Rennsport – Revolutionary or Risky?

Rennsport has been on the minds of several high-profile esports teams of late, with the company introducing itself to the sim racing world with a publicity event late last year for their upcoming title. The Porsche-backed company made all the right noises and impressions with those that attended, the consensus is that the sim is “on the right track”. The sim is still in production, so that gives some wiggle room in the expectation level.

The Munich-based outfit isn’t done with grabbing the headlines with a positive event, they are organising a championship alongside the very experienced hands at ESL, with some very heavy hitters in the sim racing world taking part, such as Williams esports, R8G and Apex Racing Team. There have been drivers even changing teams in readiness for when Rennsport gets underway.

Manufacturer support, excellent skills of ESL and big names from esports taking part, sounds great. Rennsport’s Twitter account has been alive in the last couple of months with regular tweets about technical and graphic updates, and words from the CEO Morris Hebecker all showing strong signals for the title.

The more sceptical in the community have voiced concerns about the readiness of the product for what Rennsport has in mind, and the scale for which they are aiming. Rennsport makes no secret that they have very lofty aspirations for their title, but the sim hasn’t even reached a Closed Beta stage yet, and they are already generating a lot of interest for a sim racing series. With the issues that the sim racing world has faced in recent times, in particular with the backlash following Max Verstappens / Team Redline’s disconnection from the lead of Virtual LeMans this year, the last thing people want is a rushed project.

These concerns carry merit, as Rennsport is taking a huge risk in attracting so much attention to an unfinished product. Whilst the publicity event last year no doubt served as a valuable test session, with some highly experienced sim racers giving unique insight and guidance for areas to improve on, the Munich crew have sold the idea very well to the sim racing world to have attracted the teams to be taking part in the ESL run series.

The question has to be asked though, why do this on a sim that hasn’t even got to the beta stage of development yet? It’s understandable to be excited about a new sim entering the scene with huge potential, however, if the game isn’t ready then the backlash is going to be magnified by the amount of attention that Rennsport has gathered so far.

These concerns were further stirred by a tweet released by Rennsport on the 31st of January explaining that the closed beta has been delayed to resolve concerns regarding multiplayer servers, however, the ESL series seems to be going ahead, with the tweet going on to say that the series will provide “valuable insight that we will use to improve the current state of development”.

If the expectation level of the ESL series is set at “it’s not finished yet” and it still holds up well, Rennsport will have pulled a master stroke in providing a product at just the right time to gain more interest in sim racing and ignite new passion (and reignite old passion) for the genre, but if Rennsport hits big issues in this event, Rennsport could face a mountainous uphill battle to regain the trust of the sim racing world.

Virtual LeMans 2022-2023 season closer

Getty images/Red Bull content pool
Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool 

The dust has just started to settle on the highly controversial season finale of the third running of the Virtual LeMans Series 2022-2023, with a lot of heated comments being thrown towards Motorsport Games, the organisers of the series, and license holder to the Virtual LeMans name. In case you have missed the latest fire being started in the sim racing world, here is a brief overview. LMP favourites Team Redline were leading the championship coming into the final round at LeMans, the number 1 car being driven by Sim racing stars Diogo Pinto & Jeffery Rietveld alongside two pro drivers, Aston Martin BRDC Driver of the year 2022 Luke Browning, and double Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen.

People like Luke and Max will bring a considerable amount of attention with them from their respective fanbase, and the event is a great opportunity for the sim racing world to show the real racing fans and champions what it has to offer, however the event won’t be remembered for the great battles that took place throughout the event (particularly in the night hours), the Team Redline number two car came home to win the LMP class, or the Romain Grosjean backed R8G esports car won the GTE class. Alas, the event will be remembered for the public scathing from Max Verstappen in particular, the champion labelling the event as “a clown show”.

Let’s take a look at what happened. In the first half of the event, the race had to be stopped due to a security breach on the servers hosting the race, on two separate occasions. Reports suggest that a DDOS attack had been initiated on the servers, making the game unplayable for all concerned, forcing the organisers to halt the race until the issue was resolved. Whilst this attack on the servers is, quite frankly, pathetic on the part of those conducting the attack, it raises questions about the management of the servers themselves.

After the DDOS situation had been resolved, the race continued through the night without too much drama, with plenty of racing action to keep the audience entertained, but in the latter part of the race, driver disconnects were a concern. This is always a concern for endurance sim racing, irrespective of the event, but there had been an alarming number of disconnects reported.

In the rulebook, it is stated that if four or more cars disconnect at the same time, the stewards have the discretion to award the lost laps back to the affected teams. However, if three or less cars disconnect in short succession, no consideration is given to awarding the laps back to the affected team, and this was the straw that broke the Verstappen back. Max had disconnected from the race whilst in the lead, and because Team Redline had been informed that they were not being awarded the laps back (for the above reason), Max parked the car in the garage, thus retiring them from the race.

On the surface, this may seem a rash decision, especially as the championship was on the line and the team had prepared for months for this event alone, but this was the culmination of numerous disconnects for the number 1 team (not just Max), and all the other teams affected by this same issue, and the feeling of injustice when laps had been awarded back to other teams but not to Redline (again, for the above reasons).

Max has vowed never to participate in this event again, and the sim racing world will be seen in a negative light because of this event. The fans took to social media to call for Motorsport Games to relinquish the license, and for another platform to be used for this event in the future. Sim racing is always trying to prove itself in the eyes of real-world racing fans, as well as drivers and sponsorship opportunities, which this event has done no favours to at all.

Should Max have retired the car in anger? Should the organisers have treated the situation differently? There are always two sides to each argument, as strictly speaking, the organisers did enforce the rules that were set out before the season began, and all participants agreed to adhere to, but when the servers themselves are identified as the issue, lessons must be learnt from this event.

The title showdown in F1 esports. Who will be the new champion?

F1 esports has seen a changing of the guard this year. Brendon Leigh, driving for Mercedes AMG Petronas, took the title in 2017 and successfully defended the crown in 2018 in dominant fashion, before Scuderia Ferraris David Tonizza took the title to Italy for the prancing horse in 2019, narrowly fending off the advances of Denmarks Frederik Rasmussen. Since then, the wonder-Dutchman Jarno Opmeer has held dominion in the F1 esports arena, taking the crown in 2020 and 2021, both times seeing off fierce competition, and both times Rasmussen taking the second spot in the championship.

Mercedes and Redbull have been the teams to beat throughout F1 esports history (that sounds familiar), with two titles each (there was no constructors championship awarded in 2017). The constructors this year has already been sealed, McLaren Shadow will be crowned 2022 F1 esports constructors champions following the great work from Scotlands Lucas Blakeley, and the Man from Iranhaveari Boroumand.

Image courtesy of Ferrari

So who are the main contenders for Opmeers title this year?

Lucas Blakeley
Hailing from the highlands, Blakely was signed by BWT Racing Point in 2019. This would prove to be a somewhat difficult start to Blakeleys esports career, despite proving himself a very capable driver in the league racing scene. Whilst the speedy Scotsman did score a podium in 2019, he only raced anoBlakeley’sces that year, with results that did not reflect his talent. He was retained by Racing Point for 2020, in which he raced almost every race, but again the results didn’t go as expected. When Aston Martin took over Racing Point for 2021, Blakeley was now really getting into his stride, finishing third in the season, and this year, he has been a major component in McLaren Shadows championship winning season, and leads the drivers championship.

Thomas Ronhaar
The new rising star from The Netherlands is Ronhaar. He absolutely stormed the league racing scene and currently drives in Haas colours. Ronhaar sits just five points behind Blakeley, and has been doing everything to win his debut championship and keep the title in Dutch hands.

Frederik Rasmussen
You can never keep a good man down, or a good diver back. Rasmussen has finished in the top three in the drivers championship in every year F1 esports has existed, and was a force in league racing before 2017 as well. The great Dane has been in the Redbull family since being signed by Toro Rosso in 2018 and moved over to the main squad in 2019, where he has been ever since. Only 14 points separates him to Blakeley, and the competition is as fierce as ever.

Bardia Boroumand
The man from Iran has been in the league racing scene a long time, and is no stranger to competing at the front, but didn’t enter the F1 esports world until 2020, where he was the third driver for Mercedes behind Leigh and Bono Huis. Boroumand only raced once that year, and after moving to McLaren in 2021, he has gone from strength to strength. A regular points scorer and occasional podium saw Bari finish fifth in 2021, and this year he has scored a far bigger haul of podiums, and a win at Spa, all of which sees him fourth in the standings, just 16 points behind teammate Blakeley.

Jarno Opmeer
A man that is known throughout the F1 esports and league racing world, he hit the ground running, being signed by Renault in 2019 and coming home in fourth in the championship, before commencing his dominance in 2020 with Alfa Romeo and continuing with Mercedes in 2021. The champion is still mathematically able to retain the crown, but with a 34-point deficit to Blakeley, it will need a big helping of luck to swing the momentum his way

With two races still left, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, the stage is set for a thrilling conclusion to a season that has seen a huge shake-up in the establishment.

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