iRacing – the next big thing?
Given the current situation, a lot of events, esports and otherwise, are severely hampered. Amidst tons of cancellations and postponed events, it seems like nothing is happening anymore – but that’s not true! Some parts of the esports world are flourishing – well, in a way, at least.
The poster child for this is the iRacing world. Although racing esports are nothing new, they aren’t usually the headliners of the esports world – not with shooters and MOBA titles there to take the spotlight.
Change in venue
Now, however, they are making waves – by being one of the only industries that are still going. There are several racing events gaining considerable attention. eNASCAR, F1 and the MotoGP have all found a huge influx in participants and fans. This is because they’ve now merged with their real-world counterparts.
More and more drivers are joining the esports leagues for competitions – and their real-world skills don’t necessarily transfer very well. With players connecting from their living rooms, things are different from what we’re used to, but no less fun.
F1 seems fun
Last weekend saw an F1 competition unlike any other. Instead of a real life Grand Prix, current racers participated in an online tournament to match. The winner was Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who won his debut tournament. Perhaps more entertaining though was McLaren’s Lando Norris, whose performance didn’t go as planned.
In fact, it didn’t go at all – he was disconnected before the start and had to watch the competition on Twitch. It’s not the first time he’s struggled – in his first competition two weeks ago, he also struggled. Now he uninstalled the game live on his Twitch feed.
Another racing event that took place over the weekend was the Bristol Motor Speedway eNASCAR race. It was won by William Byron – after leading the most laps in the first three races he participated in, he managed to beat John Hunter Nemechek, Timmy Hill and Denny Hamlin for the first spot. Byron also won the first heat, while Nemechek won the second heat.
The real highlight wasn’t the actual race though – it was the behaviour of one of the racers. Bubba Wallace ragequit the match part way through and later callously tweeted about it… only to be dropped by a Blue Emu – a sponsor, with a pretty good burn because of his behavior.
GTK where you stand. Bye bye Bubba. We're interested in drivers, not quitters.
— Blue-Emu (@BlueEmu1) April 5, 2020
The MotoGP – another popular race event – will be back this week with another race. On April 12th, the annual Easter race will mark the 2nd virtual race this season. The first one took place on the Mugello circuit, and it saw the racers struggle quite a bit – Alex Marquez won, and he was just about the only racer who actually would have completed that race. The rest of the racers crashed – a lot.
It remains to be seen whether this one will be any different. The next race is happening on the Red Bull Ring – in the real world, that track hosts the Austrian Grand Prix. For now, the Easter event will only happen virtually – and we don’t know who the participants are yet, either.
The line-up will be announced in the next few days, so stay tuned for more info on the event.
A future for sports?
The combination of real-life racers and video game competitions seems to be an odd one at a glance, yet so far, it’s worked surprisingly well. As a matter of fact, it’s the perfect way to combine two existing yet separate fanbases – those that enjoy traditional racing and those that enjoy the virtual kind.
Additionally, esports fans whose favourite events have been cancelled are also drawn to these streams – after all, there isn’t an awful lot going on otherwise, what with most of the world in lockdown. Whether these leagues will be able to keep up the interest when everything goes back to normal remains to be seen – for now, iRacing is showing itself to be a fun way to pass the time.
Several racing leagues have already promised they would keep up these tournaments while everything is shut down, so if you haven’t managed to catch a race yet but want to, there is still time to do so!