McLaren look­ing for gamer to be their next sim­u­la­tion driver

New Straits Times - - Sport -

WOKING: All Formula One teams could even­tu­ally have their own vir­tual coun­ter­part, while gam­ing can be­come the new grass­roots of the sport, McLaren ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Zak Brown said on Mon­day.

Speak­ing at an event to pro­mote McLaren’s “World’s Fastest Gamer” ini­tia­tive to re­cruit a Formula One sim­u­la­tor driver from vir­tual rac­ing, Brown told re­porters the world of es­ports was to be em­braced.

“I don’t see how any F1 team can ig­nore the power of e-sports, the au­di­ence, the peo­ple it pro­duces. So I’d like to think most F1 teams will do some­thing in some way, shape or form,” he said.

“This is build­ing the grass­roots of motorsports,” added the Amer­i­can, who ar­rived at the team’s head­quar­ters fresh from In­di­anapo­lis where he watched McLaren driver Fer­nando Alonso qual­ify fifth for Sun­day’s Indy 500.

“If the grass­roots has his­tor­i­cally been kart­ing, which is still a nar­row au­di­ence be­cause it’s still ex­pen­sive, I see this (gam­ing) as be­ing the ul­ti­mate grass­roots of motorsports, be­ing wide and deep and ev­ery­one can af­ford it.”

Si­mon Long, head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at an­a­lyt­ics com­pany Nielsen Sport, said the es­ports in­dus­try could be worth as much as US$2 bil­lion (RM9 bil­lion) by 2020 while at­tract­ing up to 600 mil­lion view­ers.

Dar­ren Cox, ‘Chief Mav­er­ick Of­fi­cer” of the Ideas+Cars agency work­ing with McLaren, said gam­ing was “big­ger than Hol­ly­wood” and pointed to the ‘Real Rac­ing 3” mo­bile app that had 300 mil­lion down­loads.

Brown said mo­tor rac­ing, as a sport that could not be prac­tised at school and re­quired a sub­stan­tial out­lay, needed to con­sider other ways of en­gag­ing younger au­di­ences.

Formula One’s new US-based own­ers Lib­erty Me­dia have al­ready tar­geted gam­ing as a growth area to drive rev­enues.

“Formula One’s al­ways go­ing to be the big­gest planet... and I see e-sports as another one of those rac­ing teams that McLaren has,” said Brown.

Other series, such as sportscars and Le Mans, have taken gamers from the arm­chair to the race­track with con­sid­er­able suc­cess.

Young Formula One rac­ers such as McLaren’s Stof­fel Van­doorne and Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen also com­pete in the vir­tual world as does McLaren’s upand-com­ing de­vel­op­ment driver Lando Nor­ris.

Brown said the McLaren project, with 10 gamers rac­ing for the prize, could ul­ti­mately lead to more than driv­ing the sim­u­la­tor.

“I’ve been asked would the gamer go into the F1 car? Maybe, maybe not,” he added.

“But some pre­vi­ous peo­ple around gam­ing have gone on to drive who are darn good driv­ers. So I def­i­nitely wouldn’t rule it out.” Reuters

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