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Porsche Esports Days at IAA 2019

Porsche’s IAA programme demonstrated the potential of sim racing both as a form of motorsport and as a professional esport.

The top drivers in the Porsche Esports Supercup virtual online championship took centre stage at the International Motorshow in Frankfurt. Sim racing talents, who had qualified online, competed against each other as well as against the TAG Heuer Formula E Team factory drivers and in two different show races to demonstrate the concept of esports racing.

A demonstration of virtual driving

Porsche’s Esports Days at the IAA were a celebration of professional esports and sim racing, sharing a passion for motorsports with the online community.

Sim racing is much more than a racing game: variables from the real world race tracks such as car set-up, weight distribution, and tyre data can be accurately simulated in great detail and are highly relevant to one’s performance in sim racing.

It is Porsche’s mission to promote sim racing to the general public as a legitimate form of motorsport and as an exciting form of esports. To this end, the event programme not only featured racing, but also several talks with the pro sim racers at the show so that they could share their passion and insights about their sport with the crowd.

Sim Racing: the link to real world motorsport

The primary link between sim racing and real world racing lies in the driving skills required to perform at the highest level, which are the same as those of real-world drivers: deep track and car knowledge, extreme precision, laser-like focus – and nerves of steel in the fight to be the fastest.

This year, in partnership with iRacing, Porsche has created an esports championship: the Porsche Esports Supercup (PESC). The championship is packed with top sim talents, and the inaugural champion of the PESC will be officially recognised alongside real world racing drivers at Porsche’s Night of Champions. All drivers who were in contention for the championship attended the Porsche Esports Days at the 2019 IAA.

Overview: Porsche Esports Supercup

The top six drivers in the PESC visited the IAA for a special demonstration race. From Porsche’s stand at the International Motor Show, they raced against 24 other drivers online in Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racing cars on Saturday. The races were livestreamed online via the iRacing Esports Network for people around the world to watch.

The drivers were Joshua Rogers (Australia), Maximilian Benecke (Germany), Mitchell deJong (United States), Sebastian Job (United Kingdom), Martin Krönke (Germany) and Patrick Holzmann (Germany) – all of them having travelled from their home countries and towns to this event.

While the rest of the 24 drivers competed using the comfort of their home setups, the six drivers at the show had to adapt to a new driving setup – all while performing on stage in front of a live audience. Before the PESC event came a showcase race.

Showcase Race – 24 Minutes of Frankfurt

To demonstrate Porsche’s contributions to the digital side of motorsports, a “24 Minutes of Frankfurt” showcase race was held featuring some of the people who have helped bring Porsche into the world of esports and sim racing.

Marco Ujhasi (Manager Esports at Porsche Motorsports), Kevin Bobbitt (Director of Marketing – iRacing), and Neel Jani (2016 endurance world champion, 24 hours of Le Mans winner and works driver for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team) took to the main stage. They went up against three of the PESC drivers: Joshua Rogers, Sebastian Job and Maximilian Benecke.

Multi-class cars were used for this race: the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (the same car used in the PESC), the Porsche 911 RSR and the three-times-Le-Mans-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid. The race was held on the Circuit de la Sarthe, with race conditions starting under daylight and ending at night.

This showcase race demonstrated Porsche’s achievements in sim racing in partnership with iRacing in that their virtual tracks and Porsche’s cars were both recreated through laser scanning and official data in order to be as accurate as their real life equivalents. After the race, the attention turned back to the PESC.

PESC Non-Championship Race Event

After the 24 Minutes of Frankfurt, the audience were treated to racing at the highest level from the PESC drivers. Despite this special event being a non-championship race, the drivers have carried momentum from it going forwards into the final round of the inaugural PESC championship next weekend. The winner of this non-championship event also took home $1,500. In total, $10,000 of price money was distributed among the competitors.

Race stewards were present to keep a careful eye on track limits and any racing incidents that might happen. This ensured that the racing remained fair, with a few drivers serving penalties and some even being forced to start Race Two from the pit-lane.

In the end, it was French driver Jeremy Bouteloup who took the overall win from the Australian driver Jarrad Filsell by 1.2 seconds, both managing to stay out of trouble in order to take home strong results.

German driver Maximilian Benecke was the first of the six drivers actually at the IAA, finishing in seventh place overall. Despite the additional pressure of performing on the main stage, they demonstrated their immense skills and made the intensity of the PESC races visible to the audience.

As the PESC event reached its conclusion, the sim drivers were given a warm round of applause for their display. Throughout the day, the crowd lined up to test the Porsche Racing simulators and the PESC event ended with a fine demonstration of esports and sim racing at the highest level.

Formula E and how it engages their fans

The second part of Porsche’s Esports Days shifted towards the all-electric Formula E series. The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team will make its debut in the sport when Season Six gets underway this November.

The audience for Formula E is among the youngest in motorsports, with the majority of its social media fans under the age of 35. Formula E utilises gaming through their races, events and racing games in order to forge a stronger connection with their younger fans.

Overview: Formula E in the Driving Simulator

On Sunday, the simulators switched to Formula E on the Porsche stand. To celebrate Porsche’s entry into Formula E, the showcase races featured the Porsche 99X Electric race cars that will be used for the upcoming season.

The two Porsche factory drivers – André Lotterer and Neel Jani – jumped into the driving simulator, sitting behind the wheels of their virtual 99X Electric race cars in preparation for a showcase race on the virtual Monaco track. Joining them were the proven sim drivers Porsche had discovered prior to IAA by hosting an online Hotlap Challenge on the virtual Monaco Formula E circuit.

Showcase Race – Formula E

Similar to the PESC race, this serious Formula E race gave the audience an insight into how similarly the Formula E and sim drivers drove around the track – their track knowledge, understanding of the cars and the precision of their driving were equally matched. The pressure, focus and intensity were clearly felt from the stage as they raced hard around Monaco’s street circuit.

Afterwards, there was a mixed race featuring the two Porsche drivers again. Racing them were social media influencers Davegaming and Misha Charoudin, sim racers Joshua Rogers (winner of the Porsche SimRacing Trophy 2019) and Nils Naujoks (winner of the Porsche Esports Carrera Cup Germany 2019). To ensure a level playing field, this mixed race was held at a fictional track called the Lester GP Circuit and all six drivers had the same amount of time to learn the layount of the track. In the end, André Lotterer proved his ability to learn quickly, finishing second behind Joshua Rogers.

Esports Days Recap

Porsche introduced the potential of esports racing to the audience at the IAA. For Porsche and Formula E, sim racing is becoming a pivotal tool in extending the appeal of motorsports. Expect to see even more involvement from Porsche in esports with next year’s PESC championship, and in Formula E when the 2019-2020 season kicks off in November.