Darren Cox launches a Virtual eSport Pro Race Team
Nismo’s global motorsport director and marketing manager Darren Cox is also known as the founder of the hugely successful GT Academy “gamer to racer” program. The GT-Academy produced a whole new league of successful racing drivers such as Lucas Ordonez, Jann Mardenborough, Wolfgang Reip, Gaetan Paletou and more.
Back in October last year, and after 13 years of service, Darren Cox left the NISMO brand, and therefore also the GT Academy.
Now Darren is back with new plans to continue his creative motorsport marketing crusade. Daren Cox launched ‘eSPORT+CARS’. The last few years the growth of eSports, and its commercial value has not gone unnoticed. Darren will now attempt to build a new motorsport audience, building a bridge between the tens of thousands virtual and real motorsport fans.
To quote Darren, the aim of ‘eSPORT+CARS’. is to run a motor racing team that exists purely in the virtual world – but to the same standard of any professional ‘real world’ team.
The eSPORT+CARS Virtual Racing team is a first step in professionalizing motorsport in the virtual world, Cox said.
We want to use the team to shine a light on the huge opportunity that is virtual motorsport and we will do it by mirroring the approach of the best teams and brands in the real motorsport world.
Eventually we want to have the very best virtual drivers from around the globe, playing together across every platform, in every type of motor racing game; attending eSports events, working and competing as a team, engaging with fans as a team.
Why? Because I see it as a very exciting first step in bringing new fans to the grandstands – whether they be at eSport events or Silverstone on a wet and windy Sunday.
If you look at the broader eSport market – including first-person shooting games, fantasy strategy games, even football – you can see how effectively they have both embraced and been driven by this vast new fan base, Cox said.
Professional teams compete in global championships, driving millions of dollars worth of revenue, but more importantly in some instances, driving millions of new fans to real sport.
Research in the US shows us that the millennial generation first become engaged in football through gaming. The growth of MLS has been driven not initially by fans by going to matches and inheriting a passion for the sport, they are instead playing online and then becoming engaged with what happens in the ‘real’ professional leagues.
Darren Cox launched IDEAS+CARS last year, and since then, eSPORT+CARS team drivers have already been contesting major tournaments across multiple platforms in the console and PC gaming scene, using Forza Motorsport 6, GT Sport, rFactor and Project Cars.
We know that motorsport audiences are dwindling; we know we need something to bring the younger audience back to the sport and I firmly believe gaming can help do this,” Darren Cox said. The boom in the eSport market is recent, the trajectory upwards is huge, I want to use the eSPORT+CARS Virtual Racing Team to highlight exactly how much untapped potential there is in this for motorsport and help promote existing series in a way that the Red Bull athletes did at the dawn of extreme sports.
The Le Mans class-winning and reigning European Le Mans Series Champions Greaves Motorsport is the first named partner of eSPORT+CARS. The team seems keen to adopt the idea of developing young drivers from the virtual world and try to shape them to real world racing standards.
We have seen the professionalism of gamers first hand in the real world and as an entrepreneur I have watched the growth of eSport with great interest, Tim Greaves said.
I am excited to explore the opportunities in gaming for our current and future partners.
While most sim racing enthusiasts will applaud projects such as ‘eSPORT+CARS’, many out there raised an eyebrow looking at the choice of sim/gaming platforms. With serious simulation racing and virtual race coaching in mind, rFactor or rFactor 2 are surely up to the task.
On the other hand, console titles such as Forza Motorsport 6, GT Sport, and Project Cars are leaning more to the gaming side of racing and therefore seem far from ideal to reach a professional ‘real world’ standard.
Will this be the next big step for sim racing, a follow-up to the successful GT Academy, or is it just a new marketing tool to tap into the big business and revenue that is made within the eSports market? Time will tell.
( The included video and images feature the “Lets Race Simulation Centre” in Surrey UK. The venue boasts publicly accessible motion platforms available all year round. Back in 2015 GamerMuscle visited “Lets Race” and published an interesting video taking us on a tour around the racing-centre.)