2017 is now well and truly underway, and for many months prior to this day, a select group of SimRacers have been practicing their rear end's off in order to have the best shot at winning the 200,000 dollar cash prize on offer from the inaugural Vegas eRace. Whilst the chance to see the worlds best SimRacers going head-to-head with real life professional drivers is a tasty proposition, did the Vegas eRace really capitalise on SimRacing's very first mass-market production? In some respects, yes it did. It gained far and away the largest viewership that SimRacing has ever had, and given the money that was thrown at it, that's not surprising. It had the backing from large corporate entities such as VISA, the FIA and the Formula E teams themselves, which meant that out of all the SimRacing events that have taken place over the decades, this one was far and away the heaviest hitter. Utilising the real life commentary team of Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti also helped boost the cause of the event and gave it more credibility. It really wasn't too distant from a real life Formula E race. However, the driving standards were what the majority of those of us in this little niche were curious to see. In the past, Formula E has run similar events, albeit on a smaller scale, at race events with the fans. A couple of real Formula E drivers would go head-to-head with a fan (or several) at the Simulator-zone, which every single time, would result in a crash-fest so bad it made public lobby racing look cleaner than a vacuum-sealed laboratory, as the everyday fan had no clue what they were doing, and the drivers themselves simply didn't care as it was all a big joke. Given that 200,000 'Big Ones' were on the line, the drivers taking part no doubt had to take things a little more seriously, but would there be enough time for them to get up to speed with basic SimRacing skills in order to avoid taking someone out and potentially costing them a life-changing amount of money? Well, the driving standards from the real life drivers had improved. The only massive incident coming when David Greco tried to go three wide through the fast chicane, causing a large pile-up and significant damage. This is no different to any pro-league race you'll find. Driving standards are never going to be perfect. But with so much money on the line, and more eyeballs on the race than SimRacing has ever had, every incident is magnified and scrutinised just that much more. As for the presentation of the race, well I actually thought it was pretty impressive. The on-screen graphics were well done, the commentary was, as expected, good, and the replays all fed into a nice production that can definitely be learned from and improved upon in future events. However, since Formula E had chosen rFactor 2 as their simulator of choice, the graphics of the actual cars, the track and it's surrounding were simply not up to par with what e-Sports expects and demands from it's productions. rFactor 2 is not the worst looking game, but it's certainly not what you'd call 'Eye Candy'. Sure, the cars and the track they used were a massive step up from previous e-Races they've done (which, let's be honest, looked like they were straight out of a PlayStation 1 game), the images seen from the race were a far cry from the beautiful images you see coming from the likes of Forza and Gran Turismo. But rFactor was chosen for one simple reason. It's pretty much the only simulator that can pull something like this off given that iRacing does not have a Formula E car lying around. Had iRacing actually had a Formula E car at it's disposal, then that would have unquestionably been the platform of choice for this event. But even so, the best was made with what they had available. But already there is controversy brewing. With just a handful of laps until the end of the 20 lap race, Bono Huis and Felix Rosenqvist were running one-two and had amassed a fairly substantial lead over the rest of the pack. However, Formula E uses a thing called "Fan Boost", whereby the fans watching at home can vote for a driver to receive a horsepower boost for a limited period of time. Enter third placed driver Olli Pahkala. The average race pace for this event was a 1 minute 28 second lap. This is what the majority of the front runners were able to produce. When Olli received fan boost, it was supposed to only be for six seconds, instead, it appears he received fan boost for six laps. This meant he was able to lap in the 1 minute 26 range. This was not supposed to happen. Either that, or as Dario Franchitti said several times "He must've found a shortcut somewhere!". As Huis and Rosenqvist left their pitstops very late, they emerged behind Pahkala, who was still lapping at the abnormally quick pace. With only a couple of laps left, Pahkala had well and truly checked out and was on his way to winning the $200k. Why he received fan boost for such a long period of time, you ask? Well, that remains to be seen, but one thing was for certain: Bono Huis was not a happy camper. The final podium ceremony was cringe-worthy to say the least as Felix Rosenqvist was the only driver to actually look happy. Huis and Pahkala both took hugely long periods of time before coming out on stage and at first I put this down to being shy, or something. But could there perhaps have been some more serious discussions going on behind the stage regarding Pahkala's miraculous pace? Whether or not the details come out remains to be seen. There were some things that definitely need improvement for subsequent holdings of the event, like the unbelievably awkward post-race awards ceremony along with it's poor execution, but by and large, this was a positive boost for SimRacing to gain traction (pun intended) in the eSporting world, and to be taken more seriously. If real drivers are beginning to take it more seriously, then the rest of the motorsport community will sit up and take notice. In terms of getting the sheer number of eyeballs on the event, yes it absolutely was a success, however the overall presentation of the race along with pre and post-race events, definitely needs more work. But it was a decent first go at it, and there is definitely the potential for a huge improvement in what is delivered at the next event. Over to you! What did you think of the Vegas eRace? Was it good for SimRacing, or are we destined for niche-ism? ***Update: Olli Pahkala has taken a post-race penalty, demoting him to third place. This means Bono Huis takes first place for the Vegas eRace.