SRO Motorsports Group is taking the blending of racing and virtual racing a step further for its GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup this year. The SRO has concluded a multi-year expansion of its partnership with Fanatec — a manufacturer of high-end sim racing hardware for consoles and PCs — that will see the German brand become title sponsor of GT World Challenge Powered by AWS and the new GT2 European Series.
Fanatec began its association as an official partner of the SRO E-Sport GT Series in 2020 and will move into a prominent new role for the coming season, as part of what the SRO terms “a pioneering initiative that unites real-world and virtual motorsport” at all five rounds of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, including the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
An on-site Esports contest, organized in cooperation with AK Informatica, will be staged at each event using Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official video game of Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS. Entrants competing for overall honors and those in the Silver Cup class will nominate one driver to represent them in a virtual race, which will award teams’ championship points. In this way, sim racing will directly influence the outcome of the real-world championship, a first in global motorsport. SRO notes that “there is potential to expand the model further afield to Asia, America and Australia” in future seasons.
Bolstering this crossover approach, Fanatec has launching a steering wheel that can be used both on the sim and inside the cockpit of the upcoming BMW M4 GT3.
“The worldwide lockdown forced motorsports to engage with virtual driving more so than in the past, and its potential has been better understood and is now seen as a legitimate complementary tool to real-world racing, which continues to remain irreplaceable,” said Marco Massarutto, co-founder and executive manager at Kunos Simulazioni SRL, the software companey behind Assetto Corsa Competizione. “Nevertheless, we believe that this initiative can bring drivers even more competition, offering the public a renewed and interesting vision of motorsports, be it real or virtual.”
Entering its third year in 2021, Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS features manufacturers competing through their continental customer racing programs. The global calendar is drawn from four regional series, spanning leading circuits in Europe, America, Asia and Australia. The first Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS event of 2021 will be staged at Phillip Island, which kicks off the Australian championship on February 20-21.
Fanatec will also lend its support to the GT2 European Series, a new championship that forms part of the revitalized GT Sports Club concept. The category will launch this season with a five-round calendar, providing a competitive outlet for the high-power models already produced by Porsche, Audi, KTM and Lamborghini.
The first race will form part of the support package for the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season opener at Monza on April 15-17 April. The Fanatec GT2 European Series will stage additional events at Hockenheim, Silverstone, Spa and Circuit Paul Ricard.
“We are delighted that Fanatec will greatly enhance its partnership with SRO this season by becoming title sponsor of both GT World Challenge Powered by AWS and the GT2 European Series,” said Stephane Ratel, SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO. “I am excited by the initiatives that our collaboration can produce, particularly by integrating real-world racing and simulation. Having pioneered the introduction of Balance of Performance and driver categorization, SRO has earned a reputation for breaking new ground within the sport. Now, we are proud to be at the forefront of another revolutionary moment as the first championship to merge virtual and real racing. It is clear that GT racing is immensely popular within the esports community, which speaks to its potential globally. As a leader in its field of expertise, Fanatec can play a crucial role in the project.
“This is also a tremendous boost for the Fanatec GT2 European Series, which I am very excited to see launch at Monza in April. Everything is now in place to ensure a strong maiden season for our new category.”