2020 has been a weird year to say the least. The ongoing global pandemic has affected millions of people, businesses, and organisations in a way, never seen since the last world war. With a few exceptions, not much good has come of this international crisis.
That said, one of the exceptions to the rule is Sim Racing. Due to the pandemic restrictions racing promoters all over the world were unable to organize real-racing events, and therefore embraced the popularity, and sponsorship opportunities floating around in the world of online gaming.
In order to survive, and try to generate some visibility for the various series sponsors, many racing organizations temporarily reverted to the virtual form of racing. While prior to the pandemic, a handful of real-life professional racing drivers already embraced sim racing, as a form of a training tool to hone their craft, many felt forced to trade in their petrol-powered speed monster for a sim rig powered by a computer. Clearly, some liked it, but most did not.
That said, engaging real-world racing drivers in an online racing simulation was the start of what can be called a vicious circle. With the show element of having real racing stars compete in the virtual world, sim racing as a whole became even more popular. This in its turn triggered the interest of the business world, who became aware of the fact that sim racing has some very interesting untapped financial and marketing opportunities. The sim racing industry in its turn, saw an opportunity to get involved with real world brands and racing promotors, and seized the moment trying to convince the business world that sim racing is the next big thing.
So here we are in 2021. The SRO Motorsports Group which promotes most of the biggest real-world GT championships in the world has announced that the title sponsor of the 2021 GT World Challenge Powered by AWS will be the German Sim Racing peripheral manufacturer Fanatec. This multi-year deal between the SRO Motorsports Group and Fanatec aims at further integrating e-sports and real-world competition into one sport.
During all five rounds of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup and Total 24 Hours of Spa, esports contests will be hosted using Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official video game of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS. Both Pro and Silver teams will nominate one actual race driver to participate in a virtual race which awards championship points. The official rules and regulations will be announced at a later date.
As an almost lifelong oldskool motorsport fan, this is where things are taken a little far in my humble opinion. Being a massive sim racing enthusiast, and definitely a motorsport addict, this feels as a bitter-sweet announcement. Combining real racing with sim racing, and having both count towards a real-world, career making championship, can greatly undermine the perception of motorsports as we know it.
When a few years back, the Formula E, and the WTCR championships already tried to engage a younger public by introducing game-like rules and social-media integration to their respective racing events, most old-school racing enthusiasts wondered where this would all end up. It now slowly becomes clear that motorsport as we know it, is running on its last legs.
I am sure that the younger generation will see this as a positive. For the older generation this will start to feel as the end of an era.
Real racing will become a Game, while games might become the real race.
2020 has indeed turned the world upside down.
Official Webpages – www.fanatec.com – www.gt-world-challenge.com
Official Press Release:
SRO Motorsports Group and Fanatec have agreed to a multi-year expansion of their existing partnership that will see the German brand become title sponsor of GT World Challenge Powered by AWS and the new GT2 European Series.
An established global leader in high-end sim racing hardware for consoles and PCs, Fanatec began its association as an official partner of the SRO E-Sport GT Series in 2020 and will move into a prominent new role for the coming season.
Indeed, Fanatec will join SRO at the forefront of a pioneering initiative that unites real-world and virtual motorsport at all five rounds of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, including the prestigious Total 24 Hours of Spa.
An on-site esports contest, organised in cooperation with AK Informatica, will be staged at each event using Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official video game of Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS. Entrants competing for overall honours and those in the Silver Cup class will nominate one driver to represent them in a virtual race, which will award teams’ championship points.
This groundbreaking concept will see sim racing directly influence the outcome of a real-world championship, a first in global motorsport. In the coming seasons, there is potential to expand the model further afield to Asia, America and Australia.
Fanatec represents the ideal partner with which to embark upon such an ambitious project. Indeed, the brand has already demonstrated its expertise in this area by launching a crossover steering wheel that can be used both on the sim and inside the cockpit of the upcoming BMW M4 GT3.
Entering its third year of competition in 2021, Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS sees leading manufacturers compete for international glory through their continental customer racing programmes. The global calendar is drawn from four established series, spanning leading circuits in Europe, Asia, America and Australia. The first Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS event of 2021 will be staged at Phillip Island, which kicks off the Australian championship on 20-21 February.
Fanatec will also lend its support to the GT2 European Series, a new championship that forms part of the revitalised GT Sports Club concept. The category will launch this season with a five-round calendar, providing a competitive outlet for the high-power models already produced by Porsche, Audi, KTM and Lamborghini.
The maiden race will form part of the support package for the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season opener at Monza on 15-17 April. The Fanatec GT2 European Series will then stage events at Hockenheim, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Circuit Paul Ricard in what promises to be an exciting debut season for the new category.
Thomas Jackermeier, Endor AG CEO: “There are good reasons why this series is the most popular GT series in the world. Stephane Ratel is leading the industry with innovative changes and he was very open when I introduced my ideas about a combined sim racing motorsport series to him. Allowing virtual race events to contribute to real-world championship points is the ultimate acknowledgement that sim racing has truly arrived on the big stage. It sets the bar high for other racing disciplines to integrate esports in more meaningful ways in the future.”
Marco Massarutto, Co-Founder and Executive Manager at Kunos Simulazioni SRL: “The worldwide lockdown forced motorsports to engage with virtual driving more so than in the past, and its potential has been better understood and is now seen as a legitimate complementary tool to real-world racing, which continues to remain irreplaceable. Nevertheless, we believe that this initiative can bring drivers even more competition, offering the public a renewed and interesting vision of motorsports, be it real or virtual.”
Stephane Ratel, SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO: “We are delighted that Fanatec will greatly enhance its partnership with SRO this season by becoming title sponsor of both GT World Challenge Powered by AWS and the GT2 European Series. I am excited by the initiatives that our collaboration can produce, particularly by integrating real-world racing and simulation. Having pioneered the introduction of Balance of Performance and driver categorisation, SRO has earned a reputation for breaking new ground within the sport. Now, we are proud to be at the forefront of another revolutionary moment as the first championship to merge virtual and real racing. It is clear that GT racing is immensely popular within the esports community, which speaks to its potential globally. As a leader in its field of expertise, Fanatec can play a crucial role in the project. This is also a tremendous boost for the Fanatec GT2 European Series, which I am very excited to see launch at Monza in April. Everything is now in place to ensure a strong maiden season for our new category.”
Fanatec is the leading brand for dedicated sim racing hardware, including force feedback steering wheels, pedals, and complete cockpits for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC-based racing simulators. Based in Germany, the company has more than 20 years of experience in developing and manufacturing sim racing equipment, constantly striving for innovation and quality. Fanatec is the official hardware partner for several different esports series, including F1 Esports Pro Series, the eSport WRC Championship, and SRO E-sport GT Series, with the sim racing hardware being an integral part of the live broadcasts all over the world. Automotive grade sim racing gear with high quality sold exclusively through www.fanatec.com.
SRO Motorsports Group – The global leader in GT racing
With nearly three decades’ experience at the forefront of a continuously evolving industry, SRO Motorsports Group is the established global leader in GT racing. A busy 2021 season will see events staged under the SRO banner on five continents, highlighted by the prestigious Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The company’s expanding portfolio of series includes Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS categories in Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Each retains its unique identity, while also allowing competing brands to dispute a global manufacturers’ title through their continental representatives. What’s more, a groundbreaking new initiative for 2021 will see virtual racing come together with the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup, where a series of e-sports contests will count towards the real championship.
Staged since 2016, the flagship Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli sees world-leading manufacturers compete through their local teams at marquee events across the globe. Considerable emphasis is placed on amateur competitors, too, with the GT Sports Club concept combining a relaxed environment with highly professional standards for drivers using GT2 and GT3 machinery.
SRO also works with the FIA to organise and promote the FIA Motorsport Games, a multi-disciplinary event in which drivers compete in the colours of their national flag. A range of international and domestic series catering for GT2, GT3, GT4 and touring car machinery also form part of an extensive on-track programme, while the burgeoning sim racing scene has taken on considerable importance through the SRO E-Sport GT Series.
In addition to promotion and organisation, the company operates the SRO Race Centre by MMC service facility at Circuit Paul Ricard, and provides the ultimate driving opportunities at world-renowned venues through Curbstone Track Events. Combining a passion for performance with industry-leading experience, SRO continues to play a key role in shaping the future of global GT racing.