DS Virgin Racing is in Las Vegas this week to take part in Formula E’s virtual Vegas eRace. The event takes place during the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show and is the biggest eSports event of its kind in history, with a $1m prize pot.
Taking place on 07 January, the event sees all 20 Formula E drivers plus 10 professional gamers go head to head in a series of qualifying rounds, in the same style as conventional Formula E events. Following that, the eRace itself will see the Formula E drivers and gamers compete for the million-dollar prize pool.
The gamers have been chosen by a series of Road to Vegas online elimination rounds. The Formula E teams have now ‘adopted’ a gamer each. Whilst not formally attached to the team, the gamers will be wearing team kit and colours. DS Virgin Racing’s allotted driver is Graham Carroll.
Graham Carroll, in addition to being a professional gamer, is also a professional driver. Racing in Formula Ford, he won the 2015 Walter Hayes Trophy, having returned to motorsport following a seven-year hiatus. Previous to this, he podiumed seven times in the same series in 2008.
Currently in first position on the qualification leader board, Carroll represents a huge opportunity in coaching Formula E drivers Sam Bird and Jose Maria Lopez. Travelling down from his home in Musselburgh, Scotland, on 13 December, Carroll spent half a week with DS Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird. The pair trained together in Carroll’s team simulator based in Gatwick, before flying to DS Virgin Racing’s base in Satory, Versailles, to work together on the simulator there.
Speaking of his experience, Carroll said, “It’s fascinating to experience the contrast in driving feel between a gaming simulator and a ‘real driver’ simulator like DS Virgin Racing’s set up in Satory. I feel there’s a lot both gamers and drivers can learn from each other – hopefully in time for Las Vegas!”
Sam Bird echoed the sentiment, “The major challenge with gaming, from a driver’s perspective, is learning to operate in a kind of vacuum. The car can’t speak to you. The track doesn’t move underneath you, so it’s about learning to take your cues purely from the visual.”
The eRace in Las Vegas will use the same Playseat and rFactor 2 set up as seen during the Formula E eRaces at tracks during the season. As with the location eRaces, the cars are branded in team colours but have a uniform set up – unlike the gamers’ own cars used during the elimination rounds which had been set up to individual specifications.
The Vegas event will also feature a Formula E development car demo run down the iconic Las Vegas Strip. Formula E has asked DS Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird to drive the car during the run, which takes place on Wednesday 04 January at 22:00hrs local time.
In between training, Graham Carroll met with Team Principal Alex Tai over dinner in London. Tai commented, “We’re delighted to have Graham joining us for this innovative new chapter of Formula E. 1.1 billion people worldwide now engage with eSports. Who knows how many potential stars are out there who simply haven’t had the financial means or opportunities to foster their skill set? Perhaps motorsport’s next star won’t be discovered behind the wheel of a physical car.”
Speaking of his attachment to the team, Graham Carroll said, “I still can’t believe it. One minute I’m sitting in the loft of my house, messing about in an online game, and next I’m sat with the Team Principal of my favourite Formula E team, discussing strategies for Las Vegas. I couldn’t be more excited!”
The Visa Vegas eRace starts at 16:00hrs on Saturday, 07 January (Vegas time), and will be shown on Twitch whilst also streamed live on the Formula E website http://www.fiaformulae.com. A mini documentary following Sam Bird and Graham Carroll as they trained in different simulators in the UK and France will be shown ahead of the eRace. Alternatively, you can catch a preview of the mini-doc here.
For more information on the DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team, please visit http://www.ds-virginracing.com.