Sim Racing: 'The Transaction'
Is this the biggest, smartest or strongest team acquisition in sim racing? Or all three?
||Jonathan Simon | February 28, 2018The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator
For the first time in quite a while, I’ve been shocked, swirled, excited and nervous. The simulation racing silly season is back. That’s if you really consider there to be a sim racing silly season – it’s basically 365 days a year. FA Racing G2 Logitech G (a G2 Esports subsidiary) has made strong moves. They’ve made a sturdy case for ‘longest name to say’ (the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series (iWCGPS) wins this award). They’ve also assertively taken advantage of an unregulated sim racing driver market.
The most notable impact is to CoRe SimRacing. This is a team that didn’t even have a stake in the iWCGPS 12 months ago. Isaac Price and ineX parted ways and Sebastian Job moved out of home from Apex Racing UK. Cem Bolukbasi – young, fast and glamorous for sponsors. Don’t forget Pashalis Gergis, who wasn’t initially offered an Apex Racing UK main team seat until it was too late. He left the Apex Academy and all four drivers fell right into the lap of CoRe SimRacing. Lucky for CoRe, but smart to pick them all up.
The team built a strong foundation in 2017 with some promising yet robust highlights:
- P6 Race – Round 3 @ Montréal (Cem Bolukbasi)
- P6 Race – Round 4 @ Road America (Cem Bolukbasi)
- P7 Race – Round 7 @ Imola (Isaac Price)
- P7 Race – Round 9 @ Spa-Francorchamps (Isaac Price)
- P4 Qualifying – Round 9 @ Spa-Francorchamps (Pashalis Gergis)
If you’re a CoRe SimRacing fan, I warn you to look away from the next paragraph. Salt will be rubbed on the wound.
The fairytale was set. Frederik Rasmussen, Job, Price, Bolukbasi, Gergis. A young team, all obsessed with sim racing, all hard workers, all with time on their hands. Yes, the veteran presence isn’t there – the mind that keeps these young men in check. But it didn’t matter. They had the speed and a well-built team ready to take on those at the top of the iWCGPS standings. They were placed to start 2018 as the third best team in the series, with potential to fight VRS Coanda Simsport and Team Redline for the top spot on the podium.
It was a cool cast of five, potentially six with Joni Törmälä (let’s talk about that later). A formidable squad with brotherly love, one that would’ve created success with a sim racing reality show. Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Ball In The Family, and now The CoRe Four with Two More. Another reality show cancelled mid-way through season one for controversial circumstances. Gergis being Greek, is in perpetual financial difficulty. Isaac Price as a good friend, develops the setup to an elaborate bank robbery keeping Pash out of debt. Conducting the robbery are Frede, Cem and Joni, leading themselves into the bank and out into the getaway car. The show is then cancelled at the end of season 1, after getaway driver Sebastian Job crashed coming out of a city chicane.
Flipping the car upside down, killing all inside.
Here’s what’s really happened now. G2 Esports have pulled off a bundle of great signings. It’s not a Martin Krönke, but it’s enough to establish themselves as a competitor in the sim racing world. A REAL competitor – not that the Fernando Alonso name already did.
They’ve done nothing wrong, nothing unethical, but used all the leverage they had to negotiate. They’ve convinced some of the world’s best sim racers to join what should be a strong FA Racing G2 team. It’s all speculation remember. As successful as G2 are, they have yet to prove themselves in the iWCGPS world, let alone the sim racing world. There’s the ‘Miracle on Ice’, Michael Jordan’s ‘The Shot’, ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, ‘The Trade’ with Wayne Gretzky. This move will go down in the deep history of Wikipedia as ‘The Transaction’. It’s like Bitcoin, it’s going to be good, but it’s all on speculation at the moment. We need to wait until they prove themselves, but it’s going to happen.
Positive SimRacing (PSR) has been one of the biggest victims of this. They’re a team that constantly loses home grown talent and most of the time, it’s poached away. I know, I was one of those. I came to PSR unknown, but they took a chance on me, provided support, as they’ve done with countless other drivers. I was from Australia, not even sure which other driver's country was closest to me. I was young, almost completely unknown, but they took a risk on me as their top choice rookie, using their 'first round draft pick'. I wasn't Giannis Antetokounmpo, but thankfully I worked hard to ensure I wasn't the Darko Miličić draft bust. At the end of the day, because PSR is unable to keep just a single one of all the talents they helped nurture, they’re unable to establish themselves as a top competitor. Once that offer came to me from a more established team, I moved. As all drivers would.
Ask Javier Álvarez. The name branding of top teams would easily snatch drivers away from developing teams. Reputation also has a great effect on a driver’s decision to join a new squad. The most important influence however, is what teammates you’ll be joining at your desired destination. If they’re quicker than you, a slower driver will join knowing they’ll obtain access to quick setups and the faster driver’s telemetry. If you’re the quickest, you join other top talents. If you’re a developing team, it takes a whole lot of luck and skill to preserve prospering talent. All that talent needs to arrive at the EXACT same time.
CoRe had it perfectly timed with a smidgen of luck. Now it’s gone.
Think of Mitchell DeJong’s iRacing Road Pro Series stint with the Orion Race Team. The most dominant Pro Series driver of all time was then smartly snapped up by Coanda, who in turn guided his already developed talent into a race winner. Think of it in other sports. If Orion drafted DeJong number one overall in a Pro Series draft, they’d have him nailed down for at least three or four years. In this event, Orion didn’t even get a single race out of him and lost their number one pick.
Evolution Racing Australia (now Evolution Racing Team) also had the same dilemma with Riley Preston a couple years back. That’s motorsport for you. Sim racing simulates the off-track stuff as good as what’s on track. Think of Arsenal’s potential if valuable contributors had remained at the club over the past few seasons. Cesc Fàbregas, Samir Nasri, Robin Van Persie, Alex Song, Gaël Clichy,
Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Alexis Sánchez, and the best of all, Olivier Giroud. All gone. The difference here, Arsenal IS a name brand. By the way, am I the only person to proudly own a Giroud jersey?
The politics in sim racing is as fun as what’s on track. I remember sometimes being more entertained by the forums than the testing and racing!
But in sim racing, talent and budget win over a less established, well structured team. It’s just the way it goes. As one of the most well run teams in Formula 1, Force India still won’t win a championship without talent and budget.
But then when talent moves to a less established team? You improve, you win. Think LeBron James taking the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2015, with the Cavs coming off a forgettable 2014 campaign which earned them the number one draft pick. Think Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. They left the BBC and still found success for Amazon Prime. It works in a variety of ways.
It is what it is, G2 Esports played the market. Well played.
According to the rumour mill, Joni Törmälä to CoRe Sim Racing was a done deal. FA Racing G2 was also rumored to have swooped in at the list minute, taking the two time iWCGPS race winner along with three of the nests eggs. He’s surely spoken to both teams. In the middle of that, it was also speculated that he’d join one of sim racing’s rising teams in Vendaval Simracing.
He was a hot free agent after departing ineX Racing. I remember his surprise victory at Round 1 for the 2016 iWCGPS. To me, that was as surprising as Brawn GP’s dominance at the start of the 2009 Formula 1 season.
I had suggested in a previous podcast that if FA Racing G2 had signed Cem Bolukbasi, why not just sign the entire CoRe SimRacing iWCGPS team? A young team, appeals to the eSports audience, no boring drivers on the team and great chemistry. Importantly, most drivers on the team had embedded or established themselves in the CoRe SimRacing heart and soul. They hadn’t been around long enough for this to be an emotional exit either. It wouldn’t be a controversial transaction if it was done.
It’s done. Signed, sealed, delivered. Now it’s onto the next chapter.
Each driver has established their niche and what they bring to a sim racing team. Because if you don’t have talent in sim racing and you don’t have a specialisation you bring, what good are you to major players and teams?
Top teams in the world championship want to know who you are. If you’re a mid pack to back of the grid driver and obtain a world championship license, where else are you going to contribute to the team? Are you a setup guru? The chemistry guy? The fun one on the TeamSpeak servers? The strategist? The leader? What’s your niche if you’re not fast?
Every one of these drivers are either fast, or have that niche.
The problem with specialising in multiple skills in the modern day, is that someone who can get four extra hours a day on you, with their mind focused on one skill, will eventually come out on top. It takes a crazy Kobe Bryant-like work ethic and mentality to develop expertise with one skill. Unless you’re the Childish Gambino of sim racing of course, that’s a once in a generation talent. That’s where you can write, act, do stand-up, rap and more, all at an elite level.
Pashalis Gergis though, hasn’t been signed. He’s been left to die as the only iWCGPS driver on the CoRe SimRacing squad for 2018… for now. Will they go after rookie Moritz Löhner? The rookie only just recently secured a world championship license for 2018. From Heusinkveld CORE Motorsports to CoRe SimRacing? Red Sox to Yankees? Duke to North Carolina? Arsenal to Tottenham?
Pash, Joshua Rogers and Löhner are working together to begin this season. Along with help from CoRe SimRacing's Carl Winkler. He's a man who adores setups, CoRe have smartly found a use for him where he won't only support Gergis, but the other two as well. When drivers end up testing together as these three are, there's a high chance they'll end up on the same team after a few months. CoRe SimRacing get a free look at the other two behind the scenes. How they work, interact, their character and more. Don't be surprised if Josh Rogers and Moritz Löhner are permanently at CoRe SimRacing by June.
Maybe Gergis will focus on the Blancpain GT Series with new teammate Ricardo Castro Ledo? A duo with a formidable season ahead. What if Gergis is the forgotten one? Everyone thinks of The Transaction at G2 ESports, but what if Gergis turns out to score the most points of the lot in 2018?
That was like the Paul George – Victor Oladipo trade. Everyone forgot Victor had a chance to put up career high numbers in Indiana. But he did. Let’s not look into this too much, it’s motorsport, not a sports league. We discussed that.
It’s time for Gergis and Castro Ledo to take ownership of CoRe SimRacing. They need to make the most of this opportunity. How will the team bounce back? Patiently aggressive moves will lead to success.
One last thing. FA Racing G2 is one of the first proper eSports teams we’ve seen in the sim racing business. Think of your manufacturer vs. customer teams in Formula 1. Now think of your ‘sim racing’ teams vs. ‘eSports’ teams. Something I discussed with Nick Rowland in the recent podcast linked earlier (Episode 53).
With early success, this could also reel in other eSports teams who may want to jump on the bandwagon. They’ll compete with sim racing bled teams and aim to field in contending race winners. Do we implement a teams’ championship? Driver limits on teams? Rivalries?
FA Racing G2 is in a strong position with the squad they’ve developed. I’d place them third in the pre-season power rankings behind VRS Coanda Simsport and Team Redline who are first and second respectively. Wait a minute, are Team Redline even going to race in 2018?
Let’s wait for a thrilling round one where Martin Krönke will continue his historical win streak.
Summary of FA Racing G2 Logitech G’s signings:
Frederik Rasmussen (Previous Team: CoRe Sim Racing)
- Age: 17 (18/06/2000)
- iRacing Blancpain GT Series (2017 Champion) and 2018 iWCGPS driver
- F1 Esports finalist
Sebastian Job (Previous Team: CoRe Sim Racing)
- Age: 17 (22/03/2000)
- iWCGPS driver (2018 will be his third season)
- Winner of the JMR Scholarship, securing a fully funded season in Formula Ford
Isaac Price (Previous Team: CoRe Sim Racing)
- Age: 24 (04/01/1994)
- iWCGPS driver (2018 will be his fifth 'official' season), best result was P2 at VIR in 2014
- F1 Esports finalist
Joni Törmälä (Previous Team: ineX Racing)
- Age: 21 (15/08/1996)
- Previous iWCGPS driver and two time race winner (five career seasons)
- F1 Esports finalist
Nestor Garcia (Previous Team: Iberica Racing Team)
- Age: 26 (19/11/1991)
- iRacing Blancpain GT Series driver and F1 Esports semi finalist
- 2014 GT Academy national finalist (Spain)
||Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.