Sim racing esports is continuing its explosion in 2023 despite a few setbacks in some major competitions. It's a scene that F1 teams have been around for a while, but one team making a concerted effort to grow its footprint in the space this year is Alpine.
The team may race under the French flag but their Enstone factory is in the heart of F1 country in Oxfordshire and we were lucky enough to be invited down to hear about how Alpine is making 2023 the year of sim racing.
With a long list of partners across every aspect of the running and technology of sim racing, Alpine is looking to bring the virtual and real racing world closer together than ever, but one part stood out to us.
Making a difference
Alpine may be a team steeped with French flair, but they are also a very British team. The Enstone base is sat just a few miles away from Mercedes, Williams, and Red Bull in the heart of Oxfordshire.
Unlike other F1 teams, they are using their position in the virtual world to help bring gaming to more people than ever before. While the opportunities for young drivers through their sim racing academy are admirable, Alpine took the opportunity of their big announcements to publicise a partnership that has been bubbling along in the background for the last few years.
Special Effect is an Oxfordshire charity that is making gaming accessible for those with physical disabilities. Their team of occupational therapists and gaming specialists create bespoke control setups for hundreds of people for whom gaming would otherwise be impossible.
The charity is based in Charlbury, just up the road from the Alpine factory and Guillaume Vergnas, Head of Esports, explained to us that it was a natural connection for Alpine: "We want to do things for the greater good. The motto of Alpine is to make racing more accessible [and] sharing a passion for racing."
It certainly appears to be, and it's a big commitment to make a charity like Special Effect an official partner. Alpine Esports has been helping Special Effect for a while, with their ambassador Thom Brouwer even completing a 24-hour stream to raise money for them last year.
Liam Lawler, Partnerships Coordinator at Special Effect, had this to say: " [Alpine has] been supporting us quietly for some time now. Accessible gaming has a very high barrier to entry, so [sim racing] is just adding on top of that. Support from Alpine allows us to do it completely free of charge."
It's wonderful to see a Formula 1 team get behind a charity like this and doing work to make both gaming and sim racing more accessible. The fact that they are local to Alpine's Enstone base and huge number of technical employees as well is just a bonus.
Growing beyond F1
Alpine as a brand took up Renault's spot on the F1 grid in 2021, and with that followed the brand's entry into F1 esports and sim racing.
Since then they have moved beyond F1 in a similar way to lots of teams, entering the Le Mans Virtual Series and creating their own Alpine Esports Series using the GT4 Alpine in Assetto Corsa Competizione.
But in 2023 they are moving even further into the world of sim racing and aiming to take down championships at every turn.
Richard Arnaud, Team Principal of Alpine Esports and CEO of Race Clutch, told us about this move.
"[Alpine] is involved in so much more than F1. At some point in your racing career you will meet Alpine and sim racing now is part of motorsport and a new route for people to go and race so it makes sense at the end of the day for Alpine to be there with the new generation."
We're excited to see just how far Alpine can take their involvement in the wider world of sim racing. With the likes of FaZe Clan and Mouz entering racing via ESL R1 the genre is only hotting up, and having a brand like Alpine push even harder in the space will be a good thing for everyone involved.