Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

As we all get used to this new reality of working from home and social isolation, many people will be seeking distractions to take their minds off the worst global public health crisis since the H1N1 pandemic more than a century ago. That’s made a little more difficult with the cancellation of just about every televised sporting event, but perhaps in the age of coronavirus, esports can step in and fill that void. On Sunday, we got a taste of how that could work as professional racers from F1, IndyCar and other series took things digitally, drawing huge crowds on YouTube and Twitch.

Sunday was going to be a big race day. If we weren’t experiencing a terrifying pandemic, my plan was to start the morning with Formula 1, which would kick off the 2020 season with the Australian Grand Prix. F1 had already postponed a race in China to take place in April, while the Bahrain Grand Prix (scheduled for March 22) was to take place without spectators. Then, on the eve of the Australian event, the McLaren team announced that one of its team members had tested positive for COVID-19. What followed was highly undignified as Formula 1, the race promoter and regional government all tried to hide from their responsibilities to the public, before finally bowing to the inevitable and canceling the event, even as fans lined up to get in. to come.

Sunday afternoon was dominated by watching the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, which would be the start of the 2020 IndyCar season. As fears about the corona virus increased in recent weeks, IndyCar had decided to let the event pass without spectators. but she too had to face reality and announced last week that March and April racing would be postponed.

Esports to the rescue

And yet on Sunday we still saw drivers like F1’s young phenom Max Verstappen and IndyCar champion (and very nice guy) Simon Pagenaud, among others, on the starting grid to do battle. Only, instead of doing it in real cars, they raced in front of screens. That was up to the folks at The Race, a new online motorsport publication, which hosted the All-Star Esports Battle.

The event took place with the help of rFactor 2 and featured three qualifying races, with the top eight from each advancing to the final. The first was for professional drivers from physical series such as the aforementioned F1 and IndyCar, as well as Formula E, the World Endurance Championship, the British Touring Car Championship and others. The second qualifying race was for professional esports racers such as Rudy van Buren (who won McLaren’s World’s Fastest Gamer competition), Bono Huis (who won the million-dollar Las Vegas eRace in Formula E), and Brendon Leigh, winner of the inaugural esports championship of F1, while the third was filled with rFactor 2 expert players who made it through the day before in an open qualifier event.

rFactor 2 is a notoriously difficult racing sim to master, so it was probably unsurprising that the closest race to the third qualifying event and the winner of the big race, Jernej Simončič, was out of this group. came. That also applied to the second driver Kevin Siggy, with Van Buren in third. The highest-placed pro racer was IndyCar’s Felix Rosenqvist, who also earned that accolade at Formula E’s big money event in 2017. “I am honored to have participated in the greatest sim racing event in history. I would have known that.” that I have good chances to make it to the final with my open-wheel experience from the Formula Simracing series, but to be at the very top is unreal,” Simončič told The Race. “Hopefully this is the first of many such major events.”

Later in the day, Veloce Esports held Not the Australian GP, ​​which used to be F1 2019 as a platform and with F1 drivers Lando Norris, Esteban Gutierrez and Stoffel Vandoorne racing alongside racers, including many participating in F1’s official esports series. Here too, gamers led the way, with victory going to Daniel Bereznay, who took second in F1’s 2018 esports championship.

Yes, That Dale Jr.

The day concluded with the Replacements 100, a NASCAR race hosted by Podium eSports that took place in iRacing† This event probably had the biggest name of the weekend, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. who participated. Earnhardt Jr was joined by Chad Knaus, the crew chief behind Jimmy Johnson’s seven championships, as well as numerous current NASCAR racers, including Bubba Wallace, Justin Allgaier, Alex Bowman and William Byron. That event was won by Josh Williams, whose day job is the spotter for NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney.

The fact that dedicated esports racers dominated, particularly in the first two events, wasn’t particularly surprising. After all, being good at a particular racing sim is a skill like any other, and experience at this level cannot be replaced. What was perhaps even more surprising was how popular the events were. The All-Star Esports Battle attracted more than half a million viewers on YouTube, and Not the Australian GP racked up more than 350,000 views. Both claimed to top the charts of Twitch streams. The Replacements 100 does not appear to have been shown on YouTube, but attracted more than 71,000 viewers on Twitch.

As there are no physical racing events on the calendar in the coming weeks, more events are planned, and the success of these events will no doubt convince more stars of the sport to take place. Much of NASCAR’s national popularity is attributed to the 1979 Daytona 500, which aired when much of the East Coast was bored, trapped at home by a snowstorm. Perhaps COVID-19 will prove to be a similar turning point for esports.

List image by The Race

By akfire1

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