Esports in the UK : Meet McLaren's Shadow Project

Esports in the UK : Meet McLaren's Shadow Project

25 November 2021

Big news for the international esports world and the international motorcar racing world this summer, and for esports in the UK. In July, McLaren Racing, one of the world's leading Formula 1 teams, officially announced the opening of its very own gaming facility, the McLaren Shadow Studio, inside the organisation's headquarters in Surrey, England. The brand-new, state-of-the-art facility will serve as the home and headquarters for McLaren's own esports team, the McLaren Shadow. The studio will be used for training, racing, and the production of content. Considering the ambitions of the project and the importance of esports to the company's medium and longer term future, we figured it would be interesting to take a quick dive into what the McLaren Shadow Project actually is, and why its inception marked a big moment for international esports and racing.

What is the McLaren Shadow Project exactly?

Let's start at the beginning. Online racing and Formula 1 fans have most likely already heard of the McLaren Shadow, but if you haven't yet, the concept might feel a bit abstract. To put it simply and to quote McLaren themselves, the “McLaren Shadow Project is a virtual racing programme that shadows the company's real-life equivalent”. If you want to expand on that though, the project is actually a central talent development program from and for the official McLaren Formula 1 team.

The studio itself has been equipped with the very latest in terms of equipment and set-ups, including PCs and special gaming monitors by Alienware, and pedals, racing wheels and headsets by Logitech. Besides that, McLaren has agreed on a partnership with Splunk, the American data platform specialised in monitoring and searching through big data, to analyse all data for McLaren's teams in both the F1 Esports Series and the eNASCAR iRacing series.

What are McLaren's ambitions for esports and the Shadow Project?

McLaren's Shadow Project for esports was inaugurated in 2017 as the company wanted to start exploring the possibilities and opportunities of the gaming world. They believe that, unlike practically any other sport, there exists a real and considerable overlap between gaming and real-world racing in terms of the transference of skills. The Shadow Project therefore serves as an important supporting tool in preparing the next generation of racers and, hopefully, champions.

The impact of McLaren's decision to start paying more attention to racing esports and to integrate more of that world into the world of real-life racing can already be noticed in today's F1 grid. McLaren driver Lando Norris, for example, was heavily involved in racing simulation in the build-up to his Formula 1 career and still is today as part of his training and preparations. In this sense, the Shadow Project can also be called a heavily backed feeder program for McLaren's real-life racing roster across segments.

Basically, the McLaren Shadow Project serves as a step-up to the official Formula 1 esports team. This team, in turn, is used a final-stage development program for participation in various real-life competitions, including the FIA World Endurance Championship, the IndyCar Series, and of course, the Formula 1. At this stage, upcoming talent will also be mentored by current and former McLaren professional drivers, including Jenson Button, Stoffel Vandorne, and Lando Norris. So, who knows? In a few years time, we might just see a professional esporter-turned-racer crown himself F1 world champion. That's McLaren's goal, at least.

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