You know, when I used to play Gran Turismo 2 on my Playstation as a kid in the late 90’s, I never thought that people could play computer games professionally, but for 12 lucky ‘drivers’, this is now a reality.
The third season of Virtual GP is among us, with the action kicking off on Saturday February 4th at Imola. The virtual racing series is now backed by Thrustmaster, who are themselves big in the gaming industry for supplying equipment such as racing wheels. (I got one at Christmas and haven’t regretted it yet!)
In a nutshell the series is essentially 12 gamers who will race on an online server using racing simulators and will use the racing game Assetto Corsa to do this. I see this is a bit of a unique thing compared to real world experiences, but with the rise of competitive gaming, or eSports as they’re known, VGP is definitely going places.
Now, with the technicalities out the way, the drivers will race around some of the most historic and challenging circuits in the world, such as Imola, Spa, Monza and Silverstone to name a few. The simulators they will use will try and recreate every bump and every turn so it feels like the real thing.
In its third season, Virtual GP is a series which originated in the Czech Republic, and is globally growing at an alarming rate. With sponsors such as T-Mobile and Hankook tyres, people are buying into the online racing genre, which is great!
To further improve the stature of this fantastic racing series, the producers have secured a high profile commentator for the English speaking footage of the races. Matt Gallagher is a YouTuber, in other words he plays games and uploads the footage onto YouTube with an often hilarious voiceover review of his race.
His alias online is xMattyG and is one of the most popular names in the online racing community. With nearly 15,000 followers on Twitter and almost 50,000 subscribers on YouTube (myself included), Virtual GP certainly have secured a huge coup in acquiring his services! (Trust me, watch one of his videos and come back to me.)
Now onto the drivers, while none of these are household names, they’re all quality racers. The first is Michal Smidl, who won the very first VGP championship and even retained his trophy last season, he is the undisputed king, and the one everyone will be keen to dethrone.
One of his biggest challengers will be Jaroslav Honzik, with ten podiums in 11 starts, he’s seen as the main contender to Smidl’s crown, but with 10 other drivers fighting them, it promises to be an exciting season.
Also, the winner of the championship gets a test drive in a Formula Renault 2.0 car (below), supplied by real life racing team Effective Racing. I know right, that is a huge prize! Why didn’t I take my racing games more seriously?!
The action kicks off on February 4th, and can be found on YouTube, with race reports being done by myself here on The Pit Crew Online. Nnow if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to dust off my racing wheel and try to get my application ready for next season…I can be found in a barrier on a virtual racetrack somewhere.
Aaron Irwin (@AaronIrwin7)