Sim racing esports continues to grow, but one series is looking to expand its impact, welcome to Formula E: Accelerate!
It's a busy time in sim racing. The V10 R-League just wrapped up with a live LAN finals in Abu Dhabi, the iRacing 24h of Spa showed the quality (and problems) of sim racing, and F1 Esports is just around the corner.
However, Formula E is not going to be outshined. From a unique prize to a live final at the London E-Prix this weekend, the all-electric series is looking to do more with its esports and gaming than any other motorsport out there.
Accelerating the future
Formula E was created with its eyes squarely on the future. Its all-electric, inner-city racing was a direct counter to the petrol-hungry, infrastructure-heavy side of motorsport and the street racing certainly delivers.
The one area where it might be lacking in comparison though is in gaming. While Formula 1, WRC, and NASCAR all have their own game, and IndyCar has one coming, Formula E has struggled to make its mark among virtual racers.
Formula E uses rFactor 2 as its official gaming partner. This puts Formula E in arguably the best piece of simulation software available to the public. The Formula E DLC pack features all the teams as well as the official tracks and allows players to drive the streets of Monaco, New York, and Rome in a rapid electric race car.
With that platform, Formula E has pushed itself into the esports space.
Last year saw Red Bull's esports star Frede Rasmussen win a tightly contested series, but in 2022 Accelerate has relaunched with a bigger focus on mass participation.
Open to everyone
This year, Formula E: Accelerate has been open to the public through online competition on rFactor 2 as well as in-person opportunities at various E-Prix this season.
It is also not just about putting on a show with fast sim racers in FE cars. It is about far more than that, as Gaming Director at Formula E Kieran Holmes-Darby explained to us.
"We're more about trying to engage a new fan base through gaming." Explains Holmes-Darby. "The whole point of this is to give new people an experience with the sport through gaming so they can start their journey to becoming a fan."
It's a good goal to have. Plenty of sports have attracted new fans through less traditional means and there is nothing to say Formula E can't do the same with Accelerate.
With players from around the world able to take part both at home and at the E-Prixy, participation has been high this year.
Of course, only the fastest made it through to the Accelerate final, which will take place on 29 July in London.
One of those taking part and chasing down not only a share of the €100,000 prize pool but a session in a real Formula E car, is dutch sim racing sensation Jarno Opmeer.
Opmeer is a two-time F1 Esports champion and just wrapped up the V10 R-League championship with Mercedes.
His presence in Formula E: Accelerate shows not only the quality of the prize on offer, to drive an actual Formula E car in a practice session, but also the level of the esports competition.
One of the reasons Formula E is offering the unique prize of a session in the actual car itself is to help champion the heroes of Accelerate, and help provide the best sim racers with real-world opportunities.
We've already seen F1 Esports star Lucas Blakeley beat Sebastian Vettel at Race of Champions this year, along with James Baldwin entering the 24h of Spa race this weekend.
Formula E wants to be part of this new pipeline of talent.
"I can definitely see it developing that way. The top end goal of this is to champion the heroes and give them opportunities that maybe they wouldn't be able to reach through other avenues." Said Holmes-Darby.
The expense of motorsport has driven plenty of talented drivers into the world of sim racing, Formula E unlocking that talent pool could go a long way to its overall growth.
Of course, the other side of the coin is participation and awareness. And for as good as rFactor 2 is, it is not a typical racing game and is only available on PC.
If Formula E really wants to speak to a broad range of gamers it needs to get on console too. A standalone game that accurately represents Attack Mode, the qualifying structure, and team development would be a welcome addition in our eyes.
"That conversation is always ongoing! I'll never say no to that, that will always be on the table. It's more a question of timing than anything." Said Holmes-Darby.
Formula E's relationship with rFactor 2 has been a great step forward, but let's get a Formula E: Accelerate 2023 game for the new Gen3 cars!