“There’s a virtual WRC happening right now”
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).