The Sports Car Club of America is joining the eSports world with a new series on the iRacing platform. In partnership with Skip Barber Racing School, a 12-week program kicks off March 12. Weekly winners receive a free entry to an SCCA Track Night in America event, and the overall champion is awarded a 3-day Skip Barber Racing School.
The online world is a new horizon in racing, and one that might seem heretical those classic gearheads. The low barrier to entry, however, usually consisting of a computer or gaming console and driving wheel and pedals, means that racing simulators are available to a much wider audience, not just those who can afford a car and the time to get to a track.
So why is the SCCA getting involved? Basically, the racing corner of eSports is getting big. NASCAR, Porsche, and World of Outlaws all have series in iRacing, Forza Motorsports has its own Championship, and Gran Turismo has an FIA-sanctioned series. As with other forms of racing, the SCCA sees itself as the place to get started. “If you want to learn to be a competitive race car driver, you go to the SCCA,” said Blair Deffenbaugh, the SCCA’s Marketing Project Manager, “and we want to that to be the same in eSports.”
In addition to that, the SCCA’s pair-up with iRacing is about reaching out to people who love cars, and love to race, regardless of the setting. “It’s two authorities in their respective categories getting together to spread the love.”
That does not mean that the SCCA Spec Racer Ford Challenge is framed as a gateway to road racing. There is a path that goes from racing on your computer to driving on a race track but, says Deffenbaugh, “There are going to be people who spend their entire career in front of the computer or on a simulator.”
Prizes are limited to SCCA members, as a way to incentivize new signups from the iRacing world (SCCA members need to sign up on the website as well as in the iRacing system). Plus, says Deffenbaugh, “If you’re an iRacing driver, changes are you’ll take interest in something the SCCA has to offer.” The other barriers to entry are an iRacing subscription, computer, racing wheel, and internet connection. The costs add up, but it’s still less than tire budget for most real-world racing series. (The SCCA published some tips on getting started in iRacing with a simple, pre-built computer as some other recommendations here.)
One other advantage to online racing? A flexible schedule. The Spec Racer Ford Challenge offers several races per week. Rankings are based on a formula of average finishes and strength of the field per race.
The Spec Racer Ford Challenge uses Spec Racer Ford cars, naturally (which is also a popular real-world series for the SCCA), and requires a class D license. What’s next? Deffenbaugh says he’d like to see another spec racing series based on road racers like the Mazda MX-5 Cup and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI cup cars, possibly open to the rookie license in iRacing.
If you want to watch an online race, the only way to do so right now is to log on to iRacing as a driver and watch, although the series could be broadcast on iRacing’s live platform in the future.