IMSA’s first professional virtual racing series debuts this weekend with a boost from a longtime colleague. Michelin has become entitlement partner of the IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship, whose first race is Sunday.
The series will feature the world’s top professional sim racers and teams competing for cash purses totaling $25,000 in the four-race series. Races will be broadcast on iRacing and VCO YouTube, Facebook and Twitch social media channels, with the debut event starting at 1:45 p.m. ET Sunday.
In keeping with IMSA’s real-life racing series, the IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship will consist of multi-driver, multi-class racing and feature iRacing’s meticulously modeled GT3 and Touring cars.
The series enables pro sim racers and teams to develop close working relationships with eight manufacturers competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge: BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche.
For Michelin, the opportunity as entitlement partner allows the world-famous tire manufacturer to highlight the importance of tire strategy in the virtual racing world – just as in actual race settings.
“Our IMSA partnership continues to be a perfect match on the track, and we are excited to evolve our relationship virtually with the IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship,” said Jason Anzalone, director of motorsports for Michelin North America.
“Sharing our passion with the Esports community allows us to showcase our tires in a unique way, while highlighting the importance of tire performance in a virtual setting.
“Michelin develops virtual tires on virtual vehicles before the tires are even produced, and combining this technology with real motorsports data will test these athletes’ tire strategy throughout the game.”
A full field of 44 cars (each with two drivers) is entered for Sunday’s race on the virtual Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, 30 cars in the GTD class and 14 in Touring Car.
“The IMSA Esports Michelin Global Championship will include some of the heaviest hitters in sim racing from a team and driver perspective, along with vital support from many of the same manufacturers that compete in other IMSA-sanctioned series,” said Brandon Huddleston, IMSA vice president, Partnership Marketing and Business Development.
“Add in Michelin’s substantial commitment as entitlement partner, and all of the ingredients are in place for a highly successful introduction for the series. This is a fantastic opportunity for IMSA and all involved to enter the world of Esports and expose our product to a whole new audience.”
Highlighting the strength of the field are multiple entries from two of iRacing’s biggest outfits that recently did battle in the final of the VCO Esports Racing League Fall Cup: Apex Racing Team and Team Redline.
While the two teams should be considered favorites, both the GTD and Touring Car grids could see any team on top over the four rounds.
In GTD, each of the six manufacturers has five cars entered, including official Esports “works” teams for Mercedes and BMW.
Mercedes jumped into iRacing this year by partnering with Mercedes-AMG Team URANO eSports and Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports that will compete in the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
BMW Team BS+COMPETITION and BMW Team Redline are competing in the BMW M4 GT3. Bruno Spengler, the 2020 IMSA iRacing Pro Series champion who has been in 19 actual WeatherTech Championship races with a win in the six-hour event at Michelin Raceway in 2020, is a co-driver in the BMW Team BS+COMPETITION entry.
Apex Racing Team is fielding a pair of Porsche 911 GT3 Rs in the GTD class. A couple familiar team names from actual GTD racing are also entered, with Turner Motorsport running its popular BS+TURNER split livery BMW and Hardpoint partnering with DeltaSport in a Porsche.
Honda and Hyundai are the participating manufacturers in Touring Car, with each marque fielding seven cars. R8G Esports, the team started by former Formula 1 and current IndyCar driver Romain Grosjean, will join the championship with a pair of Honda Civic Type Rs.
Driver Karl Wittmer will cross from the Victor Gonzalez Racing Team in the real-life Michelin Pilot Challenge to be joined by Indy Lights driver Jacob Abel in the official Honda Racing HPD Civic Type R. Another Honda entrant to watch is Full Send Racing, one of the top Touring Car teams on iRacing.
In addition to its GTD entries, Apex Racing Team also fields a Hyundai Elantra TC N in the Touring Car class.
Among the other Hyundai teams to watch are Crowdstrike Racing, which continues its long history in motorsports, and SimRC, which recently picked up drivers Kieran Harrison and Corentin Guinez who dominated in the Hyundai N e-Festival Global League this summer.
After Sunday’s opener, succeeding races will take place as follows:
Sunday, Oct. 23: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – 11:45 a.m. ET
Sunday, Nov. 6: Indianapolis Motor Speedway – 1:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, Nov. 20: Daytona International Speedway – 1:45 p.m. ET
All races will stream on iRacing and VCO YouTube, Facebook and Twitch social media channels.
In keeping with WeatherTech Championship norms, each race will be two hours, 40 minutes long.