The FIA revealed this past weekend that its esports collaboration with Gran Turismo isn’t over; it’s merely on a hiatus, to allow developer Polyphony Digital more time to add necessary features to GT7 and sort out the game’s multiplayer instability.
Frederic Bertrand, the motorsport governing body’s director of Innovative Sport Activities, as well as Formula E, clarified the situation between the FIA and Gran Turismo in an interview with Motorsport.com during a launch event for the FIA Motorsport Games at the Formula 1 French Grand Prix.
“It’s not ended,” said Bertrand, when asked about the status of the FIA’s partnership with Gran Turismo.
“For Motorsport Games, the difficulty we had at that moment is that they were not necessarily ready to support the live event as we wanted, because of GT7 and everything.
“So we agreed with them that we will work with Assetto Corsa for this one. It’s also easier for us, because it’s more open to many countries.
“But we still work with Gran Turismo on plenty of other projects. So no, it’s not an end. It’s just an acceptance of non exclusive approach, and we feel that Esports needs to be more open.
“That’s what we agreed with Kazunori-san. It’s agreed, and it’s done in a perfect Japanese nice way!”
In June, the FIA announced it had chosen Assetto Corsa Competizione as its platform for the upcoming 2022 Motorsport Games, scheduled for October. Last year’s running used Gran Turismo, as the FIA had enjoyed an exclusive relationship with the PlayStation-exclusive sim since Gran Turismo Sport released in 2017.
Assetto Corsa’s confirmation coincided with Polyphony Digital announcing its plans for 2022's Gran Turismo esports championship, which notably lacked FIA branding for the first time. This led many to believe that the two entities were no longer working together. Jalopnik actually reached out to Sony to speak on the status of its partnership with the FIA in May and received no comment.
In actuality, the FIA and Gran Turismo hadn’t parted ways; they “mutually” agreed, according to this story, to put things on ice while Polyphony improved the game. Until June, GT7 denied multiplayer lobby hosts the ability to change tracks without closing lobbies and starting new ones. The new World Series season kicked off last weekend, sans FIA support.
Bertrand told Motorsport.com that the FIA intends to monitor Gran Turismo’s next World Series event — the in-person World Series Showdown at Red Bull’s Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria — to evaluate how the game is shaping up at this point in time. If both the FIA and Polyphony feel the game is ready by the end of 2022, they may start cooperating on events again next year. However, Bertrand’s earlier mention of “acceptance of [a] non-exclusive approach” suggests that the FIA may continue to deal in multiple racing sims going forward, rather then Gran Turismo alone.
“I will send my guys and if we feel it’s ready, we’ll move on again,” he said “And then we will probably have another project early first quarter of next year with Gran Turismo.”
Bertrand said that the decision to pause things with Gran Turismo was done entirely mutually, and he respected the Polyphony Studio accepting it needed to improve the product.
“At the moment it is difficult, but they have been super honest with us, telling us they need to concentrate on that one first,” he said.
“So we said, ‘okay, let’s make it easy.’ We need anyway something for Motorsport Games, so we said we have an alternative option. We will go on this one. And then we keep on going forward with development for 2023 with something which is at the level we all expect.”
The fact GT7 launched in a state that neither its developer nor the FIA felt was adequate for a professional championship reinforces the sense that the game was rushed to market, or released before it was truly ready. The FIA’s embrace of sim racing is good for motorsport at large, and it’s encouraging to hear the two plan to reunite in the future — even if there are plenty of issues they need to work out together.