Esports racing has seen a surge in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic. Reflecting the rising interest, racing companies like McLaren Racing and Williams are getting more and more invested in the genre.
2020 was a rough year for motorsports as major competitions like Formula 1 and Indy500 had to delay or outright cancel competitions, seeing declines in their audiences after their return as well. The silver lining was the explosion of racing esports viewership, no doubt aided by real drivers participating in virtual races. Formula 1, NASCAR and IndyCar all hosted online races, receiving millions of views and exponentially increasing fan engagement.
Races like Formula 1’s Virtual Grand Prix and eNASCAR were also broadcast on TV by big names like BT Sport, FOX and ESPN – the Virtual Grand Prix drew 30 million viewers across TV and digital platforms. Based on this growth, it should come as no surprise that major motorsports companies are investing in esports.
McLaren Racing’s new Shadow Studio
McLaren have been building partnerships for the past two years. They reached an agreement with Veloce Esports in 2020 to manage and develop McLaren’s sim racing team as well as extending their collaboration with Logitech. 2021 was no different for them as they expanded their partnership with data firm Splunk who provides data analysis and live dashboards as well as announcing a multi-year long collaboration with blockchain network Tezos.
Most recently, they have announced the launch of McLaren Shadow Studio based at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, UK (an institution they recently sold to US-based investors in order to raise funds on the short term, with an agreement that it gets leased back to them immediately). Their esports team and ambassadors can train, race and produce content as well at the Shadow Studio.
This studio also features equipment from McLaren’s partners like Alienware, Dell Technologies’ performance gaming brand, who have supplied Aurora R10 PCs and curved gaming monitors. Stating that the Shadow Studio shows their commitment to esports, McLaren will be expecting to develop skilled players and produce future content through their newly established space.
World Pro Racing invests in sim racing facility
Simulation racing event organizer World Pro Racing (WPR) had previously partnered with French esports television channel ES1 to broadcast sim racing events and championships and they also chose Esports Insider as their official international news publisher. WPR announced last week that they will be investing €300 000 in a facility in Malta to provide aspiring racers a chance to train in a professional environment. The facility will be dedicated to driver development, training and hosting sim racing events.
As well as being open to local consumers, international teams from 2022 onwards will also get to use it for bootcamps. The facility will host international sim racing events. WPR has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Malta’s Centre for Sports Excellence to host a sim racing curriculum, the details of which are yet to be revealed. University students will also get a chance to enter the industry through a summer work experience programme, which will showcase the wide variety of job opportunities available within the industry.
Williams decides to go all in on racing esports
British Formula One team Williams have announced their plans to invest heavily in esports over the coming few years. According to their head of esports, Steven English, the board of the company has approved of a plan that will see Williams branch into new esports titles and grow the number of dedicated esports staff – the plan translates into millions in investment over the next five years.
Esports have quickly overtaken other ventures of Williams to become a business on its own, rather than just a marketing project for their Formula One team. As a result, they have expanded their esports team with a dedicated manager. Their recent partnership with UK esports organization Resolve saw them entering Rocket League and English has stated they will be looking at titles beyond the ones they have entered to bring further growth and specialisation to the project. They have five dedicated esports staff right now and will be doubling that number yearly.
EDIT: The Williams esports story was initially reported by Dom Sacco at Esports News UK. This article has been edited to reflect that fact.