Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organiser of the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance motorsport event, is to launch an esports series in partnership with digital media platform Motorsport Network.
The series will feature gamers competing on the Forza Motorsport title and will officially launch at Silverstone in the UK in August. Microsoft, developer of the Forza games, will work with ACO and Motorsport Network on the initiative.
The Autosport.com website reported that Glory4Gamers, a Paris-based esports company, will oversee the series' format and events. Autosport said the series will feature offline regional qualifying events at the World Endurance Championship's rounds in Fuji, Japan and Sebring, Florida, as well as at the 2019 Autosport International Show.
The final will then be held at next year's Le Mans 24 Hours event, with qualifiers to compete against real-life drivers. The announcement has been made to coincide with the 2018 edition of Le Mans, which is taking place this weekend.
WEC chief executive Gerard Neveu said, according to Autosport: “We know from the worldwide fan survey we carried out last year that we have a growing number of younger fans following us on social media.
“This series allows us to create and grow an esports community of gamers specific to endurance racing. These young fans already know the stars of our paddock, the cars they drive and the circuits we visit and this allows us to speak to them directly via a medium they love – and one they are very good at.
“Why not imagine in the future these gaming masters meeting up with some of our on-track masters – maybe even at the grand final of the esports series which will coincide with the final round of our WEC superseason, the 24 Hours of Le Mans next June.”
Spanish Formula One star Fernando Alonso's recently-launched FA Racing esports team will be among the competitors in the WEC's new series, Neveu said.
James Allen, president of Motorsport Network EMEA, added: “This exciting partnership with the world's greatest motor race underlines Motorsport Network's convening power. It is a clear statement of our intent to bring motorsport to a new audience and offer our many millions of fans and customers around the world a new way to be passionate about the sport.
“Motorsport has thrilled audiences globally for over a century, but a new frontier is opening up now with esports and the scale of the commercial opportunity at the cutting edge of technology and sport is very clear. As the world's largest motorsport media platform, we see esports as central to our growth strategy and we are therefore the natural partner for this epic race.”