The folks at Race2Play are certifiably insane. After a six month downsizing period which has seen the criminally underrated online racing service subtly convert into a hub for a very core group of users – primarily centering around European endurance racing classes – Tim MacArthur and company are intending to make November a month to remember. The Baja 500 is set to return to the rFactor online landscape for the first time since 2011, with the afternoon of Saturday November 19th selected as the date for the 31-lap, four and a half hour marathon around the superb Project B off road circuit that many rFactor owners may not be aware of. Combining four wheel drive trucks with single-seater open wheel buggies, as well as the historic Baja Bug class – the Spec Miatas of the off-road racing world – there is no crazier race to be found within the sim racing landscape. Sure, iRacing just completed their 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the 24 Hours of Daytona will undoubtedly follow in February, but the unpredictability of a nine-minute trek through the Mexican countryside is an entirely different ballgame compared to purpose built race tracks.
Last hosted in December of 2011, the Race2Play Baja 500 overall victory was captured by John Onofrey, clocking in with a time of four hours and seventeen minutes; well ahead of second place finisher Nikita Shaposhnik from the Ukraine. Given how demanding this race is, and the unconventional selection of vehicles compared to modern track day warriors, it’s understandable that the rFactor Baja 500 is not a yearly event, but a festival only hosted when the time is right. With high performance GT3 machinery and NASCAR-sanctioned oval racing dominating the landscape of online sim racing, it’s only natural to resurrect the event in an effort to give sim racers something truly out of the ordinary.
And rather than punish sim racers for not spending every waking moment learning the one-of-a-kind temporary off-road layout, the emphasis will be on ensuring the maximum amount of vehicles are running at the end of the event, with damaged turned down to 10%, and driver encouraged – though not mandatory.
It doesn’t cost a dime to sign up for the Race2Play service, entry to the virtual Baja 500 is free, the team plan to stream the event with a proper broadcast crew, and free membership upgrades will be handed out to the top guest account finishers – meaning those on the fence about what Race2Play has to offer have some incentive to sign up for the free basic package and pray their bladder holds together for upwards of four hours.
With how focused sim racing has become on one of three very specific auto racing disciplines, it’s extremely nice to see a group of individuals offer something so unique and challenging to an audience that has grown accustomed to European sports car racing. This one’s all about driver skill, and I look forward to competing with you guys on the 19th.