While sim racing is booming with many high profile events, for some years the Czech based Virtual GP series has been making its mark in the virtual racing world, perhaps under the radar but delivering quality racing championships with winners taking home a real Merc to drive for a year!
They currently run a highly professional one make Mercedes backed GT3 championship on iRacing which sets the benchmark in terms of quality racing as well as impressive broadcasts and professional media support.
We reached out and had a chat with Lukáš Redl about the league and their aspirations for the future.
Tell us about your league…
Virtual GP is a platform for professional virtual racing competitions, founded in 2013. The goal was to show people what “sim racing” is about and to prove that drivers can be successful in virtual racing and in real racing as well.
Since then, we have organised some high-quality races for the fans, using the modern technologies intertwining the best of the real and the virtual worlds. Professionalism has always driven this project, not just in organising, but also in using highly acclaimed simulators and working with drivers on previously unseen levels – including media commitments and dealing with partners and sponsors.
What makes it even more special is the fact that Virtual GP uses a gaming lounge for selected races, which gives virtual racing a unique dimension. Drivers are provided with the same equipment and have to battle wheel to wheel but it also lets them enjoy a unique atmosphere. As it becomes more and more difficult to start a real racing career, esports and sim racing is gaining traction.
Another difference of Virtual GP lies in broadcasting, which utilizes a professional studio and experienced commentators. It is not just about racing, but also interviews, reports and video edits as part of the professional coverage.
All inspired by the famous British TV coverage of Formula 1. Over the past few years, Virtual GP has been on the Czech TV channel Sport5, a worldwide esports TV channel GINX Esports TV, Amazon Prime Video platform and currently it runs on O2 TV Sport, the biggest Czech pay sports TV.
When did it start and how has it evolved?
It began in 2014, with a for fun league in F1 2014 game. Later, it was decided to switch to Assetto Corsa for Season 2, to enter the bigger world of simulators. At that time, first sponsors had entered the league and all the teams were branded and fully sponsored by companies. The greatest change came in 2018 when Mercedes-Benz joined Virtual GP as a title sponsor and it was the first-ever long-term deal between an independent league and a car manufacturer, in the world.
Now, the championship winner gets a brand-new Mercedes-Benz class for one year, while the others enjoy Mercedes-AMG cars on a race circuit. Also, two of our drivers have made it to the F1 Esports and other biggest sim racing events in the world. Currently, it’s the most prestigious and most famous virtual racing championship in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
In 2020, the Virtual GP championship has moved to iRacing, the most popular and most professional sim racing platform at the moment, with even bigger emphasis on TV coverage. Every season now ends at FOR GAMES event, the biggest video games expo in the Czech Republic.
Timeline of milestone
- 2013 – first ideas
- 2014 – first season
- 2015 – move to simulators, sponsors come aboard, TV magazine on Czech Sport 5 TV
- 2017 – live broadcast with WTF1, a fully professional English coverage, races appear on GINX Esports TV and Amazon Prime Video
- 2018 – Mercedes-Benz comes aboard
- 2019 – the biggest season so far, with 22 drivers across 2 categories (VGP1 Pro and VGP2 Junior)
- 2020 – move to iRacing, first
Objectives of the league?
- To popularize esports and sim racing
- To build a professional esports platform, possibly international
- To be broadcasted LIVE on TV
- To show that sim racing drivers can success in real racing
Tell us about Mercedes-Benz Virtual GP partnership and the 2020 season…
The Mercedes-Benz Virtual GP championship entered its 6th season with a switch to iRacing, probably the most-renowned simulator in the world. The popular combination of offline and online races continues, with 2020 offering two race days in a studio, seven online races and once again a big final event at the FOR GAMES video games expo.
However, in the end both studio days had to be scrapped and while the format stayed the same, all studio races take place online. There are 20 drivers and 10 teams. While the online races are going to offer the whole grid of 20 cars, the studio events have introduced the driver’s changes for the first time in the series’ history, in the same style as endurance races.
The new season is divided into two parts – starting with Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars, followed by modern IndyCar single-seaters Dallara IR18, powered by Mercedes-Benz engines.
The online races have a fixed length to 45 minutes, while studio races are going to offer a full hour (60 minutes) of racing. All races use a brand-new points scoring system for TOP 15 drivers: 25-20-17-14-12-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.
This system is going to apply for all types of races, including FOR GAMES. Also, there is still a bonus point for the fastest lap of the race, though for the first time ever there is an additional condition that the driver must finish within the TOP 15.
Qualifying – the qualifying format had been changed as well, this time offering a full online qualifying championship with three rounds. All the qualifying entrants had to prove themselves in older IndyCar DW12 single-seaters. Divided into three separate but balanced groups, they race around Silverstone (old layout), Okayama and Laguna Seca.
Drivers were awarded points for their performance in qualifyings (10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) and in the race as well (25-20-17-14-12-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1).
The best 10 drivers from each group then advanced to the Draft stage, where they were joined by the top drivers of the 2019 season who had advanced directly – Martin Štefanko, Michal Blažek and Simon Kovačič. In the Draft stage, it was up to team representatives to choose their drivers for the 2020 season.
The 2020 season has been dominated by the Logitech CZC.cz eSuba team so far with Simon Kovačič winning all the races. You can find more details on our website here>>>
Highlights from Virtual GP latest race, Round 5 of the Mercedes-Benz Virtual GP 2020 on iRacing: