Alex Cascatău is an endurance racer and finished on the podium of the 24-hours of Zolder. He’s also the promoter of sim championship Racing League Romania. With coronavirus affecting real racing this year, the virtual championship has boomed, with almost 300 drivers taking part. We find out more about the future of sim racing.
What is Racing league Romania?
We like to call ourselves the biggest sim racing league in Romania. The story started over 10 years ago and only recently has really broken into the mainstream. For our fifth championship last year we agreed a deal with BMW Romania. This allowed us to stream races on its Facebook page. It’s got about 500,000 fans, so as you can imagine that was a big image boost. We were also allowed to post updates and content on its media website and that kickstarted things and gave Racing League Romania more attention in our country. This arrangement continues for this year. Up until now, our league has organised live virtual championships on Need for Speed, and more recently Assetto Corsa. We usually have two championships every year, a spring and a winter season. And this is our sixth iteration in the current format.
What kind of cars do you race?
Usually sportscars and GT cars. For this season, for example, we’re driving the BMW M3 GT2, the E92 coupe that raced at Le Mans. Last season, we raced the E30 DTM, a touring car. Before that we had a season in the 911 Porsche Cup. We’ve also had seasons in Mazda MX-5s and GT3 cars.
Sim racing can be expensive. What kit do sim racers need to take part?
The league is PC only, but they can run whatever they like. However, you can’t get to the top with just your keyboard and mouse. You don’t need to spend thousands on a sim either, but you do need a lot of dedication and commitment. You need to be very quick. We have a pro league and a semi-pro league. After two races, three drivers go up and three go down. So, you always need to be on your toes.
Who can compete? Can anyone or do you have to be a pro-sim racer?
It’s open to anyone. And what’s happened in recent seasons is more and more people involved in real-life racing, including myself, have started to compete in league racing. And especially our Romanian league. Most of our famous racing drivers in the country compete in the championship. It’s free to enter and it’s quite an open league.
With coronavirus, this must have been a great time for a sim racing league?
Yes. Coronavirus hit in such a way that it really boosted our chances. But the partnership with BMW Romania would have done that as well. Obviously, there was no live sports events and we got TV deals and a lot of publicity in that time. I think the league would have grown anyway, but maybe not at the same rate.
Do you think sim racing is here to stay post-pandemic?
I think it’s going to be interesting how various leagues place themselves. There will be a small drop after the pandemic in terms of actual audience because real racing is getting back in gear. But I think it will act as a springboard in the future for some people who don’t have real racing opportunities and become almost like a winter series for some championships. If you’ve got a series like F3 or F4, which run just in summer, this is a good opportunity to give something to people before the season starts and give their drivers some exposure.
Do any of your competitors go on to become racing drivers?
Our league is too young for that, but this season we have an interesting partnership where one of the selected few leading drivers will get the chance to drive a real racing car. At the end of the season we’ll hold a selection round in real life, and the winner of that will get the chance to do one round of Rotac, the national time attack championship, fully paid.
What’s your involvement with Motul?
We have been supported by Motul since last season. Up until now, Motul offered prizes for the winners. Goodie bags, merch, that sort of stuff. But this season the brand has become even more involved and now has its own team as well as a bit more merchandising. Motul is also supplying the oil for our real-life racing activities. The people organising the league, including myself, are racing in real-life, too. So, this is a really nice tie-up from virtual to real racing.