Engines, Not eSports, Should be the Focus at McLaren

It seems we can’t go more than a few months without some sort of bizarre eSports initiative launched by a company with more financial capital than logistical prowess. Initially teased a few days ago by none other than one of the biggest and most prestigious supercar brands in the history of the automobile, McLaren have officially taken the wraps off an eSports competition they’re dubbing the World’s Fastest Gamer; a cross-platform, cross-software championship where the winner receives the lucrative job of being “a Formula One simulator driver for McLaren” – whatever that means.

On the surface, it’s an impressive trend-setting gesture by an established automotive brand to dive head first into the world of eSports while their rivals merely roll out generic motion simulators and VR booths at major auto shows around North America in an effort to remain “hip” with the “kidz”, but unfortunately it’s also incredibly easy to poke holes in what McLaren are claiming to offer, and I can’t help but think that someone, somewhere, got taken for a ride with this endeavor.

The promotional video immediately acknowledges that unlike many other major pieces of software with a prominent eSports scene, racing simulators don’t have an overall ranking to determine who is the absolute best virtual driver on the planet, with the community split between about eight different games across no less than three different gaming platforms, so at least their knowledge of where the genre stands from a competitive aspect is surprisingly well-informed. However, we then learn that McLaren will also be taking into account mobile gamers who indulge in lighthearted titles such as EA’s Real Racing 3 – a highly contradictory move considering McLaren have billed this primarily as a hardcore simulator-oriented competition.

But then I am only left with more questions than answers. The games that will be featured in McLaren’s worldwide competition haven’t been formally announced, which is odd to say the least. Within the first hour of news in regards to Formula E’s Las Vegas event hitting the internet, we had a download link to the custom-built rFactor 2 mod and a few of the tracks they would be using for the qualification process, allowing participants to turn initial shakedown laps before news of the tournament had circulated across all major sim racing websites. And in terms of smaller championships, such as the CARS eSports Tour – officially sanctioned by the real life late model stock car series of the same name – the announcement of iRacing being used as the simulator of choice was revealed during the initial reveal. So it’s pretty suspicious that McLaren of all people are coming out with promotional material regarding their very own worldwide eSports competition, but they can’t even tell you what games are being used.

Not only that, how do you pitch some sort of series like this to a television network – which is probably the way this is going – when there will be several pieces of competing software on display at one time? Though I may be incorrect on this front, television shows may possibly fall under a different set of licensing sanctions than outlets such as YouTube; what happens if iRacing, Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, or Forza come out and say “hold up, we didn’t give you permission to use our product in this manner” – especially if they’re all going to be competing for television time against bitter rivals, or in Gran Turismo’s case, against an identical show with basically the same premise as what McLaren have planned.

It’s a bit of a licensing nightmare, only fueled by the fact that no games have been announced – just the overall purpose of the competition.

There’s also the question of just who will partake in McLaren’s competition, as the details they outline in the introduction trailer and incredibly vague and kind of defeat the whole purpose of a world wide sim racing competition. Though World’s Fastest Gamer is billed as this massive cross-platform, multi-simulator competition, it’s revealed about halfway through the video that six of the ten finalists will be hand-picked by “gaming experts” – which means if McLaren have roped in a prominent sim racing personality such as Darin Gangi to help oversee their operation, it’ll basically be just a bunch of iRacing road guys tossed into the fray, so Olli Pahkala, Greger Huttu, Bono Huis, Pablo Lopez, Martin Kronke, and Hugo Luis – spoiler alert, there’s your field.

Only four individuals will make it into the actual showcase element of the competition by winning the yet-to-be-announced qualification rounds, so in my opinion it’s more of a marketing gimmick to just toss the same cluster of iRacers who were already in the spotlight into yet another publicity stunt akin to the Visa Vegas eRace, rather than a true worldwide competition where some outsider has a genuine shot at immortality – or at least a prize that can buy lot of cocaine and some expensive hookers in Vegas.

Yet it’s what McLaren are planning to award the winner of the World’s Fastest Gamer that makes this all ridiculously hard to believe it will manifest in the intended fashion: what exactly constitutes as a “Formula One simulator driver for McLaren?” Do you get the official privilege of competing in iRacing events with a custom McLaren vehicle livery, and the tag of “McLaren F1 eSports” as your team name? If so, that’s all a bit pointless; this is something you can do yourself with Photoshop and by merely filling out the name field like a cheeky cunt – you don’t exactly need McLaren’s blessing for it, though if you take it too far and actually start to believe your own role-playing adventures, we’ll write an article on you because it’s funny as fuck.

But okay, let’s say this is a paid position at the McLaren offices, routinely giving their professional grade F1 simulator a shakedown. What would be the point? What would McLaren have to gain from some teenager who won an online contest turning laps in their Formula One simulator, and why would they actually put someone on the payroll for it as a legitimate job for twelve months, when data from professional drivers – who actually drive the real life, physical McLaren F1 cars – would be about a trillion times more suited to give proper feedback? Like, just think about this, after the first week, what would Bono Huis or Greger Huttu actually be able to help McLaren’s engineers with that Fernando Alonso or Stoffel Vandoorne can’t? Factor in McLaren’s current engine crisis with Honda, and I can’t image a multi-million dollar Formula One team would be all that happy with some random sim racer awkwardly stumbling around the offices asking for his daily go in the simulator, while the team scurries around trying to save their very real Formula One program from imminent disaster.

Look, McLaren’s heart is in the right place, they see this whole eSports craze and what it means to so many people around the world, and they’re like “alright, let’s do it.”

But unfortunately, the logistics aren’t on the same level as their aspirations. McLaren have announced they’re holding some major sim racing competition, but they can’t even tell us the games that will be used, the selection process doesn’t actually rely all that much on the actual competition aspect, but rather a “gaming expert” pulling names out of a hat, and the “grand prize” doesn’t even make sense when you consider what the vaguely described job title might entail. I’m under the belief somebody got taken for a ride, and we’ll find out exactly who, and by whom, as more details become available.


75 thoughts on “Engines, Not eSports, Should be the Focus at McLaren

  1. Watch out Austin James, don’t you go shitting on Mclaren when SMS is in partnership with them for the new cars. It could go badly on you just one word from Mclaren to Ian Bell and you’re out of your pretend oval car and any other deals you have with SMS.

    For brief moments PRC was back to their usual self, too bad we don’t see the same articles when the focus is pcars2.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “so in my opinion it’s more of a marketing gimmick”

    … and motorsport isn’t just one big ‘marketing’ gimmick, just on a mad scale?

    James, it would appear, that you have some vendetta against sim racing gaining some form of credibility within the wider racing community. It really doesn’t take a genius to realise that this is a win-win for McLaren. Yes the marketing. It’s hugely positive an F1 team wants to engage with its fanbase in this manner. I can’t think of any other sport where this would be possible. Pointing this out doesn’t make you enlightened, it’s freakin’ obvious.


    1. did u just realize there was description for this site “The worst site you could possibly visit for Sim Racing news.” if u wanted some glorifying sim race this is exactly not site from u to come and read , this is site from james and us to talk shit about sim racing or have some vendetta against sim racing


      1. But James is delusional and takes what he does on prc very seriously. Then when people point out how wrong he is in the comments he comes out with “muh worst site in sim racing you could possibly visit”. Delusional people do what delusional people do…
        If you noticed, he’s the only one in sim racing that cares about hero cards and guys spending crazy amount of money on rigs. Bitch please, first take a look at what you do before judging others. Inb4 you come out with “I scored a race car from my sugar daddy”.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If he truly was the only one that cared, nobody would browse this site.

          If you want to see delusions and nobody caring, start your own blog.


          1. you miss the point, most here don’t care about those hero cards and very expensive rigs, or other weird stuff from the sim racing community. But James cares enough to make serious articles about them, we only come here to have fun, not for journalistic value. Even more now that he’s a paid shill, is just the fun to see him taking himself and the stuff he does so seriously. Then when he’s confronted with reality he pulls the “the worst site you could possible visit for sim racing news” card. But he actually believes he has the best sim racing news, or even good news lol. He’s no different than newspapers like The Sun or something, is just human curiosity to read this stuff, we don’t really care that someone is distributing hero cards, but james takes it personal, he’s the delusional social justice warrior of sim racing, so he’s not even good at that.


  3. James totally missed the marketing partners: Logitech and some racecar gear manufacturer that’s also cashing in on the sim side of things.


  4. Eh “cocaine and hookers” , “cunt”, I can’t imagine where your picking up this dreadful language 😉 So another big name tries their hand at esports, it’s a bit early to condemn the attempt but it’s hard to see how it’ll work across all platforms.


  5. In F1, third drivers or reserve drivers, as you would call them, actually follow an extensive testing program behind the wheel of the simulator, completing hundreds of laps every week to help the team testing new aero parts and/or mechanical parts before they actually waste money building something that might not work aswell as working on a base setup that the real cars will use at the next race of the schedule so that they have a rough idea of where to start.

    It’s not exactly a job that you do once a week if you’re bored and then remain at home the other 6 days, so it has its importance.

    While I might agree with the fact that someone who isn’t a real race driver could only help ‘that much’, being a third/reserve driver is probably one of the worst things that can happen in the career of a real race driver, because as they usually say during interviews: “Yeah, the simulator helps a lot, but driving the real car is something else”, so it would make sense for McLaren to sort of ‘outsource’ some of that work to someone who wouldn’t want to waste such an opportunity because he knows that otherwise he will be stuck in his mom’s basement for the rest of his pathetic life.

    Generating media interest around the entire operation is a welcomed plus for them aswell, of course, as it might attract some extra sponsors and with the whole Honda travesty they need all the money they can get.

    All in all, this is just a pointless article. Making the mistake of downplaying the role of a development driver (that’s the correct term, by the way) is something only one who has no clue about what motorsport actually is and how it actually works outside North America would do.

    Stick to Nascar and Indycar please. Nobody cares about those around the world, but at least it’s probably the only thing you’re competent at.


    1. People with brains around here, that’s a rare happening we should celebrate. I’m not just talking about many of the commentators but the authors lack knowledge about many of the topics they publish articles on. Still though, just as sim racing is for people to have fun so is this blog, although the later in the anecdotal sense.


      1. That’s not the point. Those guys stand no chance anyway. It’s just a media stunt trying to lure them in and generate as much media interest as possible.


  6. I saw a write up yesterday about this yesterday and had mostly the same impression, sure it’s a gimmic and seems weak so it makes you wonder where corporate’s thinking is at, hundreds of thousands spent on a gimmic when there are thousands of real world drivers who would do anything to have a shot at joining the team. I don’t get it.


  7. At least if you win time in the simulator it’s not likely to break down as much as the real car :-p

    Perhaps they’ll use Asphalt 8 Airborne, as last year’s McLaren racecar appeared in that :-p


  8. It’s a bullshit offer that those with delusions of racing grandeur will take at face value. Besides Alonso and Vandoorne they have several other drivers with actual single seater experience working in the simulator. The idea that a gamer would be able to provide meaningful, usefulness feedback is laughable. McLaren can have anyone they want in the simulator and although they’re not competitive I refuse to believe their situation is so hopeless that they’d be willing to stick a gamer in there.


    1. You misunderstand the role of the simulator driver. His job is not to provide feedback, his job is to execute the test program consistently at a competitive pace so the collected data can be considered representative of the limits of performance. Their personal feedback, if it’s used at all, is low quality data and won’t figure much in the analysis.


  9. Fast forward a couple months and due to his ties with SMS, James is all positive about this because he is chosen as one of the participants.


  10. Interesting that the guy in the cockpit is Lando Norris, a young Formula Renault driver (I forget the team), and pretty avid iRacer.

    I know he was nominated for one of the BRDC awards, but didn’t know he was affiliated with McLaren (a development driver, I assume).

    In any case, although certain aspects of the competition are vague, I certainly hope it evolves into a successful sim racing/esport event.


    1. Landon won the BRDC award this year and is now on the McLaren young driver program. He won the Formula Renault championship and this year is competing in Euro F3. He’s defininitely one to watch for the future.


        1. Didn’t know he won the BRDC (and wasn’t sure if that was the award or the organization), and definitely agree that he’s one to watch.


  11. Engines, not esports, should be the focus at Honda?

    As Honda are responsible for the perambulating propulsion device this would seem more to the point?

    Do I detect the merest hint of jealousy that Mansour et al are richer sugar daddies than Mr Bell?


  12. In all fairness to McLaren, they don’t build the engines. Also, I’m not sure driver feedback is necessarily as important in the simulator.


    1. I wonder how much longer that will be the case.
      I think it was Ron Dennis that always held the belief that a customer team could never beat a factory team (which is why they dropped Mercedes engines), but at the same time, how long will they wait for Honda to get it together.
      They build road car engines, how long until they start looking into building their own F1 engines.


  13. I think a lot of people are taking shots at McLaren right now, possibly with some justification. David Coulthard himself recently opined that they might be distracted by the wide variety of work they seem to be doing these days.

    This having been said, it’s really hard to blame them for the situation with Honda. They simply guessed wrong and don’t have many (good) options at this point. If they stick with Honda, their overall budget is assured. I have to think that *eventually*, Honda will achieve parity with Renault at least.


  14. You guys should get the iOS McLaren app.

    It’s hilarious to look at this app during grand prix weekends, as they try to explain things like Stoffel getting a 15 place grid penalty for multiple engine failures in a single weekend. Or Alonso’s power unit expiring on the formation lap.

    It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:

    “It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the winds are dashing the waves about, to watch from the shores the struggles of another.”
    – Lucretius


      1. Heard about it. Not trying to dox myself, but I’ve worked in the highest-volume psych ER in the world since 2011, and it isn’t nearly as exciting as he makes it out to be (going by the Amazon description of his book “Danger to Self: On the Front Line with an ER Psychiatrist”).

        They make it sound like a combat zone. As a former resident of Bagram, I can tell you there’s no comparison. Or maybe I’ve just gotten so inured to chaos that I don’t see it anymore. Either way, I only get spit on, pissed on or attacked maybe 2-3 times a year, which is better than most marriages.

        Like all medicine these days, even the sharp end is mainly a shitload of typing, filing, more typing, filling out forms, and did I mention typing.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Seems an odd decision, sponsoring a car in a series no-one will see. Basically a bunch of stock cars going round kart tracks in remote woods. It’s not going to get SMS much exposure. Even the official website looks like it’s done by one of the drivers kids as a school project.


  15. This whole business is starting to seriously sicken my arse. We live in a world where bullshit competitions are supposed to entice the rest of us, outside of, say the 50 or so heads with a genuine chance of wining these fantastic opportunities with a vigor to purchase a video game. Fuck, what a load of nonsense. Give me tracks, give me cars, all the rest is just noise


  16. 100% guarantee a cheater will win this competition, cause there are no real anticheat measures in sim e-sports atm

    iRacing has the “best” of it, but still its not even close of good enough. PCARS Vac is btw not working at all … thats a fact – some guys did run some test with modified files.


    1. But these sim racers will be hand picked from what I understand and maybe they’ll even do a live test on Mclaren’s rig before one is chosen. This competition is no more than a job application, only that I doubt putting ads on newspaper will help them find a good candidate, so involving the whole of racing games players works as both marketing and finding a skilled person to do tests in Mclaren’s simulator that is also available to work for them. So most likely the winner will have to move to England.


      1. HANDPICKED? For the first 6 yes – the 4 others are going through competitive selection


        Marco Massarutto
        MAY 7, 2017 AT 7:30 PM
        Cheat Stefano’s cock you cucks

        Get cancer – I really mean it – I hope you really die slowly and very horribly


        1. Possibly there will be a jury even for those final 4, not just based on raw lap times or winning a race. But how well they can fit the job of testing in Mclaren’s simulator.


  17. I don’t think you mentioned that the 4 drivers will compete against 6 drivers picked by Mclaren. They also said that its not only about being the fastest driver. They want someone with engineering knowledge.

    I doubt its going to simply be the fastest driver wins. GT academy culls drivers some who qualify before they get to the final stage due to things like fitness so that they are actually going to get someone who can compete.

    Yes a lot of this is marketing but a company of Mclaren’s size have the budget to do this type of thing


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