Tolman Motorsport has stepped firmly into the rapidly expanding realm of eSports with a new multi-event sim racing programme run under the Tolman eSports by HCR banner.
The eSports arena, particularly the category that simulates motor racing, has gathered a lot of momentum in recent years, attracting a large pool of talented sim racers and a huge fanbase.
For Tolman – the McLaren Customer Racing team responsible for operating the McLaren Automotive Driver Development Programme (DDP) in the British GT Championship – it represents a huge opportunity to apply its skills and expertise in the virtual world, enhance driver development and increase brand awareness.
The Tolman eSports by HCR programme is the result of a new partnership with Happy Cat Racing, an elite squad of 24 sim racers who have notably achieved three wins in The Online Racing Association (TORA) 24 Hours of Le Mans, a brace of victories in the TORA 12 Hours of Sebring and successes in the Daytona 24 Hours.
In fact, HCR is particularly proficient on the iRacing platform; victory on its endurance racing debut in the 2017 edition of the Daytona 24 Hours preceded wins in 12-hour contests at Bathurst and Sebring, and it has continued running competitively in 2020, having finished runner-up in last month’s Nurburgring 24 Hours.
The newly launched Tolman eSports by HCR team will begin by tackling the iRacing VRS Endurance Series. Drivers will race McLaren MP4-12C GT3s in Tolman’s real-world British GT liveries, firstly in the 3 Hours of Road Atlanta on Sunday (17 May).
However, the dynamic between real-life racers and eSports drivers will be tested in the coming months, when 2020 McLaren DDP drivers Michael Benyahia, Alain Valente, Harry Hayek and Katie Milner join Tolman eSports by HCR for special events, such as the iRacing Spa 24 Hours.
Races are virtually identical to the ones in real life and all drivers will have to bring their “a-game”, as they will be required to formulate strategies, pay attention to tyre wear and avoid penalties to win, although Tolman’s engineers will be on hand to provide technical support and guide car setup in their free time.
Happy Cat Racing Team Manager, Chris Bell, said: “We are incredibly proud of this project and it’s great to see Tolman Motorsport using eSports as a legitimate arena for driver development and progression. We have seen amazing things happen for sim racing, especially in these difficult times, and I believe this will provide a great platform for showcasing our sport to the world.
“The Tolman partnership is a huge step for Happy Cat Racing and we look forward to repaying the team’s faith with further success and development within the sim racing community. We would like to thank everyone involved in bringing the partnership together and we look forward to working towards our goals.”
Tolman’s Managing Director, Christopher Tolman, said: “We have chosen to step into the huge and fast-growing sim racing arena with the very capable Happy Cat Racing team and we’re taking a targeted approach, focusing solely on GT contests with McLaren machinery.
“It was disappointing to have to postpone rounds of the 2020 British GT season, but the health and safety of everyone involved with the championship is paramount and eSports provides an interesting opportunity to apply our skills in the virtual world.”
Tolman continued: “We’ve been incredibly impressed with the quality of the racing and the production, and we’re confident this is the right place for us to be competing, especially as it also enables our real-world racing drivers to get a foothold in eSports.
“We’re working closely with our partners at Happy Cat Racing to ensure we are prepared for the season ahead. In fact, our drivers and engineers are busy working on car setups that will yield fast lap times and are representative of the real world. This partnership could present a number of exciting opportunities for all concerned, and we encourage professional sim racers interested in representing us on-track and assisting our real-world racers with in-game setup and driving style to get onboard.”
2020 Tolman eSports by HCR calendar
iRacing VRS Endurance Series 3 Hours of Road Atlanta
iRacing VRS Endurance Series 3 Hours of Road America
iRacing Spa 24 Hours
iRacing Petit Le Mans (Road Atlanta)