What just happened? Out of all of the eSports out there, sim racing seems to be the one that comes the closest to replicating a real-world sport both in its physics and the skill required to compete. Enzo Bonito demonstrated this by beating pro Formula E champion Lucas Di Grassi in a real event.
Racing simulations like Assetto Corsa, Project Cars, and iRacing try to capture the realistic feeling of racing a high-horsepower car. For the most part, they do a pretty good job replicating the physics, but there is still a vast difference between sim racing and its real-life counterpart.
However, spending hundreds of hours in realistic racing simulators seems to be paying off for at least one eSports driver. Enzo Bonito, who has mastered Assetto Corsa and iRacing, has just beaten Brazilian F1 and WEC racing star Lucas Di Grassi in a real-world race.
The win occurred over the weekend at the Race of Champions in Mexico. The event attracted racing stars from all categories of motorsports including sim racers. Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Le Mans superstar Tom Kristensen, and Red Bull’s F1 up-and-comer Pierre Gasly were also in attendance.
Bonito went up against Di Grassi in a head-to-head race in equally matched Vuhl 05s. Bonito ended up beating the Formula E champ by half a second. It marks the first time a sim racer has beaten an experienced pro driver in a real-world event.
While there is still an ocean of difference between eRacing and physical motorsports, several overlaps between the two have already occurred. McLaren, famous for its F1 talent, has created the McLaren Shadow Project to find talented sim divers for its eSports team. Some eRacers even get recruited by on-track race teams. Igor Fraga was recently crowned champion in an FIA-certified sim event and is now chasing a real-world career in F1 or Indy racing.