Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of speaking to Motorsport UK’s Esports Manager Paul Crawford on the Traxion.GG Podcast. One subject in our conversation which piqued our interest was the motorsport governing body’s plan to create a sim racing and esports hub.
Motorsport UK is the national motorsport membership and governing body for all four-wheel motorsport in the UK. It represents the interest of fans, competitors, volunteers and racing clubs, and its goal is to promote and popularise participation in UK motorsport.
Crawford sees Motorsport UK’s move into esports as a natural step given its popularity with real-world racers, so the question is, what role does Motorsport UK see itself undertaking in esports and sim racing in future?
“We are developing a simple informational hub, which will give new people who’ve come fresh into sim racing a bit more clarity around what equipment to use, what platform or console is better, what are the pros and cons of each, what games you can use on certain platforms, etc,” Crawford explained.
“If somebody starts playing Gran Turismo, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I currently just play with my mates, but I want to take it a little bit further’. You might come to us and [we’d] recommend communities or websites where you can go and race on Gran Turismo” he continued.
Essentially, Motorsport UK wants to create an esports hub, where information on sims, equipment and community racing can be found. The governing body also plans to partner up with existing sim racing communities and ensure they meet Motorsport UK’s high standards and safeguards:
“We will then be relying on the communities to deliver races… we would rather put people in contact with them… if you want to go sim racing, we recommend these as vetted, trusted places to go that are safe for people to engage with.”
Motorsport UK’s esports hub will therefore offer tips and advice for people starting out on their sim racing journey, offering Motorsport UK-endorsed communities to race in. But could Motorsport UK also nurture sim racers into a potential career within the esports industry?
“We want [sim racing] to be an aspirational profession. Whether that’s content creation [or] being a professional sim racer where you’re practising, racing and representing brands [as] a full-time professional,” he stated. But Crawford believes getting talented sim racers into real race cars is a viable strategy:
“There’s definitely discussions going on about having an academy specifically for sim racers and esports drivers like we do with the real world and developing that talent. And part of that programme would definitely [involve] getting them in real-world motorsport cars.”
“[Also] we deliver a diploma in sporting excellence and programme with Loughborough college. But we’ve now opened that up to two slots specifically for esports drivers. Part of that [means] they get training in commercial partnerships, physical training, sim training, and then also real-world car driving.”
Motorsport UK intends increase its presence in sim racing over the coming years (as seen from the recent ROKiT British F4 Esports Championship announcement), aiming to supply all the resources a budding esports athlete might need to start them on the virtual racing career pathway.
However, Motorsport UK does not want to act as the governing body of UK esports, its main aim is still to promote, govern and administer real-world four-wheel UK motorsport. How does Motorsport UK’s role as a sim racing hub encourage more people to take part in motorsport? Crawford comes up with the perfect personal anecdote to explain:
“One of my [sim racing] teammates – called Rich – bought a lot of equipment: sim rig, triple monitors, the works. I’ve done a few Citroen C1 races with a guy who’s also in the team. We told him we’re doing the Street Car Cup [an inexpensive way to start motor racing]. He was kind of like, ‘what, how can you do that?’ He knows I’m not massively wealthy, I’m in a normal management role.
He was like, ‘Don’t you have to buy the car and trailer and mechanic?’ No, you can just do arrive and drive. You pay a team X amount of money, you turn up, put your helmet on, get in the car and drive. And it kind of blew his mind that you could do this, he thought [you had to] buy a race car.
“Fast forward a year, he’s now doing a full season in the City Car Cup… it’s a perfect example, he just didn’t know it was possible. And now he does, and he does both [sim racing and motorsport].”
The organisation, therefore, hopes to pique the interest of sim racers visiting its esports hub by showcasing real-world championships that are affordable to first-time competitors. Motorsport teams can offer ‘arrive and drive’ packages, for example. This means drivers don’t have to purchase a race car or worry about transportation and maintenance – perceived to be significant barriers to participation.
“So let’s fast forward 10 years, it would be great to see somebody [who] has come through our esports pathway, got to the point where… now they do both: they enter our pro-level sim racing championships, but they also race… performing at a high level in the real world.”
It’s something we’d love to see happen too. But, what do you think about Motorsport UK’s plans to create an esports hub? Let us know in the comments below.
Images: Motorsport UK