DAVID EVANS

“There’s a vir­tual WRC hap­pen­ing right now”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

So, turns out Hay­den Pad­don didn’t win Rally Ar­gentina. The win­ners in South Amer­ica were a Pole, Bul­gar­ian and a French per­son.

I’d like to tell you their names, but all I know is that one’s called GTPL_KOLSA2, his mate’s XNOF3AR69X and our Bul­gar­ian friend goes by the snappy han­dle Ko­matsu(upro).

Those three won round four of es­ports WRC. This is a vir­tual thing. Not this col­umn, this is real. It’s in your hands and writ­ten in ink.

Like the rest of this week’s Mo­tor­sport News, it’s not a vir­tual thing.

There is, how­ever, a vir­tual World Rally Cham­pi­onship hap­pen­ing right now. I’ve known about it for a while but haven’t paid much at­ten­tion. In­trigue’s got the bet­ter of me…

Each WRC round (that’s the proper WRC, the real one, the one you can ac­tu­ally get on an aero­plane and go to…) is ac­com­pa­nied by a four-day es­ports WRC qual­i­fier. That’s the one where the stages are mainly found in cy­berspace on the WRC5 game.

Fancy tak­ing part in Rally of Por­tu­gal next week? No prob­lem. You sign up, de­cid­ing if you are a Playstation 4, Xbox One or PC per­son, down­load the stage and get on with your recce. When Thursday comes, you get one shot at the stage, same for Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day. The top three times from each for­mat qual­ify for a semi-fi­nal in Sar­dinia (vir­tu­ally). Get through the semi and you’ll qual­ify as one of 18 fi­nal­ists. The last event – in a throw­back to the good old days when the sea­son gen­uinely fin­ished in Bri­tain – will be held at Rally GB on Dee­side.

Here’s the tricky bit, your pres­ence in the ser­vice park will be real, but you’ll still only be rac­ing vir­tu­ally. You won’t be get­ting muddy.

And don’t worry if you’re kick­ing your­self about miss­ing the first half of the sea­son, Poland, Fin­land, Ger­many, Aus­tralia (again a vir­tual cal­en­dar odd­ity) and Cor­sica hold the se­cond round qual­i­fy­ing events. Get through and you’re in a Catalunya semi, fight­ing for your place on Dee­side.

You might have no­ticed, I haven’t taken this whole thing too se­ri­ously – un­like those of a cer­tain age who are pre­sum­ably locked away in a dark­ened room tear­ing up parts of Por­tu­gal on their recce (in an­other heart­en­ing throw­back to the good old days, the recce is un­lim­ited) – and that’s quite re­miss of me.

More than 134 mil­lion peo­ple around the world are gam­ing com­pet­i­tively, with in­dus­try rev­enues set to ex­ceed £1bil­lion in the next two years. It’s mas­sive. And it’s get­ting big­ger.

What’s more, this year’s es­ports World Rally cham­pion will be handed the keys to a Hyundai i20. It’s vir­tu­ally too late to en­ter Por­tu­gal (that’s re­ally vir­tu­ally, not vir­tu­ally, vir­tu­ally), but give round two a go. I am.

Got to go, a dark­ened room and Se­bastien Ogier’s Volk­swa­gen Polo R WRC is wait­ing for me at the start of Hafren. Re­ally. Sort of.

And don’t worry, Hay­den Pad­don re­ally did win Ar­gentina ( read more on page 15).

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