WORDS: Lachlan Mansell
IMAGES: Supercars Media
After 10 Wednesday nights of fun, competitive and often hilarious entertainment, the BP Supercars All-Stars eSeries finally drew to a close last night, with Shane Van GisBergen clinching the title by 180 points after finishing ahead of his main rival, Scott McLaughlin in both the Oran Park and Bathurst races.
During an unstable time for professional sports across the globe, the efforts by the Supercars Media team – headed by Nathan Prendergast – in putting the eSeries together were nothing short of outstanding. While there were myriad virtual versions of real-life series that cropped up in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the Supercars eSeries that set the international benchmark.
Let’s check out the main factors that made the Supercars eSeries such a major success.
Unlike other virtual series (such as Formula 1) which have only been contested by a handful of the real-life competitors, a major piece of the Supercars eSeries credibility jigsaw puzzle fell into place when all 25 full-time drivers lined up on the grid for the first round of the series at Phillip Island and Monza.
Admittedly, there was a wide disparity in performance and results throughout the early rounds, with drivers such as Shane Van Gisbergen, Anton De Pasquale and Scott McLaughlin having a clear edge over their rivals when it came to miles on the sim track.
However, most of the less experienced sim racers applied themselves to the task of fine-tuning their craft and the driving standards improved considerably over the course of the season, while the qualifying margins between drivers became smaller and smaller.
With more race wins than anyone else in the field, SVG was a worthy champion; McLaughlin banked a lot of points early on and capitalised upon incidents for his rivals to lead the standings for a good chunk of the season, but problems of his own in the later rounds saw him falling away towards the end. De Pasquale was among the fastest every round – especially in qualifying – but was involved in a lot more drama than the two who finished ahead of him on the points table.
Cameron Waters and Chaz Mostert were both consistent and each scored race wins, but didn’t quite have the pace of the top three, while the likes of Jack Le Brocq and Lee Holdsworth made significant strides forward over the course of the competition.
A lot of the races in the eSeries featured contests just as good as we’ve come to expect on the black top; the battle between McLaughlin and Brodie Kostecki at Bathurst springs to mind, as do the numerous contests between Van Gisbergen and De Pasquale (which often ended in the two making contact). And the oval races were something else again.
One of the defining features of the eSeries was the high-level broadcast production; aspects of the coverage such as the on-screen graphics and iconic tones of Neil Crompton in commentary generated a very real-world Supercars feel for the package.
But where the broadcast really succeeded was in bringing out the personalities of the drivers. In a recent interview, Nathan Prendergast explained that before the first round of the series, each driver experimented with their webcam during a Zoom meeting to ensure the lighting and angles were just right, and the ability of the broadcast to capture the emotions and reactions of each competitor during a tense moment was something that set the eSeries apart from its real-world counterpart.
The drivers also deserve credit for their efforts in promoting their teams and sponsors – including sign boards and TV screens with scrolling logos – and in the case of Nick Percat, bringing their pets into the cockpit!
While the quality of the official broadcast was of an exceptional standard, enthusiasts were able to consume their eSeries content from multiple platforms, including drivers’ Twitch streams.
In particular, Scott Pye’s Twitch stream reached legendary status, thanks to Scott’s hilarious post-race debrief sessions which often stretched well into the early hours of the following morning, and sometimes included hosted iRacing events in which his viewers were invited to participate.
Apart from the season opener, every round of the eSeries included wildcard entries who competed with varying degrees of success. Seeing young guns from the Super2 Series and established sim racers like Fawzan El-Nabi and Harley Haber was good, but it was the inclusion of international superstars like Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Will Power that really boosted the profile of the eSeries on the world stage.
With the domestic and global economies entering such an uncertain time, the Supercars eSeries presented an opportunity to generate exposure for series and team sponsors – and it was an opportunity that wasn’t wasted.
Even more encouragingly, there were some commercial partners who came on board specifically to sponsor the eSeries, including Shure, who backed the “Commentate the Stars” competition. Well played all around.
So where to from here?
With the Supercars eSeries now complete, Wednesday nights won’t be the same but the series has certainly exposed the entertainment value of sim racing to a mainstream audience. With real-life Supercars not far away from resuming, there’s no doubt the drivers’ focus will turn back to the black top, but given the equipment a lot of the Supercars drivers have invested in, hopefully we’ll see more of them competing in weeknight sim racing events – such as the Tuesday night Just Send It Series – in the future.
Supercars eSeries – final points
- Shane Van Gisbergen – 2426
- Scott McLaughlin – 2246
- Anton De Pasquale – 2091
- Cameron Waters – 2016
- Chaz Mostert – 1918
- Andre Heimgartner – 1567
- Jack Le Brocq – 1514
- Will Davison – 1472
- Fabian Coulthard – 1461
- Lee Holdsworth – 1407