Sim racing and traditional racing can go hand in hand, as the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series showed. But how does it feel as a driver to compete in both?
Photo credit: GT World Challenge Europe Twitter
The Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series united the worlds of virtual and traditional racing more than any other series before it had done. Professional drivers in the GT World Challenge Europe got to compete in special esports rounds held on Assetto Corsa Competitzione, where they could earn points to add to their overall standings. As a news page all about sim racing, we at OverTake loved to hear this news – but how well did this unique format actually catch on? We asked four talented GT World Challenge Europe drivers who participated in the esports series about their experience: Kelvin van der Linde from Team WRT, Nico Bastian, Daniel Juncadella, and Maro Engel from Haupt Racing Team.
The best of both worlds in one series!
The initial reaction of all four drivers to the announcement of the unique format was positive. According to Nico Bastian: “It’s great to combine both worlds! Not only because of the Corona-break in the racing world – sim racing got a mega boost and boom. The races are as spectacular and fascinating as the real races we are used to”. Kelvin added that while he had doubts regarding some of the rules at first, he thought it was a great initiative by SRO to do something which had never been done before.
When asked how the four talents saw the general reception from other drivers and from the viewers, a topic on which they were also in unison. It seems like everyone approved of not only the idea but also the execution, however some areas were still open for improvement. “As we know from SRO, they put on a great show”, said Maro Engel.
Titles won’t just be won on track this weekend: the @fanatec Esports GT Pro Series also concludes in Barcelona’s paddock where three teams remain in Silver Championship contention…— GT World Challenge Europe (@GTWorldChEu) October 8, 2021
RACE: @AC_assettocorsa Competizione#SROesports | #beACC 🎮 pic.twitter.com/eU9iIpPRak
However, one such area of improvement would be the application of penalties, as many drivers were crashing into each other. Of course, the collisions were not purposeful, and resulted from the different field of vision and input in the sim compared to real life. But as Nico Bastian stated, as there are real points and price money on the line there should be real penalties to go with them. Kelvin also added that the execution itself was fantastic and unique, but that he would have liked to see more restriction on aspects such as practice time. This would “level the playing field a bit more for those that did not have the facilities to prepare for the events”.
Daniel Juncadella commented that he would have preferred iRacing as racing platform over Assetto Corsa Competizione as he considers it to be the more professional competitive platform. He also argued that a different timetable would be beneficial as the drivers at sometimes had to do the virtual race just a few hours before the actual race. “That caused all sorts of headaches…”. Maro Engel also made a quite interesting comment relating to this. He mentioned that, while it is really close to real world driving, there are still differences – so it was a challenge to re-adapt to real world driving after the excursion to the virtual track.
But which one’s the real lap?!@followWRT‘s @KelvinvdLinde gave us a personal tour of Monza ahead of Saturday’s @fanatec Esports GT Pro Series race.— GT World Challenge Europe (@GTWorldChEu) April 21, 2021
🎮 @AC_assettocorsa Competizione#GTWorldChEu | #SROesports pic.twitter.com/ypwGJ1dAKD
Paving the road for others to follow?
While the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series seems to have been quite the success and a great first step for merging traditional and virtual racing, the big question remains: Was this just an exceptional and experimental adventure or could this concept find its way into other racing series? According to our four interviewees, there is indeed a good chance of the latter occurring. All four of them see the potential in this format and the possibilities of supporting sim racers. Maro Engel explained that the two worlds are moving closer and closer together, which might result in even more drivers from sim racing moving into real racing. He further stated: “The great thing about sim racing is you give access to motorsports to many more people”.
We agree with that sentiment, and so does Daniel Juncadella who sees even greater potential. He also thinks it’s a good move to combine the two worlds and adds that not only should real drivers get to race virtually, but we should also get sim racers to race in real cars. For his, he suggests a bonus event “where we do a stint virtually, and they do their stint on the track”. Nico Bastian stated that he would like to see sim racing pros join the races to make them even more competitive.
Kelvin approved of the idea of implementing sim racing into other traditional series as well, but he argued that the concept should not be overdone. He explained that as the pandemic put a massive spotlight on esports, a lot of brands began to overdo their involvement, in his eyes. This led to comparisons between a driver’s abilities and their skill during sim racing, which he felt was unfair. Kelvin further stated that he thinks a great alternative to keep all parties happy is to use the concept F1 is using, where esports drivers are given a chance to shine as their series runs parallel to the real racers who could focus on their events.
How do you like the concept and would you like to see it in other motorsports series? Tell us on Twitter at @overtake_gg or in the comments down below!