Esports Virtual Motor Racing and Women

Esports Virtual Motor Racing and Women

Is driving any car in a racing simulator any way like driving a ‘real’ car at a racing track? Similar I’d imagine, just different perhaps. So how does virtual-racing compare with the real track experience?

Maybe this is like comparing the new car you’re test driving with the car you’re more used to driving. It can’t just be me who struggles to change gear and or apply brakes during a test drive as smoothly as I might do in my more familiar car.

If you’re used to driving an older car, for example, and then you test drive a brand new one from a dealer showroom, are you ever embarrassed when you press the stop and go pedals and everyone on board is thrown forward because the car is evidently being managed by a muppet?

So why is it that my husband, who prefers driving older cars (Citroens usually) doesn’t have this problem? He can leap into the driving seat of any car and drive it smoothly, properly and without any fear factor. He always has done and no cars have phased him yet.

I don’t know why this is and I am not suggesting this has anything to do with gender (heavens to Betsy), but anecdotally I know it’s not just me that has this unfamiliarity concern among a female audience. Which might explain why so many women buy the same car make and model again rather than test drive another, possibly better, model in these situations. After all research rarely suggests women are 100% satisfied with their choice.

Clearly it’s familiarity of controls that helps. Knowing where the pedals are and the likely braking power – that sort of thing.

When it comes to driving cars in simulators I’ve always been rubbish at this. I’d start too fast, spin off at the first bend and hate being watched (ie laughed at I felt) as I showed my incompetence here.

Now I realise I could have been doing this in secret, in my living room, practising with the same car and on the same circuit until I got really good and could show off my prowess to others!

I don’t know enough about the demographics of sim-racers doing this on their Playstations and such like but I read that e-racing is a mostly male pursuit to date. Well maybe not for much longer…

W Series Esports League

When the W Series was unable to fulfil its 2020 racetrack calendar because of COVID-19 it turned to e-racing, launching an Esports League in a short and impressive space of time as an alternative programme. This is now the 2020 plan to raise awareness of fast female racing drivers, racing during lockdown and from the comfort of their home sitting rooms across the world.

Last night I watched the first Esports races on BBC iPlayer and was impressed to visit a virtual but realistic Monza circuit where some female e-racers quickly outperformed others. Top of the Esports League after one meeting is Beitske Visser, who was runner up in the 2019 racetrack season. She is also well known for her sim-racing talent. I don’t think the 2019 W Series track winner, Jamie Chadwick (in the photo), is as experienced in this virtual area yet as she is not among the front runners. I imagine this is because she spends her days doing her job on race tracks. But this might change in the face of new competition forces.

To add weight to my probably ill-informed opinion – that twiddling thumbs around a virtual driving wheel might have little to do with driving experience on real roads – a sixteen year old Russian, Ira Sidorkova, came in second in yesterday’s racing programme – demonstrating driving skills, an impressive and total lack of fear and a canny knack for being in the right place on the track at the right time.

Virtual e-racing vs traditional track racing

So, does virtual motor racing have anything in common with real live track racing I hear you ask? Well yes, I’ve decided it does.

For starters the experience and graphics are extremely realistic – even if you are sitting at home in your pyjamas. And you need to handle drive and braking controls, requiring your concentration throughout. You then need the spatial awareness of others around you as you all jostle for a good start to the race. Finally you need the female equivalent of balls to go for it as some W Series racers, both with and without added virtual e-racing experience.

So I think we’ll soon be seeing the W Series Esports League produce more competitive results, as more female competitors get more experience here. And I think it’ll capture the attention of a younger audience too, both male and female.

The next racing fixture is on Thursday 18 June at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Texas – it’s at 7pm via BBC iPlayer.

Here’s the detail and I hope I’ll ‘see’ you in virtual racing life very soon.

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