As revealed earlier in the year, this season’s GT World Challenge Europe will break some new ground. For the first time in any motorsports series anywhere in the world, teams can earn points towards the real championship in virtual racing. Fanatec and the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO), which governs the series, have now revealed exactly how this will function when the series gets underway next month.
In essence, the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Esports Cup — to give it the official name — will be a third discipline within the GT World Challenge Europe, alongside the Endurance Cup and Sprint Cup, and help decide the overall championship. That will effectively increase the number of rounds of GTWC Europe from 10 to 15, although the Esports Cup will take place at Endurance Cup rounds.
Of course we already knew that the esports component would be a five-round series, running alongside the Endurance Cup. Each of the Endurance Cup venues will host an esports round at the same circuit, using Assetto Corsa Competizione — the official racing game of the series — during the race weekend. The full schedule is as follows:
- April 16-18 – 3 Hours of Monza – Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Italy
- May 28-30 – Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km – Circuit Paul Ricard, France
- July 29-August 1 – Total 24 Hours of Spa – Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
- September 3-5 – 6 Hours of Nurburgring – Nurburgring, Germany
- October 8-10 – 3 Hours of Barcelona – Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
The races will take place at a dedicated “Fanatec Esports arena” at the circuit. There’s two hours of testing available on the Friday before each race (except at Spa, where it will be Thursday), with the racing action itself the following day. After a 30-minute warm-up, there’ll be a 20-minute qualifying session, and then it’s into the hour-long race. Each race will have a pit-stop window with a mandatory stop, though there’s no driver change.
As for the drivers, they’ll come from the teams that are competing. Every team competing in either the Pro or Silver classes in the full Endurance season must pick one of their drivers; teams with multiple entries in one category may select just one driver from across their squads, but those with entries in both classes must pick one from each class.
There’s 24 spots available in total, and those teams who are competing in the full season of both Endurance and Sprint Cups get priority if there’s too many entries. Should there be too few, other entries from Pro-Am and Am will be invited, though they’ll not be eligible for “Fanatec Points Boost” points.
The points weighting for the Esports Cup is radically different, addressing fan concerns about the relative value of the virtual competition. Teams will only score points if they are in the top three overall, or top three in the Silver class, with three points to the winner, two for second, and one for third.
That all means that the Esports Cup will contribute a maximum of 15 points to any one team’s standings, compared to 82.5 points for the Sprint Cup and 165 points for the Endurance Cup. 2020’s margin of victory, for Audi, was 19 points, while Madpanda secured the Silver Cup by 16 points from Barwell.
In addition, there’s a €125,000 ($150,000) prize fund on offer, coming in at €25,000 ($30,000) per race. It’s not clear what the prize fund distribution is at present, but it’ll likely be the top three places in each class taking the cash, and something in the region of €5,000 ($6,000) for the winner. Every race in the Esports Cup will have a live, commentated broadcast on the official GTWC website, along with YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch channels.
Stephane Ratel, founder and CEO of the SRO Motorsports Group comments:
“SRO has always pioneered new innovations and we are proud to do so once again by introducing the Fanatec Points Boost. Integrating simulation and real-world racing is a revolutionary step and the attention that it has generated demonstrates the potential of the SRO Esports Cup. We are fortunate to have the world-class partners that such an undertaking requires and, with their help, I know that we will make this project a real success.”