McLaren is Using Esports Competitions to Find New Simulation Drivers

By Tom Pritchard on at

Slowly but surely, the world of traditional sports is starting to take notice of esports. We’ve heard about football teams with pro FIFA players on staff, coverage on mainstream sports channels, and all that. Now motorsport is catching up, with McLaren doing its part to integrate motorsport and... emotorsport? Let’s go with that.

The legendary UK motor-racing institution has been running a competition designed to find the world’s best racing gamer. World’s Fastest Gamer has involved tournaments across the world, having players face off in Forza 6, Rfactor 2, iRacing, and Gear Club. It’s something that McLaren is taking seriously: the company has recently hired a dedicated esports director.

The competition was wound down to 12 competitors from across the world, which was reduced down to six. That six two, with the grand finale taking place this past Tuesday. The overall winner was Randy van Buren, a 25-year old sales manager from the Netherlands. van Buren beat around 30,000 other contestants before being crowned ‘world’s fastest gamer’, and will now be given a 12 month contract as an official McLaren simulator driver - working with the team to ensure the real-life cars are as best as they can be.

Images Copyright Malcolm Griffiths

The criteria aren't just based on virtual driving ability, though. It’s a big part, but McLaren’s judges were looking for someone with the cognitive and physical abilities to handle the work that’s involved. It’s less a case of testing their ability to play a game (regardless of how much skill is needed), than judging their ability to do the final job.

If you’re wondering why (instead of asking ‘why not?’), it’s because the world of racing gaming and motorsport aren’t too dissimilar. Professional drivers have to spend a lot of time in the simulator anyway, and while games have improved the difference between them has got smaller and smaller. The jump from a video game rig to the real thing isn’t that big.

There are differences, particularly in terms of feedback and sensory input, but for the most part the two systems aren’t that dissimilar. In fact McLaren has said that the gaming rigs are only about a single generation behind the professional simulator McLaren’s F1 drivers train in. Esports also apparently helping to diversify the motorsport audience, which mostly comprises of a constantly-ageing group of currently-middle aged white dudes.

This gives emotorsports a lot of potential: we’re a way off from virtual F1 Grand Prix style tournaments, as McLaren is currently the only big name involved, but the World’s Fastest Gamer tournament is a step into the future of virtual sports.