Esports racing has experienced an explosion in popularity over the last few years, developing a huge global audience. Although only a small number will end up competing in championship finals, qualifying is usually open to anyone, leaving some people wondering how they can get into esports racing.
Getting into esports often only requires players to own a copy of the game of their choice, in addition to lots of practice and dedication. While this makes esports racing very inclusive, it also means that the competition for places in championship finals is huge, especially for large tournaments.
Almost every notable racing sim title has an esports division, with some offering players the chance to win thousands of dollars in prize money. Below, we will discuss which tournaments are available to join, as well as provide some tips for drivers at the beginning of their esports journey.
What Is Esports Racing?
Esports racing is an umbrella term to describe professional racing tournaments that take place on various racing sim titles. The tournaments usually follow a similar format to the real thing, with a qualifying round to determine the starting grid before the final race begins.
Often promising sizeable cash prizes for the winners, esports racing tournaments play host to the very best sim racers in the world, taking place in venues across the globe.
These tournaments tend to have large followings from fans of the represented games and are broadcast on websites like YouTube and Twitch, with such popularity turning racers into household names within the racing sim community. The very best racers develop fan bases of their own, gaining large social media followings.
The Quality Of The Tournaments
Part of the reason that these tournaments are so widely viewed is that they are high-budget, professional broadcasts with charismatic presenters and knowledgeable commentary teams, much like a real-life racing broadcast would have. Punditry teams often feature special guests such as F1 driver Lando Norris’ guest appearances at multiple F1 Esports finals.
While the competitors in esports racing may never have even stepped foot inside a real racing car, you cannot doubt the quality of their race craft and consistency, as it is not uncommon to see the drivers at the top of the leaderboard all finishing within a second of each other.
In fact, due to the amount of money within the industry, professional teams put their virtual racers through similar training processes as they would with their real-life racers, with Mercedes employing data analysts to scrutinize every mini sector of their F1 esports driver’s race, as well as having debriefs and performance meetings at the end of every event.
What Esports Racing Tournaments Can You Join?
There are lots of esports racing tournaments you can join across games like the F1 series and even iRacing. Most titles offer open qualifying into their esports series, which helps bleed in new talent as hopefuls are given the opportunity to battle it out against already established racers.
Part of the joy of esports racing is that there are no hefty entry fees, with the only thing required being a copy of your chosen game, as well as a lot of time to put in to practice.
F1 Esports Pro Championship
The F1 Esports Pro Championship is the showpiece event in the F1 esports calendar and it is open to anyone to try and qualify. Qualifying is a lengthy process and you’ll be up against tens of thousands of drivers from all over the world, all vying for a share of the $750,000 prize pot.
There are four stages to qualifying for the event, with the first being a scenario-based challenge, open to anyone that has a copy of the latest official F1 game. The top 19 racers on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation will then proceed onto the next round, the Challengers event. This is when F1 esports starts to become very real for the drivers, as they take part in 12 races, all broadcast live on Twitch.
The top six drivers from the Challengers event will then progress onto the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition, along with winners of the Women’s Wildcard event and the Chinese Exclusive event. The Pro Exhibition involves drivers being tested in four different assessments, including a standard race, wet ghost races, dry ghost races, and a head-to-head battle.
From here, the most talented drivers will be scouted by pro teams and handed a spot in the F1 Esports Championship. While it may be a long and difficult process to qualify, it all starts with a non-exclusive qualifying event open to anyone who wants to give it a go.
The eNASCAR series takes place annually on iRacing. To qualify, entrants must have an Oval Class A 2.0 license. While this may seem more exclusive than qualifying for the F1 Esports Championship, the license is free and obtainable if you put enough time into improving your skills in iRacing. Licenses are awarded to drivers with high safety ratings, achievable by clean, contact-free racing.
Once you have secured your license, you will be eligible for the Road to Pro Qualifying Series, two rounds of racing events taking place on Thursday nights from February through to May. The first round of events features all eligible racers, who are then whittled down to the top 70 to take part in the second round of events. The top 20 drivers from this event will move onto the Contender series.
The Contender series involves the top 20 from qualifying going up against the bottom 20 from the previous season’s Pro series. At the end of the Contender series, the top 20 drivers will then go through to the eNASCAR Pro Championship, with a chance to win a share of $100,000.
The FIA Gran Turismo Championships
The FIA Gran Turismo Championships are open to anyone over the age of 18 with a copy of Gran Turismo 7. Participation is divided into five regions, with the very best drivers being split into both the Nations Cup and the Manufacturer Series. These events run alongside each other and have two separate world finals, containing 32 drivers for the Nations Cup and 36 for the Manufacturer Series.
The Nations Cup differs to the Manufacturers Cup as drivers will represent their country of origin rather than a car manufacturer. There are currently 25 different manufacturers participating in the event, including Ferrari, Mercedes, and Lamborghini.
The tournament tree for both the Nations Cup and Manufacturers Cup is complicated, with both competitions having a World Showdown before the top drivers progress to the World Finals. The World Finals also feature the top ranked drivers from the previous year’s World Showdown as they all battle it out for top spot.
DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series
For those who prefer the intensity of rally racing, DiRT 2.0 has an open qualifying World Series event for those with a copy of the game on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation. The 2021 series featured a live event at the Birmingham NEC in England, with a total prize pool of $20,000. The series has separate championships for both rally and rallycross.
Qualification for the event is split into three sections,with players first required to register a good lap time in the game. The fastest times in each of the three events will then progress to the DiRT Rally 2.0 Qualifying Final. The top two drivers will then progress through to the official semifinal, where they will get the opportunity to fight for a place at the live Grand Final Venue.
Other Esports Racing Events With Open Qualifying
Each year there is a constant stream of esports racing events that allow anyone from anywhere to have a go at qualifying. As well as the events previously mentioned, Forza has their own live event. This is an outlier in many respects, as it involves the mandatory usage of an Xbox controller, rather than a racing wheel with pedals.
iRacing also features multiple esports events alongside eNASCAR, such as an open-wheel series, various sports car events, and rallycross championships. iRacing is stricter with their qualifying regulations, as racers must prove that they race cleanly and fairly, without intentional crashing or regular sliding off the track.
How To Become An Esports Racer
Becoming a professional esports racer takes more than just being good at a game. Hours of practice are required in order to constantly improve lap times and technique, as well as the determination and focus required to compete against the very best esports racers in the world.
The road to becoming a professional esports racer will inevitably be tough, with the standard of racing sims becoming higher and higher as well as there being so much competition for places on racing teams. That said, with the right drive and determination, it is possible.
5 Tips For Becoming An Esports Racer
1. Race Against Better Drivers
It is vital when improving at anything that you are constantly challenging yourself, and racing against good racers is very important for this end. It’s not only a great viewpoint of where you are ability-wise, but also a great tool for learning techniques from a first-hand perspective.
A lot of improvement in racing sims stems from picking up good habits, which a lot of other great drivers will demonstrate. Tough races also offer the motivation required to get better, as not many feelings beat the satisfaction you get from consistently climbing the leaderboard.
2. Focus In On Your Practice
To race at a high standard, it is simply not enough to just repeat the same practice over and over. Focused practice involves analyzing areas of your race that need improvement and then working on them. This means homing in on smaller details, such as where you accelerate when coming out of corners or how you deal with entries to hairpins.
Of course, repetition does have its benefits, especially when learning a track, but it should only take up a part of your practice and not the whole thing. Once you are feeling confident with the finer aspects of racing, you will notice improvements in lap times as well as more consistency going around a track. Consistency cannot be undervalued when trying to get better at a game.
3. Pick The Right Game
Choosing the right game to pursue success in is very important for any racer who wants to compete at the top level. Being a jack-of-all-trades won’t help if you are trying to race F1 cars for example, as they drive so differently from any other car. There are some transferrable skills such as racing lines and finding apexes, but it helps greatly if playing your game feels like second nature.
Setting up on a game that you love will also make putting in the hard work feel a lot easier. If you don’t love a game, you likely won’t have the motivation needed to constantly train in order to take yourself to the top level.
Another point to consider when choosing your game is whether it has a substantial enough esports setup to sustain a living from. Some games either don’t have an esports side to them at all, and some may not have one with an adequate commercial appeal.
4. Have The Right Equipment
Different games require different levels of hardware. For example, those who want to take part in iRacing tournaments will need a wheel and pedals. The same can be said about F1 esports, as the Pro Championship takes place at venues where a wheel and pedal set is supplied for you, so it would help to feel comfortable on that sort of setup before you start.
This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank and purchase a professional-standard sim setup, as cheap hardware options are available that will do a perfectly good job. If you are interested in taking part in Forza tournaments, it will be of no use playing with a wheel as the official Forza esports tournament is one of the rare competitions where the use of Xbox controllers is mandatory.
5. Enjoy The Journey
Most importantly, any hopeful looking to make a career out of esports racing will need to enjoy the process. Not only because enjoyment will make the training feel easier and give you the motivation you need to improve, but also because there will be tough moments that will challenge your mental resolve.
It is very easy to lose enthusiasm for racing if you experience a rough patch where things don’t seem to be going your way. In order to improve, you will need to take these things in your stride and realize that lows are a necessary evil if you want to be able to experience the highs. As with any sport, the most important thing is getting up again after you’ve been knocked down.
How Much Do Esports Racers Make?
Esports racers can make anywhere from nothing to $100,000 or more, depending on the games they play and the tournaments they enter, among other things. Prize money isn’t the only source of income for an esports racer, with many of them having built up huge followings on various platforms.
This has become easier in recent years due to the large global esports racing audience that is constantly growing. Having a large online presence can attract lucrative sponsorship deals, which can come in multiple forms.
Esports racing teams attract similar sponsorships to real-life racing teams, with the logos of various brands present on the outfits of the racers and their backroom teams. Racers can become ambassadors for these brands, displaying their logo during televised races and media appearances. Racers also generate income through one-off brand deals by posting pictures and reviews of products online.
It is common for drivers to show off their skills on YouTube and Twitch, amassing huge followings in the process. Two-time F1 Esports champion Jarno Opmeer currently runs a YouTube channel with over 300,000 subscribers, posting various F1 related challenges and races. Brand deals and YouTube go hand-in-hand, with creators often setting aside a segment of their video to advertise a product.
As well as brand deals, creators will make money through ad revenue from the advertisements that appear before and during a video. Making money through streaming sites like Twitch is slightly different, with viewers paying to subscribe to their favorite streamers as well as having the ability to leave donations during the stream.
The most obvious form of income that top-level esports racers can bring in is through prize money. The prize pools for tournaments are increasing each year, with the winner of the eNASCAR championship taking their slice of $300,000, and the top performers at the F1 Championship getting their share of $750,000. Even smaller tournaments such as the DiRT championships offer $20,000 for the winners.
Getting into esports racing is all about hard work and taking every opportunity you can. With so many open qualifying sessions for tournaments, the dream of racing for a living is a possibility for those willing to put in hard work and effort. It can be a very lucrative industry to get into.