Formula One has picked two British tech firms to help spearhead the launch of its esports series.
London-listed esports firm Gfinity is to run the series together with Warwickshire-based Codemasters, a games developer and publisher.
The F1 esports series will kick off in September with gamers from around the world being whittled down to the fastest 40 drivers. The top drivers will then duke it out in London on 10 and 11 October with the 20 best competitors progressing to the final. The esports series grand final will coincide with the last race on the F1 calendar in November and be held at the Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.
F1 commercial head Sean Bratches said he was "proud to have Codemasters and Gfinity joining us on this ride". The former ESPN guru, who was pulled out of retirement by new F1 chief executive Chase Carey, wants F1 to have a broader appeal and leverage technology to draw in fans.
Frank Sagnier, the chief executive of Codemasters, which is backed by Indian conglomerate Reliance, said: "Esports is one of the fastest-growing sectors of gaming already attracting audiences in the tens of millions. We are delighted to be announcing this incredible racing series with Formula 1 for our upcoming F1 2017 game.
"The highly competitive nature and high-speed spectacle of the sport combined with the authenticity of our game will provide a thrilling experience for players and viewers across the world."
Meanwhile, Gfinity chief executive Neville Upton said: “F1 entering esports is a ringing endorsement for what spectacular entertainment esports provides and how vital it is to cutting-edge organisations that want to push the boundaries of entertainment and fan experience."
Shares in small-cap firm Gfinity rose more than six per cent in the wake of the news.
The firm's broker, Allenby Capital, said in a statement:
Many traditional sports and clubs are looking at esports as a means of engaging with a younger audience to complement their existing offline offering. F1 is a major global brand with considerable marketing muscle and the addition of a F1 esports series will raise the profile of esports further.
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