By Alan Baldwin
MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Ten video gamers will take on Formula E racing drivers in a virtual 'ePrix' in Las Vegas in January with $1 million in prize money to be won, organizers of the electric series announced on Thursday.
Alejandro Agag, chief executive of the electric racing series, told Reuters the 10 members of the public would secure their places through online qualifying races dubbed the 'Road to Vegas Challenge'.
All 20 regular drivers will join them for the virtual race on a specially designed track that will incorporate the famed Las Vegas Strip.
"The maximum any one person can make is a quarter of a million dollars," said Agag. "And it's probably quite likely that a gamer wins that."
Agag said an original plan to offer one $1 million jackpot had been modified to broaden out the prize money.
"It's good to split the prizes quite a lot because that motivates the gamers more and we want to maximize the participation," he said.
The event will be held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel as part of a Jan. 5-7 sport business and innovation summit within the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Formula E said competitors will use Playseat simulators with technical systems provided by Cloud Sport who are also organizing the qualifying races. (http://roadtovegas.cloudsport.club/index.aspx)
"We believe eSports offers a new level of fan interaction and participation in sport and we want to be at the forefront of this gaming revolution," said Agag.
Many sports, including Formula One which raced in Las Vegas in the 1980s, are experimenting with virtual reality (VR) technology to engage fans and attract new audiences.
Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Samsung are investing heavily in VR with some predicting the immersive technology will have the same effect on television as the internet on newspapers.
Formula E has also mooted the possibility of a virtual race eventually being incorporated in the championship with gamers challenging for points and prize money.
"I think this is probably an experiment," Agag told Reuters in June when the Vegas event was first outlined.
"Depending on how it goes I could envisage that some of these virtual races could give points for a championship in the future but not now."
The third Formula E season starts in Hong Kong in October.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)