How to become a professional Esports rally driver

This week, Esports World Rally Champion Jon Armstrong explains the final steps that will let you compete against the world’s best professional virtual rally drivers. Want to know what it takes? Jon has it all covered here.

Over the past two weeks Northern Ireland’s Junior WRC competitor has outlined the most important steps to go from a complete sim rally novice to winning Esports championships.

  1. How to become an Esports World Rally Champion
  2. How to win your first Esports rally

Practice makes perfect

You should aim to train as much as possible, especially if you have a competition coming up. The more practicing you can do, the better prepared you will be.

When I won my Esports World Championship I practiced in the morning, on my lunch break, and after work. About 6-8 hours every single day.

It is what you need to do, sacrifice the time to get the results if you want it bad enough.

You ideally should focus on a game that you feel particularly good at and try not to play lots of different ones as this can confuse you.

If you have committed to an Esport series then you will likely know what car or class and events you will be doing. So practice with that car in the events.

“Learn all the tracks or stages as much as you can and find out what set-ups can make you faster in these locations.”

Using a trial and error technique is really important until you get the set-up perfected.

Figure out what pace your rivals are on and then try to beat them.

If you have a choice of cars within a class then try them all, some cars may be faster than others or their characteristics may suit your driving style.

Try an array of different driving techniques and car set-ups as well as tyre strategies.

How to reduce accidents while staying fast

I think it is like in real life, you start to know places on an event that are particularly tricky.

Sure you might make half a second in a corner if you risk taking it flat out but can you get away with it 10/10 times?

If not, you might want to take it easier there.

This is how you stop the crashes.

“It is all about learning your way through the stage and knowing what to expect.”

Accidents do still happen but you want to be as fast as possible without taking risks.

A clean and precise driving style will be safer than a flat out, flamboyant one. You risk clipping things at the side of the road when you are constantly moving the car around.

If you do have an off then you want want to recover as quickly as you can.

If you spin, get into reverse as quickly as possible and spin it around again.

Keep track of where you are facing when you do have an incident, this will help you get back pointing in the right direction without losing too much time.

As you saw with my recovery in Rally Germany 2017 on the penultimate stage, learning how to recover after an off can be the thing between winning and losing.

You can learn these things in games and it can also pay off in the real world also.

What is VR?

VR is a virtual reality headset that has a lens for each of your eyes.

It gives you an awesome sense of being teleported into another part of the world whether you are driving a rally car or riding a rollercoaster (both can feel quite similar).

As you move your head, you pan around the environment you are in, it is surreal.

I started using VR in 2017 and I still love using it today, I think it is as close as you get to sitting in a real car.

It has helped me prepare for real World Rallies. I know it can help people get used to left-hand-drive cars by helping them judge where to place the car.

VR allows you to follow the road as you would in real life which you just cannot do with a monitor.

Being able to look to the apex of the corner makes it feel so realistic or looking out the side window with a big hang-on sideways moment.

“It is just very authentic to me and I feel pretty quick with it too.”

There is an argument that it will never be faster than someone using the bonnet camera and I think that is probably true, but the sensations it gives me is unreal.

VR can give some issues for streaming and you will need a pretty beefy PC to be able to run VR but that is it really.

I know it isn’t for everyone, some people suffer from motion sickness when using it so you should try one out before spending the £500 price tag.

Mastering every surface

First off, you want to get extremely good on tarmac. If you are good on tarmac, you can be good anywhere.

It is all about keeping the car balanced and if you can master that then any surface shouldn’t be a problem.

You will need to be super smooth and precise on the asphalt stages in Spain but you can easily bring that style over to Finland’s gravel stages. Just expect the car to move around a bit more and you will need to drift around the tight corners to keep up the momentum.

Photo by Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

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