WHILE much of the country is closing down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one sport plans to forge ahead.
Speedway Australia and Speedway Sedans Australia will host an Australian title with a difference.
The 2020 eSport Modified Sedan National Title will take place on April 3, 4 and 5, on the iRacing platform, with a real championship up for grabs.
Many liveries have already popped up on social media, with none other than Mount Gambier’s Anthony Beare one of the big names to sign up.
Sport development officer at Speedway Australia Adam Brook said he was excited about the influx of entries leading up to the deadline.
He said originally the idea came about to provide something for drivers to do, but soon morphed into a much bigger scenario.
“With sporting events around the country shut down it does not give a lot of opportunity for the speedway guys to get out and have a run,” Brook said.
“Last weekend was supposed to be the Australian Modified Sedan championship, which was unfortunately cancelled.
“A lot of the major speedway sedans championships around the country had to be cancelled, including the street stock title in Tasmania at Easter.
“Blokes like Anthony Beare and Supercar driver Cameron Waters have not had an opportunity to defend titles and race.
“We came up with the idea we would run an iRacing title, which started out as a bit of a gimmick.
“But we thought it meets all the requirements for the Speedway
Australia national championship status, with a certain amount of people in each state and so on.
“As the governing body we thought we could run it to our rule book, award it proper Australian title status, bring in our trained stewards and run it as we would a proper Australian title event.”
As a result, a genuine Australian title is on the line, with all the honours that entails.
“One thing we have actually done is offer up a silver card,” Brook said.
“If you win an Australian championship you are awarded a silver Speedway Australia licence – we call it the silver card.
“Your licence is paid for and you get free entry to any event you want to do for the next 12 months.
“We are very strict with it, but now offering up the 13th title for the year, everyone wants that silver card.”
For Beare it will be a steep learning curve, despite his experience and success on the track.
“I am average at it,” he said.
“I worked out people are taking it seriously.
“I went on there (Wednesday night) and they had over 80 people testing.
“We will see how we go.”
Beare said much of his time has been spent trying to gain his licence, but he said he was “way behind the eight ball”.
“The younger generations know all about it, but I am keen as to have a go and see what I can do,” he said.
“I think it is good for everyone in isolation.
“The world has pretty much stopped bar that.”
The graphics on the cars look impressive, with Beare revealing his new paint job for the upcoming physical season.
“We were going to reveal our car at the Australian title in Easter, but they have cancelled that,” he said.
“This is the new paint job.”
Beare said he expects some tough competition from the speedway fraternity and the dedicated gamers alike.
However, without a simulator setup he expects it to be a tough task.
“I do not have a simulator and I think that would help,” he said.
“We only have a steering wheel and a lap top so we are a bit behind.
“You do not get the sensation of slide and wheel spin, which is what I struggle with, but what it does teach you is race craft.
“You have to position your car right, you have to read the traffic and the car reacts like a real car to that sense.
“We are a little bit off the pace, but I just want to be a part of it.”
The event has attracted far more attention than Brook or Beare expected.
“The response has been amazing,” Brook said.
“So far we have eight national champions in the field from a variety of classes, along with a host of state champions.
“We are already sitting on over 120 competitors, with a good mix of speedway drivers and the hard-core sim racers who are looking to take on these name drivers to see if they can actually beat them.”
One big factor will be the rules, which Brook said drivers would have to adhere to.
“Because we have made it a proper title, all the racing rules you would normally have to adhere to will apply,” he said.
“We actually have people stewarding, so if drivers start turfing each other off and exacting vengeance, they will rule themselves out of a national crown.
“They have to drive as if there is a title on the line, because there is.”
The event will be live streamed through the Speedway Australia and Speedway Sedans Australia social media platforms, while there will also be a fantasy speedway league, where fans can pick five drivers and become actively involved.
Prizes are offered for drivers and fans, which has helped to create so much interest.
“It is going to be a great event,” Brook said.
“I am so pleased the industry has supported it the way it has.
“We are a week out from entries closing and are already over 120 entered.
“I find that astonishing – I would have been happy with 60.
“We have capped the field at 240 and I am confident we will get all 240.
“It is certainly going to be a good show.”