The virtual world of motorsport is rapidly gaining a sense of parity with the physical world. Gamers become racing drivers — or just beat them in real cars — while racing drivers increasingly gravitate towards racing games, and beat the gamers too.
Events such as GT Sport’s FIA-Certified Online Championship further close the gap. The prize for that tournament is to receive a trophy alongside the top drivers in physical motorsport at the FIA’s own season-ending annual prize giving.
The latest event to shine equal light on virtual and physical racers is the FIA’s Motorsport Games. This Olympics of motorsport features six racing disciplines, from real-world GT3 to karts, and includes a Digital Cup — for GT Sport — among its events. However it comes at a cost.
This slide from the official presentation of the FIA Motorsport Games reveals what that cost is. There is a €1,000 (that’s $1,100 right now) entry fee for each competitor in the Digital Cup and, as far as we can tell, no prize money of any kind.
Part of the popularity of esports is that there is effectively no entry fee, and no price barrier. Participants in the GT Sport Online Championships pay nothing to take part — a PS4 is a requirement certainly, but you don’t have to own one and it’s likely, with 100 million consoles and 9.5 games per console, most competitors already did. Physical motorsport requires vehicles, safety equipment and entry fees, and even cheap motorsport is a multi-thousand dollar commitment.
That makes an entry fee on an esports event with no prize money rather incongruous. Furthermore, it’s unclear as to whether the FIA expects the competitor to pay for entry themselves — not to mention the travel costs to Rome — or if the local National Sporting Authority (ASN) they represent will cover the cost.
We’ve contacted a number of ASNs and, concerningly, the answers seem to vary. A few appear unaware of the event, while others expect their representatives to pay their own way — one told us it “does not typically fund activity of this nature”. The FIA’s documentation suggests that ASN and driver sponsors may be involved in financing their participation.
In addition, there is no clear entry mechanism. Again, the slide excerpt above seems to suggests a two-way communication effort between the drivers and ASNs. However, while some ASNs have already invited applications from drivers, others are yet to make any contact and more are undecided on participation. Spain’s Real Federacion Espanola de Automovilismo (RFEdeA) has not only opened the application process, but closed it again on July 15, over a week before the FIA even announced the event format…
If you’re interested in representing your country, but unsure on the best way to do this, we’d advise contacting your local ASN with your GT Sport resume. We’ve approached several ASNs around the world, along with the FIA, for comment, and will bring you their responses as we receive them.