W Series champion Jamie Chadwick believes that Esports can be a way of getting upcoming female racing drivers into Motorsport.
Chadwick claimed the inaugural W Series championship at Brands Hatch, beating title rival Beitske Visser in the six-round season to become the first champion in the all-female series.
Her success within the series has led to the Bath-born driver to sign with Williams Racing as the team’s development and simulator driver for this year’s Formula 1 season. She is also an Aston Martin racing driver, competing at events such as the 24 Hours Nürburgring.
Outside of racing, Chadwick is also an ambassador and member of FA Racing, an Esports team set up by two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso. Chadwick will compete for the team in iRacing-based competitions.
Chadwick uses simulators often to help herself get an idea of the track and car she’ll be using and in a video posted by Williams Esports, says that she’s enjoying her experience so far.
“As a racing driver, you end using simulators quite a lot to learn tracks and learn different cars,” said Chadwick.
“Really the amount of time I can spend of the track particularly say the Nordschleife is so limited if I can be at least on a game or doing it virtually it’s only going to benefit me so, yeah I started doing it more recently and yeah, really enjoying my experience so far.”
Esports and racing simulators have become useful tools for drivers to get extra practice and help themselves familiarise themselves with the track before going out on the real thing.
Drivers such as Lando Norris and Max Verstappen often compete in Esports competitions with associated Esports teams outside of their regular duties in F1. The pair often race against the top Esports racers around the world, who have made the steps into competing in real-life.
Due to the restricted amount of testing with F1, teams have invested heavily into simulators and use them to test and experiment new parts and set-ups, to get an idea on what the team should expect before heading onto the circuit.
For some drivers, doing simulator work is part of their training programme to help with their reaction timing, concentration levels and reflexes for corners. Chadwick added that the competitive nature of Esports has made Motorsport more accessible without needing to spend thousands to start a career on the track.
“Esports has definitely become part of my training now, it’s something I do going into each race weekend as preparation. I think it keeps you sharp obviously. But I think the main thing in the car is that kind of quick reactions, reflexes, having to concentrate for a long period of time and all these sorts of different skills are very transferable and I think that’s very important to able to practice.
“I think the quality of racing in the virtual world is so high, so for me to get up to speed and to actually be competitive and that is much harder than it is in real-life so what Esports does is it provides a slightly more accessible way into Motorsport without having to break the bank.“
For 2019, Chadwick raced in the new all-female W Series, a championship designed to help launch the career of female drivers in Motorsport. The construction of the series saw mixed opinions, but as the series progressed, more attention and support has been given to the championship.
Organisations such as the W Series, the FIA and Dare 2 Be Different have been trying to encourage young girls to pursue a career within Motorsport as a driver, in engineering or with media work. But within the Esports racing scene, there is a lack of female drivers entering the top competitions.
Chadwick hopes that changes soon, seeing as the Esports platform as an area where young girls can start their racing careers before turning to the track.
“It’s a shame I don’t see that much being my representation in the Esports world but hopefully we can start to change that and that will then make more young girls get more into the real thing as well,” commented Chadwick
“It’s great to see the quality of gamers that are out there, a lot of them have come into the real-world be super competitive so, I think it is a great thing. It is an accessible way into our sport so hopefully, it’ll continue to rise.”