These truly are strange times we are currently living in. Some games are being released ahead of schedule and others are being delayed indefinitely. Outside of gaming, sports leagues around the world are pretty much cancelled, even WWE will be presenting Wrestlemania from an empty arena this year. One industry that has found a unique way to continue though is Motorsport, in some ways it is the perfect sport to take online and some of the worlds biggest competitions including NASCAR, Formula 1 and Australia’s own Supercars have launched virtual series featuring their top drivers so the racing season can continue during these unique times.
What is better is that these races are televised just like the actual races would have been and the results have been pretty good so far. The televised races feature the same commentating teams as the normal broadcast would have and thanks to modern graphics they almost look like the real thing as well. The fact that these are video games is not lost on the drivers or commentators either which adds a nice light-hearted feel to the competitions. Now we are a couple weeks into these virtual competitions it is a good time to check out how they are going.
NASCAR PRO INVITATIONAL
NASCAR is about to enter week three of their Pro Invitational iRacing series heading to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. Cup Drivers (top tier), Xfinity drivers (Rookie tier) and Truck drivers get automatic entry into the races as well as retired NASCAR drivers, there are four spots for the public to race their way into competition. FOX Sports has committed to broadcasting the entire series and you can also check out the full race or highlights via NASCAR on Youtube.
I think the idea of including retired drivers is really cool because it allows some dream match ups where drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr are back from retirement jostling for position with the leagues current champions. The drivers have taken a light-hearted approach as well with pre-race and during race Twitter feeds demonstrating how to race in slippers or how NOT to be a crew chief. Overall this is fun league and well worth a watch if you like NASCAR.
F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix
Formula 1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix are moving into week two and will be heading to virtual Melbourne this week. They have gone a slightly different route and eschewed iRacing to go with their own F1 2019 video game, their league features both current drivers, retired drivers, various “celebrities” such as Liam Payne (ex One Direction, who was a minute or so off pace) this week and the public can qualify as well. As with NASCARs Pro Invitational the races will all be broadcast by their usual channels, with their usual commentators and can also be watched via official F1 channels online.
F1 have made clear this league is for entertainment purposes only, and it really shows. The only way to describe the first race in Bahrain is absolute carnage, right from the start there were massive crashes and pieces of debris and car flying all over the place, it was amazing. Out of the three leagues this is definitely the most video gamey and takes itself the least seriously. I definitely think they are on the right track injecting some excitement into what is usually a pretty delicate sport. I will definitely be tuning in to the next race.
BP Supercars All Stars Eseries
Australia’s own premier motorsport league is set to start April 8, but whilst last out of the gate they are not intending to be outdone. Their competition will feature all 25 of their championship drivers taking to the track in iRacing but whilst F1 and NASCAR are sticking to their usual tracks for their competitions, the BP Supercars All Stars Eseries is going international and will be racing on famous tracks from all over the world during their 10 week series with a champion to be crowned at the end. These include a visit to F1 track Monza, Nascar staple Talladega Super Speedway (AWESOME!!) and even a visit to the famous “Green Hell” that is the Nurburgring.
Details are still being finalised for this one but it looks like they will race two tracks on each race day the full calendar is here. The action will be broadcast on Fox Sports, Kayo, Supercars.com and social channels, and game streaming service Twitch. This one is unique in a couple of ways, no outside drivers for example but mixing it up with a great range of legendary tracks that the competition would not usually visit is a great idea and will make this one something truly special.
I think NASCAR, F1 and Supercars have done a great job with their respective series, they are all providing a slightly different spin on their virtual leagues, fulfilled their broadcasting obligations and managed to keep their series going as we move through these crazy times. It is great that their broadcasting partners are on board and the light-hearted feel of these competitions is something really valuable in these times. Not to mention promoting video games on a world stage, these achievements are definitely worth supporting.