Before we get into how the richest eSporst sim race in history was run and won, I would like to look at the race on its own merit and without the inevitable community comments on how bad it looked, how embarrassing it was for sim racing as a whole or how poorly organised it was. These were some of the expressed opinions of many sim racers and observers, unleashed online before, during and after the race was run.
Vegas Visa eRace:
I stayed up until after 3am local time in The Netherlands to watch the entire Vegas Visa eRace broadcast while occasionally chatting with our good mate (Wim from BSimRacing) on Skype about how the first $1,000,000 eRace was shaping up. I found myself quite immersed in the battle at the front of the field.
After a relatively clean start in the beginning of the race, Team Redline and Faraday Future Dragon Racing, Bono Huis romped away to build a respectable five second lead. With the only Pro driver able to keep up with the top ten sim racers, Felix Rosenqvist from Mahindra Racing and Aleksi Ussi-Jaakkola from Andretti Formula E in third place. It was a close race behind these three with four cars fighting fiercely for fourth place.
A rather large mid race three car accident between Davide Greco, Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola and Adam Carrol going into turn one put an end to the closest fight during the race. Team Redline and Mahindra Racing’s Olli Pahkala decided to pit just prior to this accident and profited from a clear track when he re-emerged from the pits. He then made use of his Fanboost (voted for by the public, two drivers were given extra power for a few seconds during the course of five laps). This advantage gave Olli the lead with a half a dozen laps to go.
With the advantage of Fanboost, Olli set fastest lap after fastest lap, this put him in the lead with an undercut when Huis and Rosenqvist pitted late in the race. The two lead drivers left the pits as they had entered them with Huis leading the way. By this time, Pahkala had taken an unassailable lead and was headed for certain victory. In the closing stages of the race, Rosenqvist homed in on Huis and it looked as if he was going to challenge for second place. With the end of the race in sight, Pahkala crossed the line first with Huis holding on to second place ahead of Rosenqvist.
On the face of it, Olli’s victory seemed like a case of good pitstop strategy combined with the added advantage of Fanboost to help him to a comfortable win. However, immediately after the race had concluded, there was a look of confusion and disappointment on Huis’s face which hinted that something was not quite right with the result. An hour or so after the event, an official announcement was made by the stewards of the race that due to a technical problem, Olli Pahkala (through no fault of his own) had in fact, profited more than he should have from the Fanboost option. In the light of the available post race data, Olli unfortunately had to relinquish first place and was relegated to third. This shuffle resulted in Huis inheriting first place and Rosenqvist second. In the end, Team Redline bagged places 1,3,4,5, and 6 out of the top ten finishers. A dominant display of all their considerable sim racing talents!
A big congratulations to Bono Huis, Felix Rosenqvist, Olli Pahkala and all the participants of this historic sim racing event.
What Is Racing Without A Little Controversy?
This post race controversy marred what, for me, was an enjoyable race from a spectator’s point of view. But, what is racing without a little controversy mixed in? Even Formula One has had its share of penalties and relegations in the past 2016 season! Now let’s look at some of the things that led to some not so kind online comments about the race.
- The graphics looked like Outrun from the 80’s
- None of the sim racers can drive a real race car
- The whole thing was poorly run and sloppy
- It’s rigged somehow
- Not realistic enough
- An embarrassment to sim racing
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but without all the facts these opinions may be just a little misguided. The following is not meant to excuse the issues or how the game looked, I happen to have had contact with all the major parties involved in this event and without going into fine detail, here are some of the contributing factors.
Did the rFactor2 based software look good? No, not particularly. There were a number of mitigating circumstances that contributed to how it looked. These included time constraints, commercial pressure from more than one side, indecision and a lack of clear direction for which to go in.
Many of the sim racers competing in the eRace have had real world driving experience, including Olli Pahkala, Greger Hutu and Davide Greco. Stating that most, if not all, sim racers can’t handle themselves in a real race car is a an unfounded and ill informed assumption.
To say that the organisation of the Vegas Visa eRace has let down or embarrassed sim racing as a genre is a little unfair. The logistics involved are akin to holding a real world event. Taking into account that this is the first major eRace to be held by FIA Formula E and Cloud Sport, the build up to the race and the race itself was entertaining to watch.
Of course, there is room for improvement. The technical issues should have not been a contributing factor to the outcome of the race. Instead of concentrating on what it was not, we could look at the positives that can be taken away from the event. Sim racing as an eSport has profited from this spectacle, good or bad, whichever way you like to look at it. FIA Formula E is leading the way into the future of how eSports and sim racing are set to grow. These are the first tentative steps into new territory for sim racing, even the new owners of Formula One are interested in staging a similar campaign to involve the virtual world with their real world F1 counterparts. The future of sim racing as an eSport is positive and it remains the most closely matched genre of any eSport!