It’s close to 10 pm on a Thursday evening and 20-year-old Danish esports superstar Frederik Rasmussen has just won something that millions of people could only dream of – €20,000 and a drive of a real-life Gen2 Formula E car around the Valencia circuit in a few weeks’ time.
“I still can’t believe it. It feels really amazing! I didn’t expect it at all as I was so far behind Erhan Jajovski [going into the final round]”, said the Red Bull Racing Esports driver at the time.
Many professional-level esports racers focus on one particular racing platform, or sometimes even just one discipline with a favourite simulator. Be that Porsche 911 Supercups within iRacing, GT3 cars within rFactor 2 or Formula 1.
Those who do venture outside of their comfort zone may find that learning different physics engines, handling models and car types may lessen their chances of victory as fellow competitors may benefit from more seat time.
But esports is an environment, more so than motorsport, where being successful across multiple disciplines is possible. Mitchell deJong has proved that across this year’s PESC and eNASCAR series for example, but both are within iRacing.
After finishing on the overall podium of the F1 Esports Series three years in a row, now Frede has mastered Formula E within rFactor 2. A different discipline on a simulator that is arguably polar-opposite to F1 2020.
“[I’ve practised] about 200 hours since the qualifiers started. I’ve been playing this and nothing else during this time, full focus,” highlights Frede in his trademark laconic fashion.
“This is my first time racing the game properly. I did one event three years ago, but that’s all I did so this was my first time driving the game.
“The hardest thing was probably the braking actually. It was quite tricky to learn, especially with the brake bias so far back to save energy and the sliding through the corners.”
The championship victory was hard-fought. In round one a qualifying faux pas put him on the back foot for the rest of the series.
“The first race of the season, I think I had the best pace, but I misunderstood some qualifying rules and I didn’t know what to do. That ruined the whole event and put me P9 in the championship.”
From that point on though, he was always in the hunt. Initially, it looked as if R8G Esports member Erhan Jajovski – a two-time GT Pro Series champion on rFactor 2 – was about to run away with the championship and bring home the chocolates after a dominant round one win. He backed that up with victory in round two at Hong Kong, but this time Rasmussen was pushing him all the way.
A week later, the result was the same for Rasmussen in the Dragon/Penske Autosport vehicle, second place, but this time BMW i Andretti Motorsport star Kevin Siggy snatched a victory. Importantly, it showed that Jajovski could be beaten.
Next, a new track for everyone, Diriyah, and Frede’s maiden Formula E: Accelerate victory. Leading from pole, Frede kept a constant, albeit narrow, lead, with Siggy following close behind. With just under 10 minutes of the race to go, Kevin dived for the lead into turn one. The resulting contact meant a big slide for Frederick, but a half spin for Siggy, losing second to Jajovski.
“He [Siggy] just went for a move, a move that’s never really going to work and it didn’t work there. Luckily we both could continue and I could still win the race.”
Next, the semi-fictional Electric Docks venue for the penultimate round, and another pole position for Rasmussen. His Rokit Venturi Racing championship rival, Jajovski, got the jump off the line and into a lead he didn’t relinquish. As the race unfolded, Rasmussen fell back into the clutches of DS Techeetah’s Nikodem Wisniewski, eventually ceding and finishing third.
“I feel like the others are way more in front of me yet still use less energy, so I really don’t understand that. I had good pace, but I’m clearly missing something with the energy and I couldn’t do anything,” said Frede after the event.
No matter, the final round was at another new track for all, the Rome E-Prix venue and yes, another pole for the Dane. The final round of the championship was a double-point affair, and after Jajovski hit the wall pushing for fastest lap bonus points and with Rasmussen dominating at the front, championship glory went to Denmark. Next up, a drive in the real thing.
“I’m really excited for it [driving a Formula E car]. I’ve waited for so many years for an opportunity like this and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not sure how it’s going to go, I’ve no idea, but let’s see what happens.”
As for the rest of the esports season, he is down as a backup driver for the V10 R-League and “hopefully some more F1 esports.”
He shows that multidiscipline esports success is possible. More than that, the cream always rises to the top, and Frederik Rasmussen clearly has the skillset and determination to win in any type of virtual racing. Should he return to F1 Esports later this year, I wouldn’t bet against him wrapping up a much-deserved first Drivers’ Championship title to sit alongside his Formula E: Accelerate achievement.