This esports series was the highlight of early 2020
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This esports series was the highlight of early 2020

For the entirety of the 2020 motorsport shutdown, the All-Star Series by The Race attracted the attention of professional drivers, sim racers and even legends of motorsport. Will we ever see it return?

Image credit: The Race

Formula One is returning this weekend to the delight of many, and thankfully we won’t find ourselves in the same situation we did two years ago. On the eve of the 2020 Australian Grand Prix, the COVID outbreak caused the season to be delayed until the beginning of July.

In that period, an explosion of interest in sim racing happened and we had plenty of drivers from the real world taking it up. There were two sets of events that set the precedent. One was ‘ Not The Aus GP which featured who streamed it on Twitch and became the most concurrently-viewed F1 stream at that time.

The other, though, was the All-Star Esports Battle by The Race, which got many drivers from the real and virtual worlds to compete together. Not to be confused with the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup’s All-Star races which feature mainly sim racing content creators, or the Australian Supercars All-Star Eseries that you see the real world Aussie Supercar drivers compete in. This was a true All-Star series by the true definition of the term.

Even when the likes of F1, IndyCar, Formula E and so many more real world championships got involved in hosting some virtual racing action of their own, they still could not hold a candle to the All-Star Series with the level of high profile talent that got involved.

Who competed in the All-Star Series?

In just the first event alone, the likes of Max Verstappen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Felix Rosenqvist and Simon Pagenaud were just some of the many big names in the real world scene that participated. Then from the virtual world, there was Brendon Leigh, Rudy van Buren, James Baldwin, Bono Huis and even Jimmy Broadbent.

But from there, it only got bigger and better. More pros and sim racers got involved, and so did long-retired legends of motorsport. This included the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Dario Franchitti and also Fernando Alonso. Even Sebastian Vettel who famously had always stayed away from sim racing but made his only appearance in one of the rounds.

The way it worked at first was there were separate races for each set of drivers (pro and sim racers) which acted as heats. The top drivers after those races progressed into a final with a repechage last chance race also allowing the top placed drivers to progress through. The Legends races was treated independently of the other races. For the last few events though, it became two races each for all sets of drivers with the second race utilising a reverse grid.

The series became so popular, it even attracted the attention of automotive brands who previously would have had no major interest in the virtual racing world. These included Aston Martin, Bentley, Mercedes, Hyundai and the Venturi Formula E team. Not only that, but you also had YouTube content creator Aidan Millward competing alongside the pros regularly and he ended up winning one of the races against the likes of Bruno Spengler and Juan Manuel Correa.

Every weekend from the date of the cancelled Australian Grand Prix to the week before the new F1 season opener in Austria (barring the second week in June when the inaugural 24 hours of Le Mans Virtual was held), the All-Star Series raced consistently with the biggest names in the entire motorsport world.

You would look forward to the Saturday to see Jack Nichols, Jolyon Palmer and Matt ‘Sadokist’ Trivett on your screens to bring you the biggest names in both real and virtual racing and it provided immense action until F1 returned. It was implied on the final broadcast that it was to make a return after the 2020 F1 season ended, but it never did. Why is that?

Serving its purpose

It’s obvious that when sim racing was the only option, it would get all the headlines and all the big name drivers would compete. Like many big name events that took place in that time, it only ever existed to fill a void so maybe it’s no surprise that it never came back, but surely it would have made sense to run it during the off season, right?

A series that is reliant on the participation of pro drivers often has to cope with a few hurdles when it comes to getting those drivers to participate. Because even when the F1 season ends, it’s not like the rest of the racing world grinds to a halt. Plus, you rarely see the Grand Prix drivers doing these events, it’s mainly sportscar drivers.

For example, many drivers are competing in the likes of the Dubai 24 hours and Daytona 24 hours in January and then in February, there’s the Race of Champions and traditionally the Bathurst 12 hours (which is taking place in May this year). Not to mention also the virtual racing that goes on during this time like the Daytona and Bathurst iRacing Special Events, and now the 24 hours of Le Mans Virtual and the VCO Esports Racing World Cup.

Plus, even when you don’t factor in all these events that supposedly take place during the “off season” which may keep plenty of drivers busy, there’s the other side of the coin. A lot of drivers probably don’t want to spend their free time during the off season doing these events if they don’t have to.

A prime example of a series that relies on the participation of pro drivers and is a sort of spiritual successor to the All-Star Series is the VCO ProSIM Series. They ran their first season from November 2020 to March 2021, and as a result of that, a lot of their drivers couldn’t compete when they had to prepare for a real life race.

They rectified that for season two when all the events ran in November, although a major influx of drivers couldn’t make the first event due to the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship taking priority. So how could the All-Star Series make a comeback in this new age of simracing and real racing?

Could it return?

The F1 season ends in late November this year rather than running into December like it has done the last few years, so there’s probably a chance in December to run a few events. The only major events to be avoided would include the likes of the F1 Esports grand final and the penultimate round of the Le Mans Virtual Series.

If The Race, or whoever is now responsible for this series were to bring it back, maybe it could be ran on a weekday instead of the weekend. For the sake of argument let’s go with Monday. The first round could take place on 5 December 2022 and run for the next two weeks until 19 December, the week of Christmas Day. After that, the series could have a week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day and not resume until early January.

Then, there could perhaps be a run of another two rounds from 2 January with the last round taking place in the week leading up to the date of the 24 hours of Le Mans Virtual which is likely to be held at the Autosport International show. Maybe the grand finale could even be held on the Le Mans circuit to serve as a taster for the 24 hour race that weekend, since a lot of the drivers will be competing.

If you missed the All-Star Series, there’s a playlist on YouTube you can find of all the broadcasts. We highly recommend watching the racing, as it was truly a golden age of racing action and hopefully there’s a way to bring it back.

Would you like the All-Star Series to return? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

Luca
Biggest esports racing fan in the world.