Etihad plays host to esports

Last weekend, Etihad opened up its doors to a new kind of sport… video game car racing

We all know our sporting stadiums draw large crowds. From cricket, to footy, to music concerts and more, but how many people have been into one for competitive video gaming? Unless you’re in the esports world, this whole concept is probably foreign. Aside from the “video games = violence” debate, gaming is seen as an anti-social way to pass time. But that has all changed!

Esports are becoming huge, all over the globe, and Australia is now part of it. We’ve had the Overwatch World Cup qualifiers held on our shores, E Sports League (ESL) Australia is growing bigger, Direwolves have taken over Sydney Cricket Ground, and tournaments are popping up all over the place. So it’s no wonder that Motum Simulation wanted to come to the party as well.

The Legends Bar hosts the Motum esports tournament. SLIM Productions provided all the cool looking lights in the venue.

With their full motion virtual reality (VR) simulator, Motum has a unique edge on the competition. Motum’s technology – the most realistic driving simulator in the world – is designed to blur the lines between real world racing and virtual sim drivers. Not only that, but racing rigs like these bring communities together. It brings together real world drivers and sim racers. What better way to do this than in an esports format?

With 12 degrees of movement, this simulator is in a league of its own

Utilising Project CARS 2, Motum created the Virtual Sim Racing (VSR) Showdown, with the aim of bringing together physical world drivers, sim racers, and even the gamers. Placed in the amazing Etihad Stadium, members of the public came into the Legends Bar throughout the week to set their lap times and qualify for the main event on Saturday.

Setting lap times on Project CARS 2

One of the most impressive things was the range of people who came into the simulator. Amateur racing car drivers, sim racers from iRacing, gamers from Forza, guys with an adrenaline rush, and even some members of the AFL. Only six of the public qualified for the main event. The VSR Showdown started with 18 drivers; the six from the public, six chosen from the top sim racing teams in Australia, and six from the world of professional race car driving.

These 18 participants went head to head in 1 v 1 v 1 races. The first round saw the top two from each race progressing through to the final. It was a tournament style competition, with entrants being eliminated each round. The display of skill and spectacle was amazing. Spectators watch on, both physically at Etihad, and online through Twitch.

Each driver showed us their best, providing the crowd with crashes, clashes, and some brilliant driving. Rivalry was strong, both between individual drivers, and even groups of people. The sim racers were determined to prove they can match the real drivers, and the physical world racers eager to show they can transfer their skills from the track to the computer.

Emily Jones during one of the semi finals

True to the goal of blurring the lines between real world racing and virtual driving, VSR Showdown featured commentators from both walks of life. V8 Supercars Commentator & PitLane Reporter Cameron Van Den Dungen sat alongside Evolution Racing Team driver & sim racing commentator Beau Albert. These two held the crowd in the palm of their hands, delivering fans with valuable insights on both real and virtual driving. Their innate knowledge of all aspects of motorsport gave the VSR Showdown the lifelike look it was after.

Cameron and Beau discussing who their faves are. Look at those comfy chairs! (Photo Credit: Cameron & Beau)

Whilst our commentators showed their skills, our drivers were hot! After some spectacular racing and fun times, there can only be one winner. James Allen, a multiple European Le Mans Series race winner, took home 1st place along with bragging rights. The GRAFF Racing driver also drives with Evolution Racing Team and beat rivals Richard Hamstead (TTL Esports) and Emily Jones (Trans Tasman Racing). James, in the words of ERT “showed some amazing race craft and experience that comes with being an ELMS winner”* and was able to show the crowd what that means. Congrats to James Allen on the first VSR win and I know there’s plenty more to come.

James with Evolution Racing Team
Winner James with runners up and 3rd place getters + some of their sweet prizes from Logitech G and ZQ Racing

The final race is rumoured to be up on YouTube soon, but you can see some clips of racing and interviews here on Twitch.

On the day, we even had some VR Drone racing thanks to Dark Shadow Studios and their Drone Legion game. Players came in to see who could navigate their virtual drone through the obstacle course the fastest. More prizes were awarded and some great flying by all. We suspect Drone Legion will be back for the next round too!

The Dark Shadow Studios team came from Ballarat to show off their drones

This was such a fun event and the first of many. Stay in the loop with all things VSR on their website. Look out for some more exciting news coming up about the next awesome Virtual Sim Racing competition.

And if you’re wondering what’s happening in the world of esports, keep an eye out on my Twitter, but also check out the Australian Esports League official page. It’s still relatively new, but looks exciting and posts up most of the main events.

Before I go, I did want to say how awesome it is that esports is being supported in this way. VSR Showdown wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership and support from Etihad Stadium for the venue, Corsair and AMD for all the awesome hardware and computers, Logitech G for their amazing prizes and leaderboard, ZQ Racing for keeping us comfy with their insanely amazing chairs, SLIM Productions for the “pro esports look”, Q Media Group for the great work on the broadcasting, and of course, Project CARS 2 for providing us with the game and official endorsement of the event. Looking forward to having you all back for Round 2!

*Quote from Evolution Racing Team.

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