Sim racing has been a staple of the video games industry since the release of Gran Turismo back on the Playstation. Nowadays, there are several titles that offer ultra-realistic experiences in a huge variety of racing cars that have been modelled exactly on the real thing. The rise of sim racing as an esport began at the 2017 edition of CES, where the Vegas eRace took place. A mixture of Formula E drivers competed against some of the world’s best sim racers for a share of a $1 million prize pool. Finnish sim racer Bono Huis took home the victory, earning himself $225,000 and a chance to drive a real Formula E car. Since this event, sim racing has gone from strength to strength.
Since the Vegas eRace, there have been notable figures from both gaming and motorsport enter the space. Most recently, G2 esports joined forces with two-time Formula One champion, Fernando Alonso and formed FA Racing G2. An elite team of sim racers competing on iRacing, Project Cars 2 and DiRT 4. The new organisation is set to take on the established rosters of TTL esports and Team Redline in a plethora of sim racing titles, hosting events throughout the year.
With the involvement of G2 and Alonso, it is more than likely that more organisations will enter into the space. Perhaps with another iconic name from the motorsport world.
Sim racing is now a serious business for several top motorsport teams. Last year, Dutch racer Rudy Van Buren was crowned the World’s Fastest Gamer and secured himself a one-year contract as the simulation driver for the McLaren Formula One team. This is not the first instance of a gamer becoming a real racing driver. Current Nismo GT3 driver, Jann Mardenborough won the GT Academy after setting some blistering lap times on Gran Turismo 5.
Recently, Microsoft announced the return of the Forza Racing Championship. With over $250,000 in prize money, the series is set to be the biggest sim racing championship to date. After two stages, the top 24 Forza Motorsport 7 racers will compete at the season ending world championship, taking place in October.
Codemasters have also got involved with esports over the past 12 months. Since partnering with the FIA, F1 2017 played host to the inaugural F1 Esports Series and more recently, the DiRT World Championship. EA have also entered the market with their mobile racer, Real Racing 3, being used as the official game for the eRace. This particular series runs alongside the Formula E season and sees gamers and Formula E drivers battle it out to be crowned the winner.
The beauty of sim racing as an esport is that there are several games to compete on. Whether you are a hardcore rally enthusiast or a lover of F1, there is a game for you to compete on. The likes of Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport and iRacing all have their respective championships and the level of competition could not be any closer.
The amount of investment from these large developers is something that cannot be ignored. It is only a matter of time for sim racing to be considered as a top esport, and, with more people taking an interest in the scene, it is set to expand at a rapid rate.