I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it has never been easier to get into motorsport. A plethora of grassroots endurance racing series have sprung up in recent years, making wheel-to-wheel racing cheaper than it has been in decades. However, even this route isn’t exactly cheap; in addition to your safety gear you’ll still need to either build a car to the rules or rent a seat in one.
Arguably, it all started in 2008 with the first Nissan Playstation GT Academy, which used to find new racing talent. GT Academy proved the concept, and, as racing games have improved, more and more motorsports programs have started taking the idea seriously. Perhaps the best example is McLaren’s World’s Fastest Gamer competition, the winner of which got a contract as the Formula 1 team’s latest simulator test driver.
Mazda is the latest company to give it a go; the winner of its new Hot Lap Challenge will get a test next Spring in the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car. There are two ways to win. Starting on Friday (April 13) at the Long Beach Grand Prix in California, Mazda is holding seven “at-track” qualifying rounds, bringing two simulators running to each race for that purpose. Whoever sets the fastest overall lap across those seven weekends wins a trip to the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona and becomes a finalist for the race car test.
For those who can’t make it to one of the seven races this year, there’s an online option, again using . On each of the same seven weekends there will be a Time Attack competition in the game. The five fastest racers from each of these events then go through to a final race later this year, and the winner of that also goes to Daytona for the Rolex 24 next January to face off against the other finalist for the overall win.
If you’ve been looking for a way to drive a race car on someone else’s dime and you think you have the iRacing skills, you can find the dates of the individual rounds here.