Sim Racing Revolution: A Developing Industry

With the rapid adoption and growth of Sim Racing in recent years, ATRL’s Immy Cousins takes a look at what this has meant for the motorsport future.

Written by Immy Cousins

February 10, 2022

 There has been a rise in both the participation and spectating of Sim Racing and Esports in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic showed the motorsport community the critical role that simulators can play in the sport, and as a result, its exposure and support has increased significantly. 

 

Analysts have looked into the recent growth and judged where the industry will be in the coming years if we continue to see the same growth rates. It was estimated that in 2020 the Market Size Value of the Simulator Gaming Industry was 4.49 billion USD and that this will grow by 12.1% by 2027 (Grand Review Research, 2020). Viewing figures from streaming platforms, such as Twitch, show that in January 2021 alone, there was an approximation of 4.41 million hours of sim racing viewed throughout the month (Simrace247, 2021).

I think eSports will only grow. Due to the fact that you can transfer the skill from sim racing to real racing, I fundamentally believe that eSports will only continue to grow in popularity, seriousness, and involvementHopefully, one day, for example, you see F1 eSports competing on the same day of a Grand Prix weekend as a support,” – Esports driver Lucas Blakeley to Along the Racing Line

Simulation technology is not a recent development. While not entirely virtual until later years, various industries have been using simulations to develop key skills for several hundreds of years. Historical studies, which are now considered by academics to be computer simulations, can be dated back to the first half of the 20th Century (Borrelli and Wellmann, 2019). Using simulations is regarded as a way to refine key skills before applying them to the real world. In motorsport, simulation is used for teams to refine their skills at specific circuits in preparation for a race.

If he feels unsure about something, he’ll do something about it. For example, this year, Lewis went to the sim a lot. I used the sim too, but it’s something Lewis has never done before. But because of the tight title fight with Max, he started being at the sim pretty much every week,” – F1’s Valtteri Bottas on the Suoraa Puhetta Minusta podcast in 2021 on his then-teammate Lewis Hamilton’s recent usage of the team’s simulator to improve his driving.

In addition to this, companies working alongside teams use simulations to ensure the safety of the cars and the technology they’re using before it’s taken to the track. If these simulations were not used, the racing we see wouldn’t be possible. 

F1’s Lando Norris participating in Sim Racing events

Throughout the year, sim competitions have been integrated into racing in real life, with sim racers being given opportunities to drive a car on track by winning sim competitions. In 2021, we saw Red Bull’s Frederik Rasmussen gain the chance to drive a Formula E car in Valencia after winning their Accelerate series. Just this month, we have witnessed esports stars Lucas Blakeley, Jarno Opmeer and James Baldwin being given a chance to compete as the eROC All-Stars in the Race of Champions alongside some of the world’s best racers. In an ATRL interview with Lucas Blakeley, he recalled the moment he realized where competing in Esports could take him: ‘When eSports came along in 2017, when they went to Abu Dhabi, and they were doing their first event in the Gfinity Arena, that’s when I realised that ‘Wait, so this whole sim racing gaming thing can actually take you to these places.’”  

 

Despite growth in recent years, there are still high numbers of online prejudice surrounding the Sim Racing industry. Experts in the field have made attempts to inform racing fans of the benefits of using simulators, including the transference of key skills between the sim and the track, which means sim racers can compete at the same level as racers with track experience. A great example of this is Lucas Blakeley’s win against Sebastian Vettel in their first heat of the ROC Nations Cup. During the broadcast of the eROC final, Founder Fredrik Johnsson commented on the prevalence of the online sport and the transferable skills it provides, “it’s growing and growing and to see how well these guys transfer from the virtual to the real world it’s really amazing and very impressive.”

Esports driver Lucas Blakeley for eROC beating F1’s Sebastian Vettel by 0.080s at the Race of Champions

Experts in the real world racing industry continue to speak of the importance of sim racing and Esports; their voices can give those in sim racing the chance they need to transfer into real-world racing. A globalized understanding of its crucial role is the next step to continue the industry’s growth and create an even closer link between the virtual and the real world. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Immy is a long time fan of motorsports having grown up watching it with her family. Being in isolation at University in late 2020 allowed her to really grow a love for it. She is currently studying BA Sociology at University with the intent to train to be a teacher. Immy has a particular interest in the media side of motorsports which led her to creating F1/Motorsport themed TikToks in her spare time. She enjoys writing both about F1 and F2 as well as the diversity in the sport. You can find her on Twitter @immy_cousins.

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