Former Formula One race winner Jean Alesi announced his plans earlier this week to set up his own esports academy designed to bring simracers into the real world of racing. The academy which will be looking to scout and compete within F1, Forza and Project Cars, is hoping to generate the next level of development in real racers.
Similar in some respects to the revolutionary Gran Turismo academy which came to being five years ago, simracing often has left itself in a massive paradox. Should it look to be an add on and a developmental tool to help drivers aspire to do the real thing or should it exist as its own entity with its own footing and look to forge its own path? It is often found that many a driver has dreamed of being a Michael Schumacher or a Lewis Hamilton, but many people don’t get afforded the opportunity at the highest level which has led to the simracing boom.
Jean Alesi and his esport academy is looking to change all of that though as they plan to scout for talent to close the gap down between simracing and the real side of things, hoping to find the drivers of the future. Alesi, who will be helped by former Minardi test driver Matteo Bobbi have a vision for the future which puts the simracing community at an interesting crossroads.
Upon speaking with project manager Matteo Miyakama, the aim is to break the barrier between virtual and reality giving their talents the opportunity to train on real cars during purposely organized events. this is also coupled with the sponsorship deals that the academy has already secured, as they look to team up with Compact S.p.A who have a long history with the marketing and athlete management side of racing.
I personally think that the academy is a good idea and does offer another route into racing which say if the money wasn’t there in the beginning or if something out of the ordinary affected the natural progression path would be some of the examples. I love the idea that more and more drivers are embracing simracing as a legitimate means of progression with the whole slew of professional drivers looking to simracing for the extra edge.
However I think that there are some questions that do need to be asked. As simracing gets larger and larger, what is our direction moving forward? Are we simply going to play second fiddle to companies who are looking to try and get into simracing by using simracing as just an untapped pool of talent? Or do we want simracing to be like other esports and standalone with money and financing and prestige that we all know it has the potential to do?
Taking no credit away from the great idea of the Jean Alesi academy, would more academies like this diminish the achievements that simracers are able to achieve if the end game is within a race completely unrelated to simracing? And would we be selling our abilities short?
All questions that deserve a bit of thought however where I stand is this. I think right now, Jean Alesi and his team have a very good plan with great backing. I think that his academy is going to be very successful and I think a lot of drivers would want the opportunity to establish a real world racing career and to those who get accepted, I immediately offer my congratulations. However at the same time, a few academies are great but nothing right now is stopping the over-saturation of academies that could happen in the future and if people are not too careful with simracing, then companies could have the ability to set simracing back upwards of years backwards if they are not too careful.
Simracing cannot afford to diminish their standing as an esport and bend 100% of the time to the will of series’ that want to invest into simracing without a second thought about how they impact it. I warn time and again about how outside companies need to be very cautious about how they involve themselves. I think Alesi’s esports academy is not going to go down the dark path and I think that it will sit as the benchmark for other academies that may crop up. However destiny is in the hands of us, and not the companies. It is our decisions that will decide what path simracing goes down.
All the best to Jean Alesi and the rest of the crew, I hope you all find success in your idea moving forward.