Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

The Grand Prix Virtual World Championship // A year long competition of sim racing enthusiasts

Published by Scott Woodwiss

For anyone who has seen me around Sidepodcast.com in the past, you'll know I'm big on racing games and sim racing. Since the age of 4, where a Sega Mega Drive containing Lotus Turbo Challenge gave me my first virtual racing experience, my understanding of how to race and set quick lap times has come purely from playing on consoles, either with a controller or a wheel. But now, I face a much bigger challenge. One which I've never really looked into that much in terms of competing, but always observed and followed.

I've recently become part of the Grand Prix Virtual World Championship (GPVWC) community. The GPVWC is one of many sim racing leagues around the world that hold year long championships with competitive, challenging yet fun racing at its heart. The initial group of sim racers first ran the series in its original state back in 2000, running offline races on Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 3 and then culminating everyone's results together to determine who won. Over the years, the series disappeared in 2004, but was quickly rebranded and stayed that way until the GPVWC name returned in 2008. In that time it has seen the racing platform switch from GP3 to Grand Prix 4 and then rFactor in 2009, which saw the league's first ever online race. Since then, they've never looked back.

In its current format, the top series is Superleague, which features Grand Prix cars and the fastest drivers. Names such as Joe Consiglio, Lee Morris and Janne Tanskanen will mean nothing to the average F1 fan, but in GPVWC they're known as some of the most successful drivers in recent times, with Consiglio himself a double world champion, in 2009 and 2011, with Tanskanen claiming the crown for himself in 2011. The Finn makes his return this season and judging pre-season testing, he could be odds on to take the title back from Consiglio. The championship will run on a practically identical calendar to that of the 2012 F1 season, albeit minus Bahrain and instead visiting Zandvoort in Holland.

Below the top tier is Supercup, which is their equivalent of GP2, and a championship in which I will be participating, but more on that later. This championship runs the exact same calendar as SL, and runs half the full race distance that they do. Finally, new for 2012 is the Formula Challenge. Running Formula BMW cars, it provides a great stepping stone for those just starting in sim racing and GPVWC, hoping to progress up through the ranks on their quest to be the champion. Alongside this 3-tier league system, the community also runs a Masters touring car series in the off-season and will also feature an Endurance Series with LMP2 and GT machines. To my knowledge, none of the other major sim racing leagues provide as authentic experience of progressing up the single-seater ladder.

The authenticy doesn't stop there, though. All teams and drivers use a clever contract system as well as paying a minute fee for the appropriate licences for each series. Also with live timing hosted by LiveRacers, dedicated servers on rFactor, its own Twitter feed for you to keep up to date with all the goings-on, including broadcast times, and all races broadcast live on simrace.tv (featuring commentary from yours truly), GPVWC can strongly put in a claim to be one of, if not the best, online racing league in the world. Heck, they're even working on an annual book covering 2011! The community has also held a meet-up at the end of last year and will do so again in 2012.

Now about my drive in Supercup? Ahh yes, well here's the good bit. My drive is with No Fear Racing, and of course each team needs sponsors, brands to be emblazoned across the car to make it look attractive and give the backers some coverage. Well, I can reveal that, after impressing them with the live broadcast of the first Formula Challenge event, both Sidepodcast and F1 Minute have agreed to being featured on our team's Supercup car this season. And to prove it, here's one of the launch shots!

Sidepodcast image

Looks good, doesn't it? We would still like to get one or two more sponsors on the car, though. Let me make it clear, however, that practically all sponsors featured on the cars in all series are there purely for show and not for any promotional or financial purposes. Hey, it's free exposure! I will put in a small plea and ask if anyone knows of any company or site that wouldn't mind being featured on a virtual racing car, then please let me know!

The first race of both the Superleague and Supercup takes place in Melbourne Australia on March 7th (Supercup) and 8th (Superleague), so be sure to tune in and both watch me race and hear me commentate on what is truly shaping up to be a great year's racing within the community. Also, if you want to watch back my commentating debut for the Formula Challenge season opener from Brands Hatch, a link will be posted below along with links to the GPVWC site, its Wiki page, simrace.tv and our LiveRacers live timing page.

I really hope you'll come and tune in and support us, it would mean a lot to everyone in the community, myself included of course. The FC race achieved just over 50 viewers at its peak, which is the most they've ever had, as we made sure to promote it as much as possible. It's not a lot but it's a starting point, so we need you, the Sidepodcommunity to tune in and spread the word in order to build popularity and exposure to a wider audience. Also, as I consider myself to be racing on behalf of Sidepodcast, I will do what I can to race consistently and cleanly, yet competitively in order to score regular decent results, hopefully mostly in the points. So with all that in mind, see you guys in Melbourne, both on track and from the commentary box!

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