It was a case of simulated gears and loadings in Las Vegas for Renault e.dams driver duo Sébastien Buemi and Nico Prost in the ground-breaking Visa Vegas eRace on the electronically represented streets of Nevada’s Sin City.
Sin City became a Sim City for the duration of the 20 lap simulator race, contested by the twenty season three Formula E drivers and ten sim racers, all dicing for the opportunity to win a share of $1 million – the biggest prize in eSports racing history.
Nico and Séb were joined for the weekend by British-based Italian sim racer David Greco, who won the opportunity to drive with the team through the Road to Vegas Challenge. The event took place as part of Sports Business Innovation on the 50th anniversary of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Drawing homage to the format of an ePrix, the eRace saw a five-part qualifying knockout followed by super pole. Top qualifying Renault e.dams driver David Greco proceeded to superpole and was set for a strong lap until kissing the barriers on the final corner. Nevertheless, his superpole effort gave him a P4 start for the eRace. Séb placed 22nd overall and Nico 26th in qualifying, meaning participation in the 14-lap Qualifying Race for both.
The Qualifying Race saw Séb start P12 and Nico P16. Seb made a great start into the top ten with Nico not far behind. Mature early stints saw both work up the order, Séb to P7, Nico into the top ten and P9. Nico’s efforts were undone, however, with technical issues with his sim meaning he dropped to 19th and last. Séb took P7, meaning a P17 starting position for the eRace.
The eRace saw strong starts from both Greco and Buemi, with the latter chipping away lap after lap at the cars ahead to work into P10. Greco meanwhile kept a holding brief for fifth, making a move for fourth which saw three cars abreast with rivals Graham Carroll and Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola. It didn’t go well, and all three were soon headed to the pits, with Greco returning to the race in P15, a place he held till the chequered flag. Consolation came for Greco with the race’s fastest lap a 1min 27.613secs and the $10,000 prize that accompanied it. Séb’s P10 meanwhile didn’t last, and he dropped to P11 come the finish line after a skirmish with the barriers.
Renault e.dams, Sébastien and Nico will next be seen in action for the third round of season three of the FIA Formula E Championship at the Buenos Aires ePrix on the Circuito de Puerto Madero in Argentina on February 18, 2017.
#9 Séb: « This was a very competitive event and the standard of the sim racers in their natural habitat is very high. The gaming sims provide a good platform for competition, but the guys who are using them all the time are naturally at an advantage. I’d love to see the tables turned and see the sim racers join us out on track one day maybe FEH can make this happen! I would have been reasonably happy to finish P10 given the competition, however it wasn’t to be as I broke my front wing and lost the position. David was good addition to our team. I’ve enjoyed my time in Vegas but I’m looking forward to Buenos Aires. »
#8 Nico: « Certainly for me my preference is to be sat in the Z.E.16 rather than in a gaming simulator, and I think that was reflected in my sim driving today. It was a strong level of competition and I wasn’t able to get comfortable with the feedback to be able to deliver to the level I can achieve on track. I should have qualified for the eRace however there was a technical issue with my simulator and that’s racing sometimes. It’s been an interesting event. CES is massive and it was great to see the different initiatives from Renault here. It was good to work with our sim racer, David Greco, for this event as he gave some good insight on how to try to extract the best performance on the gaming sim. Even though I’ve enjoyed it here in Vegas, I can’t wait to get out on track in Argentina. »
#David: It’s been an honour to be part of Renault e.dams for this event. Qualifying went well and my superpole lap was looking good until I brushed the barriers on the final corner. My race pace was good but the track wasn’t wide enough for three cars alongside each other and we all lost out. Las Vegas and CES have been real eye-openers and I’ve enjoyed every moment. It was good to work with Nico and Séb over the course of the event and we all pushed hard to achieve the best results possible. It was also great to have the guidance of Jean-Paul too as that certainly added a different element to my competing.
Jean-Paul Driot, Senior Team Manager: « Today we enjoyed a new spectacle as part of an initiative to take us to new audiences and embrace eSports. Simulator racing is different in many ways from actual circuit racing yet obviously with many similarities so it’s been highly interesting to pitch our Formula E drivers against the best sim racers out there. Séb and Nico made great efforts. Thanks also to David Greco for all his enthusiasm and drive; it has been great to have him as part of Renault e.dams for this event and his performance did us proud. As a team manager it was frustrating not to be able to talk to the drivers over the intercom during the race and I think this would definitely be beneficial when we participate in the next eRace. We must applaud Alejandro and FEH for pushing the boundaries with something new. »