Is the DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series the closest competition to the real thing?

Where else can you win a go in a real-life rallycross car?

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We may have several fairly considerable reasons to lock 2020 in a giant safe and sink it in the Marianas Trench, but it's fair to say human resolve has given us some real wins from The Year We Won't Ever Mention Again.

We've seen families coming together for online pub quizzes, newborn babies jumping on Zoom calls to meet their grandparents, and – more entertainingly – we've seen the world of serious online championships really heat up.

One of the most impressive of all eSports series is undoubtedly the DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series – an online competition that encourages all-comers to pit their virtual rally and rallycross skills against the rest of the world. The competition is fierce, and with good reason – the overall winner of this year's contest will win a test drive in a QEV electric rallycross car, and a share of a $20,000 prize pot.

What is the DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series?

The series has separate competitions for both rallycross and rally competitors, and season one back in 2019 garnered more than 1.24m live views, so it's definitely not the reserve of dusty corners of Reddit. This is mainstream – perhaps in a way that real-life rallying struggles to be.

Which is kind of heartening. Because DiRT Rally 2.0 itself is anything but a casual game. If you've ever played it, you'll know it's a thrilling edge-of-your-seat experience, encouraging you to do everything within your power to set a good time on a stage while trying to keep your car in one piece. Stuff it into a cliff face on the first stage and you'll not get the chance to repair your car for a few stages – and if you take your headlights out before a night stage, then… good luck with that. Hope you stocked up on carrots.

The game was developed with real-life rally consultants to make sure its handling is as true to life as possible. Northern Irishman Jon Armstrong is one such consultant, and he's approached gaming from a slightly different angle to usual. Jon's raced in several real-world rally series, including WRC2 – but budget constraints in 2018 saw him sit it out for a year while focusing on taking his rally skills to the realm of eSports.

It turns out that having real-life rally skills translates incredibly well to the sim world – and he won an eSports WRC championship in 2018. He's since got back onto the WRC calendar in real life, and continues his work with the team at Codemasters.

It's legit

As well as using real-life drivers to shape the game itself, the DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series is partnered with a real series – the FIA eRX2 Championship. This is a new real-world race series that offers an arrive-and-drive setup in an all-electric four-wheel-drive Rallycross car. The benefit to this is that competitors in the Rallycross stream of the World Series have members of a real-world motorsport paddock looking over their virtual shoulders. This means that competitors can seek advice from real-world drivers, but it also puts virtual racers on the racers of real team bosses, which can only be good for helping online racers make the jump to real racing.

Check it out

The grand final of the current season of the DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series will be held at the Autosport International Show in January 2021 – check out the DiRT YouTube channel for regular updates from the series.

Fancy trying your hand at DiRT Rally 2.0?

If you've not experienced the joy of completing a stage with all-green sectors, you're missing out. Grab a copy of DiRT Rally 2.0 here.

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Comments (1)

  • Sim-racing, in general, saw its biggest boom this year as almost all of motorsport got postponed and many drivers have not much to do. Thankfully, there are many games with multiple licenses coinciding with real series so they were fairly easy to adapt for a quick calendar, and with the opportunity to race against real drivers patently better than a generic shed-dweller (though Jimmer's pretty good in the Jon Bois sense of the phrase), ordinary players are enticed to log in and go drive. Viewership is up across the board, bolstered by the likes of Lando Norris and Max Verstappen (who have a level of mainstream appeal) playing these games. Now, not only are we seeing expanded licensing and partnerships from marques, but they're also actively recruiting new drivers from sim players -- after all, I reckon we've advanced enough in technology to approximate more of what a real car does without feeling like there are too many sensations to miss out (which, to be fair, still is a lot).

    And it's not a case of numbers, either: there was a point where it was hard for me to keep track of all the events because there's so many at once and there was talk of burnout. So while I'm happy to see actual, metal-on-carbon racing return, I still want sim-racing to grow and develop into both a player+spectator sport, an automotive testbed and a talent combine. And if Codemasters can nail that, I say the WRC license given to them will be in good hands.

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