Mazda's New Hot Lap Challenge to Gift MX-5 Cup Car Test to a Gamer

Gamers can compete via simulators found at select Mazda Motorsports events or online through iRacing.

© 2018 Rip Shaub. All Rights reserved

Mazda is the most recent global brand to jump on the virtual-to-reality bandwagon by launching its new Hot Laps Challenge at the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend.

The program aims to give race fans and online gamers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get behind the wheel of a real, race-prepared Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car. But in order to get suited and booted in real life, participants must first go through a series of simulated driving competitions at the wheel of a virtual Mazda race car. As it's common with these kinds of competitions, the gamer who makes it to the top of the charts will be the one to get behind the wheel.

The contest is open to folks who visit the Mazda kiosk at select racing events, as well as those who prefer to watch the racing action from the comfort of their homes. For the former, simulators found at several events across the nation will allow them to participate. The latter will be able to mirror the at-track portion of the Mazda Hot Lap Challenge on the iRacing online racing platform.

"Mazda has been at the forefront of helping drivers make the transition from sim racing to getting on track," John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports told The Drive. "Case in point, Mazda allocates one spot in its annual club racer shootout to an iRacing virtual racer and Glenn McGee, iRacing’s MX-5 Cup champion won our shootout in 2015 and raced under our scholarship in the real Battery Tender MX-5 Cup series in 2016. To this day, we continue to support virtual racers and recognize how their talent can transfer," he added.

According to a statement released by the automaker, the contestant who records the fastest lap time around Daytona International Speedway's virtual counterpart will earn an all-expense paid VIP trip to the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona as a guest of Mazda Team Joest. While at the event, the challenge finalists will engage in a live-broadcasted, head-to-head battle on equal racing simulators. The winner will win the ultimate road prize, a full-fledged test in a Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car.

This news comes after several major racing teams and series have jumped on the eSports bandwagon as of lately, including Formula 1 itself and several major racing teams like F1's Sahara Force India and Renault Sport.

"This is an extension of a relationship we have had with iRacing for several years," said Doonan. "When Battery Tender MX-5 Cup was first launched in 2016 with the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5, iRacing also launched a matching series in collaboration with Mazda. So yes, we are cognizant of the growth of eSports and have been for several years now."