Pro Drivers Turn to Virtual Racing as Real Motorsports Halt in Wake of CoronavirusMarch 20, 2020
“Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun, and competitive experience on race day,” said NASCAR vice president of racing development Ben Kennedy. “Our long-time partners at iRacing offer an incredible product and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing.”
The series will feature Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell and begins this Sunday, March 22 on the virtual version of Homestead-Miami Speedway. NASCAR notes the remaining race and broadcast details will be confirmed at a later date.
In addition, North America’s International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) has similarly announced that it will be hosting a virtual 90-minute, single-class iRacing shootout this weekend to mark the 12 Hours of Sebring. The real 12 Hours of Sebring was supposed be held this weekend but has been postponed until November.
“IMSA is committed to delivering a realistic racing experience to our fans, competitors, and partners this weekend,” said IMSA president John Doonan. “Most IMSA drivers use iRacing or other simulators on a regular basis to sharpen their skills and prepare for upcoming races. This weekend, they will do it in front of an audience. We are grateful to iRacing and many of our other partners for creating this opportunity to entertain our loyal IMSA fans.”
The entrants will include WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Michelin Pilot Challenge drivers and the race will be streamed on iRacing’s Twitch channel and the iRacing eSports Network on YouTube.
Finally, Supercars Australia has revealed it too will run a virtual racing series to fill the gap for fans, also using iRacing (which was the platform for last year’s Supercars Eseries). The series will be broadcast live on Fox Sports, Kayo, and Supercars.com, as well as Supercars’ social media channels and Twitch.
The driver line-up is yet to be confirmed but Penrite Racing driver Anton De Pasquale is keen to get involved.
“I’ll definitely put my hand up and take part because it’s something I do a bit of now anyway,” De Pasquale told Supercars.com. “I’ve got a sim at home which I have a bit of fun on and hang out with some mates and do that kind of stuff, and then we have the one at Erebus too which we take a bit more seriously and use for development and training with myself.”
Supercars has pumped the brakes on the real series’ next three rounds (Tasmania, New Zealand, Western Australia) following the cancellation of last weekend’s Australian GP support races.This isn’t the only virtual racing attracting real-life drivers, either. Last weekend’s ‘Not the AUS GP’ (hosted by Veloce Esports with Codemasters’ F1 2019) featured McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris and Mercedes Formula E driver Stoffel Vandoorne amongst others, and RaceRoom Racing Experience developer Sector3 also recently announced its upcoming online ‘VIP Race’. Sector3’s race will feature drivers from the World Touring Car Cup, the BTCC, the GT Masters, and the WEC. The race is being broadcast this Saturday via YouTube.
While the spread of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on sports and resulted in a huge number of release delays and stalled productions, more importantly there are number of things you can do to stay safe during this pandemic.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. You can find him on Twitter every few days @MrLukeReilly.