Rudy van Buren has become the first driver to win World’s Fastest Gamer, and to many that would come as a surprise seeing the rFactor driver take victory and secure a one year contract. But to me, I actually don’t think that at all. If you want me to truly be real about the situation, people who call it rFactor vs iRacing between van Buren and Schothorst would be very naive.
Sim Racing in the WFG competition was about more than just being the fastest. Reaction times, core strength, adaptability under pressure, all of which help to contribute to what World’s Fastest Gamer wanted to be. And while I really don’t want to take the credit all away from Rudy van Buren and the stellar week and a bit that he has had, there were many elements within the tournament that had me mightily frustrated with the fragility and stability of Sim Racing and ultimately would leave my impression of the tournament as a failure more rather than a success.
I am going to be quite controversial about this, not because I felt that I was the best commentator in the world and I should have been there, and not because I am entitled to, but more rather because I think the tournament did more harm than good overall. When you break it right down for what is “good” for Sim Racing, the only thing I can claim to be a positive is the exposure everyone has got. Sim Racing should be about sustainability and I think a lot of people got an impression on what it means in 2017 to be a Sim Racer when multiple companies to this date have failed to ignite a spark.
I don’t blame McLaren for a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a Sim Developer because as a selling point, everyone wanted that ability, but you could argue that the tournament was set up to only have the best interests of McLaren at heart more rather than the whole ethos of Sim Racing and certain junctions along the way did not go to help that.
You could view during the qualifiers on how which qualifying ventures got the most amount of attention and it was clear to see how rFactor2 garnered a lot of the spotlight. I’m not into finances or in the understanding of who paid what but in terms of what McLaren had to work with or share, Qualifiers such as Forza and Gears Club had little to no exposure heading into the tournament while iRacing had some exposure with the highlight packages. If McLaren wanted a tournament to be shown as equal on all platforms then all platforms should have had an equal opportunity to showcase themselves. It doesn’t come from a place of inferiority or being associated with one platform over the other, however there was a lot more coverage through McLaren’s Facebook and YouTube for rFactor than anything else so the question remains, if there is to be a tournament that wants all of sim racing involved, shouldn’t all of sim racing be represented equally?
On top of that was the amount of airtime shown for events during the finals and while there was a big imbalance of iRacing content in the early goings, I do respect one of the decisions to not show the iRacing Suzuka race knowing all the technical issues they were having with Forza thus not being able to run the event. However the opening event at Interlagos was not broadcasted and that came as a big surprise. Why wouldn’t you showcase any of your finals when it is clear from highlights packages that there was material to be used? I find it baffling unless they had severe technical issues stopping them from broadcasting the event but even that comes with its own challenges as graphically, the decision to use iRacing in game information as an overlay at one point came across as an eye opener when software like IRTVO and ATVO exist to create a professional product.
Then comes the coverage of the event, and it was poor at best. I liked the highlights packages of the days and I thought they were well put together however every driver felt corporate, lacked personality and almost at times felt like they were reading the McLaren script. On top of that, with everyone in McLaren gear, there were no senses of the teams represented therefore there was no real way to feel as if you had a connection the same way you would to a Ferrari or a Mercedes driver. Despite the fact half of the races weren’t shown, the broadcasting duo of Ben Constanduros and Wolfgang Reip was a disaster waiting to happen.
Wolfgang does not have the voice for commentary and the low booming voice with little inflection was almost like giving Eeyore the microphone from Winnie the Pooh. Ben was ok and could be bearable in short doses like he was at the rFactor qualifiers however in long races like the Indy 500 and the 24 hour event, I thought he came unglued, easily ran out of content and then subsequently sandbagged all of the coverage and then went on not to care. How is an audience supposed to get behind Sim Racing if the people telling you about it do not care? Scott Woodwiss, bless his cotton socks tried to salvage something out of the Le Mans event but to be honest, when you only have fourteen machines running in the event, there will only be so much you can talk about.
But looking into that event, I was very disappointed that the overall message of the race was lost due to the fixated gaze on the final six and no recognition for a dominant VRS Coanda Simsport fielding a C-Team.
Right now there is no way David Williams, Jake Hewlett and Nick Rowland (guest driver) are the best Coanda have but to show up all of the finalists, which includes one of the reigning Blancpain champions in iRacing, that is where I will salute some great and unrecognized driving for the majority of the coverage. I know I am missing other drivers but to the entire team, you have to say congrats.
But again, coverage would be majorly frustrating. Broadcasters on camera not paying attention to the race and just scrolling on their phones. This tournament was supposed to be professional and it did nothing to showcase that at all. You can wave as many sparkly banners around as you like such as the location and the cars and the history or Mika Hakkinen, but let me be absolutely clear. No race should ever be given up on the way WFG gave up on all the races that they broadcasted. It was farcical.
It was almost as farcical as allowing somebody to qualify through mobile gaming which was a massive success apparently. (Sarcasm included.) Falling a lap down in the Indy 500 after 7 laps due to an incident early, Mr Drue never recovered and as such went out early. Also with a free slot available due to Ryan Moore dealing with a family issue, I think it would have been very easy to find a replacement for Ryan Moore, especially with a certain Martin Kronke sitting pretty on the sidelines. Granted Martin probably would have declined to continue his studies but the point is the tournament was on the back foot from the very beginning.
What could be made clear however was that if you want to be the best, you have to get on the online simulators with rFactor and iRacing dominating the talent pool. Harry Jacks handled himself though with great ability and I have to applaud how well he hung in until the final six which included a second place finish at Suzuka. Isaac Price was arguably the man of the tournament and was desperately unlucky not to be in the final two.
But now I am starting to lose sight and Rudy van Buren picked himself up so well after crashing out of the Indy 500. He rallied back and proved why he is an exceptional talent and deserving of the seat however on top of driving the online simulators, I wouldn’t be quick to count it as a rFactor win, likewise I wouldn’t have been so quick to call it an iRacing win if Freek Schothorst won the tournament either. Rudy had a successful racing career up until sixteen where it all started to come unglued for him but from my conversations with him, It sounded like he has impressed many people before on the circuit. The height has not helped him in that respect but without that, van Buren would probably have been in a successful racing career. Likewise Freek has grown up inside of a racing family who have more experience than what you would normally ascertain. There is no substitute for racing the real thing however those two drivers are arguably some of the best to transfer relatable skills and that is what probably pushed the pair of them into the finals.
All in all..
Everyone at the Sim Racing Observer would like to congratulate Rudy van Buren on winning the World’s Fastest Gamer tournament however in my personal opinion, there were some very dodgy decisions going on all throughout the event and it has lead to a lot of people getting unhappy about the direction of Sim Racing, myself included. Sim Racing is fragile and like the Gran Turismo series, I don’t see how this helps create sustainability within Sim Racing and I don’t see how this is promoting the drivers and teams, more rather just McLaren.
I thought the content was a disaster from a broadcasting perspective and could have been done so much better overall with people who actually could have cared for the industry. Why Wil Vincent was not called for the Indy 500 will forever remain a mystery to me. But I think all Sim Racers, iRacing, rFactor or otherwise should take a long hard look at this tournament and decide for themselves if they want Sim Racing to go down a path of hype and disappointment.