There are few simracing event bigger or more prestigious than last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual – if any.
Featuring 43 entries and 172 drivers featuring some elite names in simracing and real world motorsport – Romain Grosjean, Jeffrey Rietveld, Felix Rosenqvist, Jimmy Broadbent – the event received lavish broadcast presentation with veteran Martin Haven on commentary, Alex Brundle offering analysis and live links to Hayley Edmonds interviewing drivers between stints, just like the real thing.
If there were any doubts as to how serious this event was and how seriously the team was taking it, the €2,000 entrance fee to participate and the $250,000 prize fund should speak for itself. And if the event needed any more legitimacy, it could do no better than the participation of Max Verstappen – the reigning two-time Formula 1 world champion.
But beyond the race-breaking server problems and random disconnection issues that plagued last weekend’s event and led to Verstappen justifiably decrying how their chances of an overall victory were taken from them through no fault of their own, there’s a much larger problem of which the Virtual Le Mans is simply a symptom of – that simracing is becoming far too exclusive.
Anyone who has ever attempted to participate in any form of motorsport, even at a local or club level, knows how expensive it is to race no matter what you drive. While Formula 1 fans have scoffed at some of the ‘talented’ rich drivers who have reached the sport in decades gone by, it’s true that, as a driver, your funding can dictate your opportunities no matter what level you compete at.
That was not supposed to be the case with simracing and esports.
Yes, coughing up for a PC powerful enough to run a simulator at a decent frame rate, buying a wheel and a rig to have maximum control and maybe some extra monitors to improve your peripheral vision isn’t cheap. Paying for a subscription to iRacing or to download new cars and tracks is another expense. But once you’ve swallowed the initial costs, the reality is that simracing is so much cheaper than real world motorsport.
You don’t have to pay for fuel every time you take to the track in Assetto Corsa Competizione. You don’t have to pay for registration or annual license renewals in Gran Turismo. And if you wreck you car against a tree in Dirt Rally, repairs will only cost you in in-game currency you can easily earn back, with not a…