Back in June, we reported on Racing Prodigy’s new program to give sim racers a path to real world racing. The idea behind the program is to expand motorsports by building a race series that does not cost the driver anything to compete in. That idea will require investment and sponsorship, but Racing Prodigy is working toward that goal.
From a tournament pool of 60,000 sim racers around the world, Racing Prodigy awarded the top 12 drivers a “Prodigy Pass” to its inaugural Prodigy Week at Atlanta Motorsports Park in Georgia. Once on site at AMP, the 12 drivers competed for top time in equally prepared Radical SR1 open cockpit prototypes.
NASA national project manager Marie Adams attended Prodigy Week to represent NASA and to inform the other 59,988 drivers who didn’t earn a “golden ticket” how they can get on track with NASA. She had some time on camera with pit reporter Jennifer Moxley and in the booth talking with Brian Till and Arjuna Kankipati.
Some of the 12 drivers had racing and karting experience, but some had never donned a driving suit and helmet and sat in a real car. One surprising early performance came from Belgium’s Laurens Beerten, a pilot for TUI Airlines who had earned his golden ticket using by using the Street Kart app on his mobile phone.
“He is definitely the best mobile player on the Street Kart racing platform,” said Racing Prodigy CEO David Cook. “They’ve had hundreds of thousands, and he is head and shoulders above the others. He did some karting when he was younger, but never raced a car on a real track. He wasthe quickest on day one, and second fastest in qualifying on day two.”
Cook also pointed out that in his experience, he has found that sim racers get up to race pace in real cars quicker than drivers coming in solely from karting. Some of the best kart racers in the country are anywhere from five to 20 seconds off pace early on. It’s one of the remarkable findings of Racing Prodigy’s E-to-real competition.
“I thought that karting would’ve been a better platform to help prep for car racing,” Cook said. “But the country’s best go-karters don’t get up to speed in cars as fast as the best sim racers do, and it’s not even close.”
At the end of Prodigy Week, it was Brazil’s Gustavo Ariel, who rose from iRacing, who stood at the top of the podium.
Racing Prodigy plans to host more league racing in the first quarter of 2024 and conduct another Prodigy Week in spring 2024 to fly in 24 drivers, again in the Radical SR1 race cars. That will set up a pool of 36 drivers from which Racing Prodigy will draft 24 to form the first real racing league – depending on investors and sponsors. The idea is to create a racing series where talent alone is the determining factor on whether a driver gets a seat and gets paid to race and compete for prize money. It’s a radical change to the modern concept of professional racing.
“If we’re successful to the scale that we desire to be, which is quite ambitious, we believe that the world’s first “E2Real” motorsport league and sports league to boot can reach the broader audience,” Cook said. “Kids down my street, your street and all across the world will hear of a league where you can play a racing game, win a golden ticket, come to Prodigy week, be drafted, get a racing contract and be paid competing for big money where you could end up in a docuseries on a network like a Netflix, Hulu or another.
“There’s nothing like it. I think that we can attract audience,” Cook continued. “We’ll do some things differently to engage audience. We pride ourselves on opening access and being more transparent, to be relevant, to be relatable and to build the human-interest stories around the people that are like everyone else, as “American Idol” does. I think we could have something special in which a driver wouldn’t have to try to find money every year to stay in a racecar. If we can be paying racers and graduate them to the next level – a cooler, sexier race car with paid contract and big prize money – why would you ever want to leave?”
NASA racers interested in the next Racing Prodigy tournament can find more information at the Racing Prodigy website.