Unlike real-world motorsport, sim racing requires spending only a few hundred dollars for a set-up – though it won't be as nice as this one. — Thomas Frey/dpa Virtual motorsports have experienced a real boom during the coronavirus pandemic, as real-world races have been cancelled and racing action has moved to the e-sports arena. The boom is particularly visible when it comes to sim racing games, which simulate motorsport as realistically as possible. One of those titles, iRacing, has recorded an increase of 50,000 subscribers, to 160,000, since the start of the year. It's all helped to increase the acceptance of racing games in the e-sports world – and in the motorsport community. James Baldwin, an e-sports racer who won the "World's Fastest Gamer" competition in 2019 and who has now made a winning debut in professional motorsport, tells dpa that he thinks the future may be brighter for sim racing than for real-world motorsport. "E-sports in other categories such as Call Of Duty, Fortnite and FIFA, just to name a few, is booming. It's going to continue to grow for a number of years, and who knows where it can end up. Motorsport is an expensive sport for people to enter and is not very accessible," he says. Baldwin now drives for McLaren's GT3 team and recently won the British GT Championship. Nevertheless, he does not want to give up the digital world. "The skills are extremely transferable, more so in racing e-sports and real life compared with any other e-sport. The skills and techniques used are almost identical, the only major difference being the physicality involved with real life driving," the 22-year-old says. "The way I mentally prepare for both disciplines is the same, which is testament to how close these two activities are." There is also more respect now from racing drivers for their e-sports counterparts. "I like to think that there is mutual respect for each other," sim racer Georg Ortner says. "Obviously we, as sim racers, have a tendency to idolise real-world drivers more, because we are basically imitating what they do, but since a lot of real drivers have started to enter virtual races, I'm sure they started to appreciate the talent and dedication we have in our community as well." Sim racing has another advantage – it's a lot cheaper to get involved in than real-world racing. A halfway professional sim racing set-up is available for a few hundred dollars. "The biggest advantage I see sim racing has over real racing is its accessibility. Motorsport is an expensive hobby that not many can afford to pursue. Sim racing allows everyone to experience the thrills of the sport and compete against their peers," Ortner says. It can also "be a good scouting ground for talents that might have what it takes to make it in the real racing scene," he says. Several sim racers, such as Baldwin, just to name one example, have already gone on to become real-world drivers. – dpa
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