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iRacing launches Blancpain GT3 series

Fancy going GT racing but don’t have a spare £300,000 stuffed under your Nomex-upholstered mattress?

Well rejoice, because the FIA’s Blancpain GT Series has cosied up with fantastically nerdy simulator iRacing for an online multiplayer series that pits players against each other in GT3 machinery.

If you’re unfamiliar, iRacing’s the videogame equivalent of that one mate who turns up for a kickabout and offers to referee. It’s got a startlingly pedantic list of rules and regulations, but the upshot is you don’t tend to get unceremoniously biffed off the circuit at the very first corner. It’s at least the second or third one.

iRacing’s already got tie-ups in the US to please NASCAR and Indycar fans, but Blancpain is the first sanctioned series for people who don’t think barbecue sauce goes with absolutely everything. Races from both the Sprint and Endurance calendars will be digitally recreated, including a full-length Spa 24 hour race, complete with driver changes.

Besides featuring race-spec versions of achingly desirable sportscars, the GT3 class has another advantage for online racing. Because they’re designed to be driven by wealthy owners of shipping companies, GT3s are relatively easy to hustle around a circuit. ABS means late-braking dives down the inside and traction control means throttle-mashing corner exits. So fast, competitive racing, then.

Currently the game’s a little shy of individual models, with only the BMW Z4McLaren 12C and (old) Ford GT eligible, but we’ve been promised new toys to play with soon.

“We’re not happy to just throw together a physics model and slap different graphics models on them and call it a day, which is why we take our time signing and building cars,” Steve Myers, iRacing’s exec-VP, explained. “We’ve signed Aston Martin and plan on building their Vantage GT3 car to join our virtual Blancpain GT Series. We do have another major manufacturer signed that will be joining the line-up as well, but we’re not ready to announce that.”

All this talk of officialness begs the question: will there be a route for iRacing’s most talented virtual drivers to find their way from online the real-life Blancpain GT series, similar to Nissan’s GT Academy? The Blancpain series’ commercial coordinator Anthony Comas won’t rule it out.

“What Nissan have done with the GT Academy is simply incredible but the program goes beyond just going from a console to a racing car. There is an intense training program to prepare the gamers to make the big step from virtual to reality,” Comas told us. “Going straight from a simulator to a GT3 could cause some damage, but fortunately we have a good insurance partner…

“More seriously, it would be fantastic to achieve this. We are constantly coming up with new projects and series, and it is not impossible for our partnership with iRacing to lead us in this direction.”

If you’re tempted, a year’s subscription to iRacing is currently around 30 quid. Which is approximately 10,000 times more affordable than a brand new GT3 car…

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