To win the Team’s title in 2021 you’ll also have to be good at E-Sports

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The Stephane Ratel Organization (SRO) is aiming to bridge the gap separating real racing from virtual racing in 2021 by awarding, for the first time ever, points in the world of simulation that count towards a real-life title. While it may sound insane and it may draw unwarranted parallels with a sci-fi classic - the cyborg - you should view it as merely a step in the ongoing process of legitimization that sim racing as a sport has been going through for the past several years.

A case for blending two worlds

GT World Challenge Europe Becomes First Real-World Series To Count Sim Racing Points To Title
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The GT World Challenge Europe is the umbrella term that’s a synonym for high-level, professional GT racing in Europe. It is put together by the SRO, the same organization that watched over the growth of the FIA GT Championship and, at the same time, both the FIA GT3 European Championship and the FIA GT4 European Championship. Since 2011, Ratel’s men have also set about testing the resilience of GT3 cars - a product of the SRO brain trust - in what was originally known as the Blancpain Endurance Series.

In the decade that's slipped by, Blancpain left the picture but the endurance series soldiers on as the long-distance side to the GT World Challenge plateau.

As such, the so-called Endurance Cup’s five rounds are complemented by the five rounds of a ’Sprint Cup’. Three-hour-long races are the norm in the endurance series (with the exception of one six-hour race and the Spa 24 Hours) and one-hour, rapid-fire races are the foundation of the sprint series.

GT World Challenge Europe Becomes First Real-World Series To Count Sim Racing Points To Title
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The team and drivers that manage to do the best job across both championships get the shiny silverware befitting of the conquerers of the challenge posed by the GT World Challenge Europe. This format is unique to the European continent as both the GT World Challenge America and the GT World Challenge Asia champions only have to contend sprint-style championships.

We’ve delved into all of the above so that you can better understand that Ratel and his people have created a big, old octopus with an abundance of tentacles that, while not entangled, may seem so to someone who’s not finding GT racing particularly compelling. To that person, the fact that, from 2021 onwards, points gained in the virtual GT World Challenge Europe championship held in Asseto Corsa Competizione will count towards crowning the real-world teams’ champions may seem like an unnecessary gimmick. But it’s much more than that.

GT World Challenge Europe Becomes First Real-World Series To Count Sim Racing Points To Title
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You see, for years sim racers have tried to convince both themselves and, more importantly, those around them in the gaming world that they’re not "playing" a game. Instead, because these simulations are as accurate as possible the folks that excel at driving from behind a screen, cocooned by a rig, are as worthy of the term ’racer’ as are those doing it in the real, ear-splitting cars. Sure, sim racers know that a rig doesn’t do a terribly good job at reproducing the sense of speed and the G forces you feel from behind the wheel of an actual car but, beyond that, just about anything else is reproduced down to a tee.

The genuine realism of modern-day sims has been proven by contests such as Sony’s GT Academy that have turned many a sim racers into real, successful race car drivers More recently, The World’s Fastest Gamer competition has done the same by putting James Baldwin in the position to fight for the title in the ultra-competitive British GT Championship in 2020.

GT World Challenge Europe Becomes First Real-World Series To Count Sim Racing Points To Title
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With this in mind, the idea to award real points to those that do well in the virtual world no longer seems like a gimmicky PR stunt.

The ongoing pandemic has hurt us all in a plethora of different ways but, weirdly enough, it proved to be the catalyzer behind the accelerated growth of some industries, and among those is that of sim racing. With real-life drivers stuck indoors and real-life series interrupted due to various restrictions, online-only competitions came thick and fast with platforms like iRacing, Asseto Corsa, or rFactor 2 seeing an unbelievable growth in popularity.

As real racers took the time to get to grips with the sims, their appreciation for the work put in by the developers has grown exponentially and many have come out to praise these sims while underlining that they do indeed train the same basic skills and instincts you make use of in the real car.

What’s real and what’s not?

GT World Challenge Europe Becomes First Real-World Series To Count Sim Racing Points To Title
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What’s real is that we don’t yet know how much your success in the sim will count towards the 2021 GT World Challenge Europe Teams’ title. What’s certain is that, once again, the SRO will organize an online GT World Challenge Europe championship open to the drivers that also partake in real-life events. These drivers would then drive for the virtual versions of their teams and gather points over the course of a number of one-hour races.

According to the SRO, the points that are won virtually "form a small proportion of the overall championship points available meaning that the lion’s share of the points will still come from real-world results. Still, it’s cool to see that an organizer has truly embraced the world of sim racing beyond PR releases and forgettable marketing stunts. And the SRO isn’t alone in its quest with German automaker BMW right at its heels.

BMW M4 Coupe and GT3 Teased - Is The M4 GT3 The Definition of Ugly? Exterior
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The unique partnership forged between BMW and Fanatec, an industry-leading company specialized in sim racing gear, has yielded a new sim racing wheel which is one and the same with the 2021 BMW M4 GT3’s wheel. Basically, you can bolt the wheel onto your sim and, if you also happen to own an M4 GT3, it also works in that 550-horsepower beast. What’s the next step, you wonder?

We wager that a mixed championship is the next step towards bringing these two worlds together. By ’mixed’ we mean a series contested over, let’s say, six rounds, three of which take place in the real world and three in the virtual world. And all of the six are equally important when it comes to crowing the champions. For that to happen, you have to have a perfectly set-up simulation wherein the BoP of the cars matches the real-world BoP. The guys at Kunos Simulzaioni, makers of Asseto Corsa Competizione, already use real-world data to craft the BoP you experience in ACC but the devs have said that they may tweak it for a better online experience, these tweaks not following any real-world BoP alterations. You need for the real and the virtual world to move in tandem, in short. And we think that that reality is just a stone’s throw away!

📆 2️⃣9️⃣ events 🌍 4️⃣ Continents 🏆 1️⃣ Global Manufacturer's title THE most successful global GT3 customer racing...

Posted by GT World Challenge Europe on Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Source: Motorsport Magazine

Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read More
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