The pioneer behind Gran Turismo’s own ‘gamer-to-racer’ programme, ‘GT Academy’, has now turned his focus to creating a professional virtual motorsport team set to take on competitive gaming. This past weekend, Darren Cox launched ‘eSports+Cars’, a foray into bridging the virtual and real-world divide in motorsport together – an ambitious, regulated team that competes and operates at the same standard expected in real-life motorsport.
Cox, being a former executive at Nissan and having guided the GT Academy process, believes that using knowledge learned in the real-life motorsport industry and the virtual world of Gran Turismo he can seize an opportunity not quite approached:
“We want to use the team to shine a light on the huge opportunity that is virtual Motorsport and we will do it by mirroring the approach of the best teams and brands in the real motorsport world.”
eSports+Cars aims to offer a mutually beneficial project to both the thriving eSports community and the dwindling Motorsport industry which actively seeks to find new ways to bring people into the grandstands. Specifically the younger generation, which may not be the immediate focus of executives like F1’s Bernie Ecclestone and vice chairman of NASCAR, Mike Helton. Cox uses football games like FIFA and PES as an example of how an untapped audience can become engaged:
“Research in the US shows us that the millennial generation first become engaged in football through gaming. The growth of MLS has been driven not initially by fans by going to matches and inheriting a passion for the sport, they are instead playing online and then becoming engaged with what happens in the ‘real’ professional leagues.”
However, it isn’t just the audience that eSports+Cars is aiming to capture, as the chances of success for the team will of course rely on the core component and the front-end of the whole venture – the drivers. “Eventually we want to have the very best virtual drivers from around the globe, playing together across every platform, in every type of motor racing game; attending eSports events, working and competing as a team” Cox explains in the press release.
The mantra of eSports+Cars seems to encapsulate that it’s important the talent is there to bring in the fans – the success of Motorsport is in it’s individuals and this isn’t an ideal that will be lost in the transition to the virtual world, whether that be through fan interaction or the actual driving by the team.
Gaming platform parity is also at the fore-front of the virtual racing team’s plans, popular titles like Forza Motorsport 6, GT Sport, rFactor and Project Cars have featured and will continue to feature throughout the team’s development.
As eSports become more mainstream and sim racing reaches new heights of popularity, eSports+Cars couldn’t have launched at a better time. The trajectory of the industry doesn’t seem to be slowing, and motorsport needs a new way to appeal to a millennial generation. It’s definitely an exciting time to be a sim racer.
GTPlanet’s own AJ Smith has taken on a brand new venture with ‘eSports+Cars’ as Team Manager, join us in wishing him well for the future of the project!