IEM Katowice 2024 content powered by Predator Gaming
Professional F1 driver Romain Grosjean’s R8G Esports stars, sponsored by Predator Gaming, were at the IEM Expo at Katowice 2024 today, where they coached fans who were trying out racing simulator rigs and giving them professional advice. Virtual Olympics gold medalist Kylian Drumont (second left), ESL R1 2023 winner Marcell Csincsik (second right) and team manager Thibault Larue (far right) spoke to Esports News UK’s Reece Barrett (far left) on location at Katowice to discuss the link between sim racing and the world of motorsports.
Reece Barrett, Esports News UK: You guys arrived here at Katowice last night, how was it?
Marcell Csincsik: It’s pretty nice! Last year I was here also, and it was amazing.
It’s cool for us to meet the teams, and last year when we finished with the racing we watched the final and it was really fun.
And these types of LAN events where thousands and thousands of fans turn up to build some atmosphere in the crowd, do you feel that type of atmosphere at sim racing events?
Marcell: We enjoy the crowds.
I think that I always perform better on LAN events because there are cameras and people all around me, I like it more than playing at home because it’s a lot more intense.
Thibault Larue: We did the virtual Le Mans two years ago, last year it was in Saudi Arabia, over the last two years we’ve been to New York, Barcelona, Monaco.
There is not always a huge crowd or a huge audience, but there’s such a good community [across the world]. Marcell was a champion in Munich and it’s good to win on LAN.
Do you guys enjoy the travel then? You might be racing virtually, but the schedule you have of travelling across the world almost rivals the F1 calendar itself!
Kylian Drumont: Yeah it’s cool, it’s basically the same, and it’s cool to travel to new places.
The Virtual Olympics were in Singapore and Singapore is very cool, with different competitions we can travel everywhere.
Marcell: When we race online, it’s fun but we never get to see the person we race against.
On LAN events, it’s much better when you can meet these people and talk with them before the race.
It’s even good to see my teammate [Kylian] for example.
Thibault: Especially because Romain Grosjean created this team during covid, so just before the lockdown he called me and said ‘the world will be shut down for six months, it’s time to start something.’
Even someone like Marcell [who signed for R8G in December 2021], we only met last year, so for two years everybody was working together and we had never even met.
With the Predator sponsorship, we were doing campaigns for years and never met! Ever since the world has opened we have tried to travel as much as we can and we’re really having fun.
What’s it like being in a team owned by Grosjean, a professional F1 driver? Is there a pressure with that name hanging over your head?
Thibault: It was funny this year, because when we played Le Mans, we had Grosjean and Max Versteppen on the grid. Porsche were there, Ferrari, Alpine, so the drivers would know better than me, but having so many big names on the virtual grid these days is crazy.
Marcell: It’s great for us also, because not only in the motorsport world, people know Romain Grosjean. I think it’s good for the team as drivers and a pleasure to race from this team.
Thibault: He has daily involvement. He was driving for us in the beginning and did Le Mans virtual for us. He’s a driver, so when we aren’t winning, he shouts at us, and when we are winning, it’s just normal.
He’s very pushing on the young drivers and creating talent and giving drivers these opportunities.
And that was a consequence of the coronavirus lockdown – it brought a lot of big names to virtual events. You saw plenty of professional drivers play sim racing to keep sharp during the lockdown. Do you still see people like Romain on the virtual grid?
Thibault: Absolutely. Versteppen is one who races all the time, like when Versteppen raced in Barcelona, he did a practice session and went straight to his hotel room to get on the simulator.
There are so many big names in esports now, like we work with Sauber who are an F1 team, and I think that sim racing is the sport where the link to the real world is the biggest.
You don’t see Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi playing FIFA. Our guys work really hard and work with engineers for strategy.
You don’t see this in games where you have to click to shoot the zombie’s head, all respect to those games, but these guys are working so hard.
There are so many ways to get into it but how did you guys actually get into sim racing then? Did you see it as a solid alternative to a career in professional motorsport?
Marcell: For me it was just a hobby. But that was back in 2008! I loved racing in real life and sim racing was the best way to do it at home, so it started as a hobby but I just loved racing and eventually turned professional.
Kylian: I started during covid. I had a really bad wheel and not a good PC, but my pace was really good and I just knew that I loved racing and that it was something I wanted to keep doing.
Thibault: And you have to remember that sim racing is the most demanding thing for a PC.
When we won the 24 hours of Le Mans, that PC has to run for 24 hours, not to overheat and run smoothly a really heavy game.
A small freeze on the screen, you can lose one tenth of a second or [crash and] lose a race. It’s just like motorsport – we need a great car, and the car is the PC.
R8G Esports stars Marcell Csincsik (right) and Kylian Drumont (left)
Is that the barrier to entry then? Is that what stops people from reaching the highest level?
Thibault: Absolutely. You can’t do Le Mans virtual on a potato PC.
During the race, a lot of people had a technical problem on their PC.
Their PC overheated, or their screen overheated, like Versteppen had a glitch and he had to leave the race.
At ESL R1, the gap was two tenths of a second, so if your PC bugs and you lose one thousands of a second, you lose pole position.
Reece is a sports journalist who has previously worked with the likes of BBC Radio Solent, Southern Daily Echo, Salisbury Radio, VAVEL and many more. He is currently studying a degree in Sports Journalism at Solent University.