The inimitable sim racing competitor and content creator Emily Jones has been there, done that, and indeed got the t-shirt.
Competing at the Gran Turismo World Series World Finals last year, taking part in the iRacing Supercars Eseries, live streaming on Twitch and contributing video content to our friends over at Overtake.GG.
So when, while chatting at the inaugural ESL R1 event in Poland recently, she was so enthusiastic about proceedings, it made me sit up and take notice.
“I think it’s fantastic and long overdue,” said Jones to Traxion.GG at the Intel Extreme Masters, Katowice.
“I’ve watched this Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament for years and years plus idolised so many of these drivers. To be in the same room watching them is awesome.”
Many a debate was started online on the run-up to the Spodek Arena-held event as to where sim racing esports sits. After all, sitting alongside a first-person shooter competition was a curveball.
“There are two sides of the same coin – is competitive sim racings a real-world racing thing? Or is it esports? I very much think this is an esports event and I think this belongs here.
“CS:GO is one of the highlights of esports, and to have sim racing here, is showing where it belongs.”
The first two rounds of the championship were an in-person LAN affair, using the as-yet-unproven Rennsport platform. 48 drivers all travelled to the European nation, plus team personnel, with one round on Saturday and another on Sunday.
Later in the year, the Spring Season final will follow a similar format, this time in Munich. The was a general sense of positivity when the layout was first trialled in May last year.
“I’m sentimental, I still believe Gran Turismo does the best live events and the best LAN events,” explained Jones, who was on social media duties for the competition across the first event.
“But, I think they’ve had a lot more experience, they’ve been doing it for many years. This is the nearest I’ve ever felt anything close to it.”
This is a key point to raise not just about the first-ever ESL R1 event, but the Rennsport platform, still not expected to be in the hands of the general public until the end of 2023 at the earliest. This is the learning phase.
The theory being it can gather feedback and iron out bugs via esports competitions ahead of launch.
“I think it’s really early days with this game and they’ve done an incredible job to get it in the position of where it’s playable,” said Jones.
“Rennsport is working on an esports stage, with little to no bugs, so it’s doing its job. I think that’s incredible.
“As a game as to drive, I’ve not spent enough time with it to really click yet. I think with sim racing there’s no perfect platform. iRacing, rFactor2, Assetto Corsa Competizione and even more games, all do things slightly differently and there’s no one right way of doing it.
“And Rennsport just feels like another way of doing it, different to all of them.”
During the initial weekend, the wins were split between MOUZ’s Maximillian Benecke and Porsche Coanda Esports’ Joshua Rogers, with a unique knock-out format denying one dominant force.
Not only was the racing close, but there was a positive atmosphere in the room. Sure, at times the competitive nature created tension, but on the whole, it felt like everyone working together to create a new movement.
“It’s got a nice vibe,” highlighted Jones.
“This feels like a LAN and a wholesome event, I think it’s great.
“I can’t wait for Rennsport to open up and have more people playing, I’m really excited.”