Former karter Dylan Shepherd has won a test in a Formula 4 car by taking out the first ever CAMS-sanctioned eSports event at the Sydney Motorsport Park Shannons Nationals meeting.
Shepherd squared off against Daniel Benefield and 2015 NSW Formula Ford Series winner Andrew Kahl in the three-car final of the Motum Simulation VSR Showdown in Porsche Carrera Cup cars.
The trio competed over seven laps around a digital recreation of another Sydney circuit, Oran Park Raceway, which was laser scanned by iRacing before its closure in early 2010.
Drivers wore virtual reality goggles while spectators in Garage 9 at SMP’s main pit lane watched the action unfold on the monitors in front of the motion simulators.
Kahl started from pole but spun at the first corner after touching the inside kerb.
That lose also delayed Benefield, handing a sizeable lead to Shepherd which he never gave up.
Benefield glanced the wall entering the main straight on Lap 4, before Kahl got a run on him at the start of the final lap and elbowed his way past at Turn 2.
That wasn’t the end of it between those two, as Benefield then turned Kahl around exiting the bridge.
Shepherd was well clear of that incident and won by nearly 20 seconds, before choosing to celebrate with a burnout on his cool down lap.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said post-race.
“I spent 12 years of my life racing karts and never really got to try a car properly so to have the opportunity is going to be great.”
The Orange racer, who is working as an engineer on an Australian Production Car in this weekend’s Sydney Four Hour, believes that eSports is a useful proving ground for real-world motorsport.
“I’ve also spent the last three or four years of my life mechanic-ing for various race teams,” he explained.
“I was in Japan working for the factory Porsche team and got to work with Laurens Vanthoor, Mathieu Jaminet, all factory Porsche drivers…
“I definitely got to take in a bit from them, especially the engineering side. It helps when you have to set up the cars inside the simulator as well.
“It’s only getting bigger and I think a lot of teams are starting to take on drivers from eSports.
“You can see McLaren with their shadow program as well, and all the F1 eSport teams as well.
“They’re definitely starting to take on drivers because they’re starting to see the potential of guys that don’t always have the opportunity to make it through cars but they can still provide knowledge for the teams to improve.”
Shepherd’s test will take place later this year.