While the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season doesn’t start until this afternoon, points for the 2021 teams’ championships have already been awarded.
They were distributed last night at the opening round of the new Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series, where drivers from GTWC Europe could earn points for their results in a 60-minute sim race that will be repeated at each of this season’s Endurance Cup rounds.
After finishing first and second around Monza’s Assetto Corsa Competizione equivalent on Saturday, Arthur Rougier and Daniel Juncadella said that the concept provided an exciting bonus for drivers and an additional incentive for teams to engage in esports.
“I think all this kind of practice is great for the real competition,” said Juncadella, who drives for the AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG team in Endurance Cup.
“There are many upsides to it. The way that we are driving the simulator is not exactly the same as the real car, but we are driving the same track and the graphics are pretty similar.
“All in all, it’s pretty good. I don’t see any downsides to it. One hour is pretty long and I felt quite a bit tired after spending an hour in there, sweating. But it’s good preparation mentally for the race. It was something new for everybody. It’s a fun event and good practice.”
Rougier, who won at Monza to give his Emil Frey Racing team an early three-point boost, believes the concept provides a useful outlet for drivers with an esports background.
“I’m really happy that this is happening,” he told Sportscar365. “I’ve always been really into sim racing, so being a part of it was really interesting in the end.
“Now it’s even more important because when I used to do it at home it was to train, but for fun also because I liked it. But now it’s really a proper part of the job and is a chance for me.”
Not everyone has been fully converted to the concept as esports is thrust into a central role within the GTWC Europe paddock rather than existing as a passive alternative or, as was the case this time last year, a temporary substitute for real-world racing.
SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel has previously admitted that the teams gave a “50/50” approval rate when the points integration idea was floated last November.
Rougier explained that his preparations for the event added complexity to an already-taxing GTWC Europe event.
“It’s really demanding because it takes quite a lot of time in the weekend,” he said.
“The race weekend is already quite short. But it’s points for the championship, so for the team it’s really interesting. It takes quite a lot of time, but we cannot do it better if we want to have it in the race weekend. It’s the right schedule.
“I’m pretty sure it looked like it was a really good show. In the end it’s a good show for everyone. Plus, with the real competition happening the day after, it’s a real bonus.”
Fanatec: Launch of Esports Integration “Historic”
Fanatec company founder Thomas Jackermeier attended Saturday’s race and declared before the green flag that SRO’s points integration concept has the potential to “change motorsport and esports forever”.
Fanatec joined as the title sponsor of all GT World Challenge and Sports Club series from this year, and initially proposed the idea to integrate esports into the real-world points structure before Ratel put it past the teams and gave the final go-ahead.
“It’s really a historic moment, not just for motorsport but for sports,” said Jackermeier.
“In 10 or 20 years this might be normal, but we are here for the first time. It’s going to change motorsport and esports forever.
“I think with sim racing we have something special. It’s the only esports where you have a benefit, that if you’re good in esports you’re basically good in the real world.
“I heard that a lot of race drivers who have a lot of race experience have a problem going into a sim. But a lot of sim racers, when you put them in a car, can be fast right away. There are a lot of examples of that.
“So I think that’s the future: in a few years, almost all new race drivers will start with a sim. It’s our mission to bring that together and accelerate that.
“We found this great opportunity Stephane; he was crazy and brave enough to make this vision real. I have to thank all the teams because if all the teams said it was a stupid idea, it would have not been possible. It’s a bit of an experiment still, so it’s exciting.”