around US$1.8 billion. The e-sports social video platform Twitch has seen a 35% increase of traffic and numerous professional sporting leagues are using the online audience to retain and even extend corporate sponsorship amidst during the Covid-19 crisis. 

But is e-racing really any good to watch? Well, yes it lacks the danger and consequence of real racing; the skill required is therefore very different. But it also enables more dynamic driving opportunities, riskier cornering and more aggressive overtaking maneuverers. Which as a died-in-the-wool motorsport fanatic, I’m enjoying a lot.  

E-Racing Simulator SVG Interior Role Cage

It’s not a replacement for the real thing of course, but it’s a compelling and very viable bolt-on to a motorsport product like Supercars.  

It’s (comparatively) low cost, easy to initiate and with plenty of new brands looking at becoming involved e-racing could bolster the commercial viability of real-life racing.  

E-racing is a substitute, yes, but a very enjoyable one. While we could have never planned for the pandemic punch, it’s great that motorsport isn’t on the mat. Far from it in fact. 

Words by Steve Vermeulen

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