Many questions have left open after Formula E Vegas event. Mixed emotions after the race and after mod issues with a final standings modification. Is it possible to transfer all simracing emotions to the supporters? Is it possible to do it better? Does iRacing something to say on the matter? Here we have an excerpt from Scott Mitchell’s article in autosport magazine. You need subscription to read it complete but Jordan Hounsell has summarized most important points.
The next step in the blossoming relationship between Formula E and sim racing was not exactly a complete success. The quality of product it delivered was not the pinnacle of sim racing – but it was something that could maybe, just maybe, offer the blueprint for a truly 21st-century kind of racing
First, some context. Sim racing, at its peak, is not a video game. It’s very serious. Look at what iRacing, the biggest online racing community in the world, has developed into: a fully fledged world championship based on grand prix racing and licensed Blancpain and NASCAR series with a prize fund of more than $25,000 up for grabs in each category.
“I’m not really into it – I do a little bit of iRacing, maybe once a week,” says da Costa, who won the qualification race to secure his place in the main event. “These guys have teams and engineers, they share set-ups, they have spotters… I was surprised how close we could be to them. Online I have no chance. Qualifying was where the sim racers killed us – a one-off lap was a struggle.”
iRacing is the model of what sim racing can be. What was on display in Vegas was far from the finished article. Cloud Sport, a Spanish start-up organisation that has had great success with initiatives such as the SEAT Leon Eurocup sim-racing series, brought everything together.
One question that has been asked is why Formula E teamed up with Cloud Sport, instead of – for example – tying in with iRacing. It’s thought iRacing was an early contender for some kind of Formula E tie-up, but was a little put off by a couple of issues – mainly the costs involved in how they go about laser-scanning tracks, which was prohibitive to it being a profitable option, and also the lack of a wider benefit to putting that effort into building the tracks.
It’s unlikely a sim provider would get any extra out of making the sort of circuits Formula E needs, because they are tight and – compared to the likes of Spa, the Nordschleife or Laguna Seca – aren’t fun for the general sim-racing population.
That’s a digression. Formula E also wanted freedom to decorate the circuits in its own image, and that extends to the Las Vegas event – the need to “develop our own circuits and branding for our own sponsors” is Agag’s explanation for picking Cloud Sport over an alternative, though he admits: “We need to now see which is the direction we want to take, and take some time to evaluate which is the best way.”
The problems have not gone unnoticed and that is important because the final product fell short in terms of representing the pinnacle of sim racing, but that’s probably to be expected (even with the partners this had and the money involved).
Ultimately iRacing exists to serve sim racers and operates with a business model centred around customers – there hasn’t been a watershed moment that’s thrust the genre in front of a bigger audience.