Race of Champions chief Fredrik Johnsson has rated the first ROC Virtual event a success, and is planning for the next real-world event at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Speaking after the virtual event on Sunday, won by Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean and Esports star James Baldwin in the team competition while World Rallycross champion Timmy Hansen claimed the individual crown, Johnsson was delighted with the first virtual ROC which was run in partnership with Motorsport Games.
The virtual event, contested on the Assetto Corsa game, took drivers to previous ROC venues from the event’s history, starting in Gran Canaria before races at Wembley Stadium and Riyadh.
Johnsson felt both spectators and drivers were given an experience close to the real thing.
“For a first attempt, very happy with the result,” Johnsson said.
“You learn so much when you start something new, and the collaboration with Motorsport Games helped a lot with that. They were great guys to work with, lots of experience at broadcasting games.
“There was a great atmosphere, finding solutions to everything and the feedback I got from all the drivers was ultra-positive, they all loved it – so next time, it’ll be even better!
“The simulated tracks are so close to the real tracks, the technology is so good – the Gran Canaria track hasn’t been used for quite a while, but it was laser-scanned for this – and it’s as close as you can get to the real deal.”
With the virtual ROC acting as the ‘grand finale’ to the recent Esports boom during the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnsson’s new focus is on the next real-world ROC event – which could be staged as a mid-week event in Las Vegas.
“We have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C,” he said. “We are very conscious that we have to adapt, depending on how it develops.
“The earliest we’d envision doing one is before the Austin and Mexican grands prix – so they would need to happen.
“We have a term sheet from the new [Las Vegas] Raiders venue, the new $2bn Allegiant Stadium, and we would love to go there. I’ve spoken to some of the drivers, who are very excited about it as well, and it would be a Tuesday/Wednesday event.
“We’re just hoping that F1 will come to Austin and Mexico and then whether we’ll be allowed to put spectators in the stadium, whether it’s reduced capacity or not.
“It’s a bit of a waiting game, and the question is how long we can wait to take the decision. We have a number of other options as well, but it all depends on how the global situation develops.
“If we can’t put people in a stadium, we are working on a concept to still bring together the drivers from all the different series on a date and a place where we can not only test their skills on the ROC parallel track, but also the ROC Factor skills challenge course, and a real racetrack – and depending on the location, maybe on dirt for example, taking them out into the desert.”