Insight: Formula E and eSports

The FIA Formula E Championship has been pioneering in so many ways, but it is in its approach to the world of eSports where it is truly opening up to a wholly new audience.

It may come as a surprise for you to learn that competitive computer gaming, which is now universally known as eSports, is big business. No scratch that, it’s huge business. Despite skirting under the radar of the mainstream media, for the past decade interest in watching the world’s best gamers do battle has been rapidly growing in popularity. To the extent that the leading exponents earn millions, and pinnacle of this - League of Legends - can sell-out 50,000-seater stadiums.

As it is one of Formula E’s core objectives to engage with a new, younger fan base, it makes complete sense to engage and embrace the world of eSports. The first foray came in January this year, with the first-ever Race Off. Held in Fulham, this event was open to the public, and gave the fastest 16 players the chance to race off for a position in the final, where they would be joined by Formula E stars Bruno Senna and Nico Prost.

The fabulous Forza Motorsport 6, which followed on from its predecessor by allowing players to race the world’s first all-electric single-seater, was the platform chosen. For the second Race Off, we moved to the ESL arena in Leicester, where Jerome D’Ambrosio went head-to-head with Sam Bird, in an event streamed across the internet on Twitch (the spiritual home of eSports), YouTube and the official Formula E website.

This event also marked the beginning of the Race Off Pro Series, where in the run up to each ePrix, Forza gamers would complete a fastest lap challenge with the aim of setting one of the top 10 best times. The 10 fastest where then invited into a race - streamed live online - with the top two securing a place in the Race Off Pro Series Championship Final presented by Visa.

The first-ever champion will be crowned on Sunday, July 3 in the eVillage area of the Visa London ePrix. Ten of the world’s finest Forza racers will be competing for a €15,000 prize pot, and if the standard of the heats is anything to go by, this will be an enthralling occasion. With so much at stake, it will be a test of nerves as much as skill.

As well as the Pro Series, Formula E also stages something called the eRace. This started at the Mexico City ePrix in March and pits nine of the Formula E drivers against one lucky fan in race simulators. Hosted in the Race Booth in the eVillage, fans are given the opportunity to set their fastest laps throughout the day with the fastest fan chosen to compete in the eRace.

They then get to appear live against some of the best racing drivers in the world. Racing drivers are a competitive breed, so don’t think that they’ll just sit back and let their rivals win - the eRaces are incredibly competitive, even if the driving standards often leave a lot to be desired.

But this is all part of the appeal. The races are broadcast live on the big screens in the eVillage and offer an amazing opportunity to see a professional driver at work up close.

For the Visa London ePrix on July 2 and 3, the eRace will be taking place on both the Saturday and Sunday, with the fastest fan throughout the morning given the opportunity to go head-to-head against the racing drivers. It’s a superb opportunity for fans to get closer to the sport.

For tickets to rounds 9 and 10 of the FIA Formula E Championship in Battersea Park, London, click here.