Veloce Racing: the groundbreaking esports team seeking real-world domination

Extreme E

Veloce has revolutionised the esports world, it now seeks to do the same in Extreme E – its co-founder, Rupert Svendsen-Cook, lays out its plan for electrifying domination

Veloce Extreme E

Veloce has dominated the virtual racing domain – can it now did the same in the real world?

Extreme E

Ron Dennis’s McLaren; Dr. Ullrich’s Audi; Toto Wolff’s Mercedes. Every generation brings a new game-changing team to motorsport, and in the year 2021 the next pioneering candidate might just be coming from the left-field: Veloce Racing.

Run by a team of ambitious young entrepreneurs, its founding members are younger than almost half the F1 starting grid.

However, Veloce isn’t a race team in the traditional sense. It hasn’t yet contested a real-life grand prix, GT event, rally or even a karting race. And yet hundreds of thousands, perhaps maybe millions of people, know who they are. So strong is its vision, that Jean-Eric Vergne was persuaded to join the company, along with a former colleague of his – one Adrian Newey.

Veloce’s domain in recent years has been the world of professional and amateur esports racing: it runs the esports teams of Mercedes, McLaren and Alfa Romeo as well as Fernando Alonso’s squad, and its own racing teams dominate across many virtual racing platforms.

Its social media reach is gargantuan compared to most competitors. For a team that technically only exists in the virtual sense, it’s doing a fairly roaring trade in merchandise too.

LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 15: (L-R) David Kelly (Sauber Dave) , Noah Schmitz (Veloce Virus) and James Baldwin (Veloce Jaaames) of Team Veloce celebrate on the podium after winning the Le Mans Esports Series Super Finale in the Fan Zone at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 15, 2019 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

Veloce widespread success in esports includes winning the 2019 Le Mans Esports series

Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Now though, Veloce wants more. This weekend it moves into the world of real-life racing, taking its first steps in ground-breaking new Extreme E series, with Britain’s Jamie Chadwick and renowned all-rounder Stéphane Sarrazin behind the wheel of the team’s Odyssey 21 E-SUV.

Veloce’s co-founder and team principal of its Extreme E team, Rupert Svendsen-Cook, spoke to Motor Sport about the team’s early days and progress so far, as well as its ambitious plans for real-world racing domination on in the future.

Svendsen-Cook, now 30, was a promising race driver himself, winning on his 2010 British F3 debut for Carlin and testing in GP2 until, like for so many others, the money ran out.

“I was really on the way to Formula 1, certainly with the backer that I had at the time,” he says. “But a few things happened and all of a sudden it stopped overnight.

“I went from racing every other week and living the dream, to not having anything at all.”

It was at this point that a naturally nurtured business acumen came in handy for Svendsen-Cook, perhaps showing him his true calling.

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“The business side of the sport has always been really attractive to me,” he said

“I don’t come from a family that was involved in the sport or from one that had the pockets to fund any sort of career in it, so I’d always had to hustle my way through to find the budget or opportunity.

“It’s something that I’d found myself to be reasonably good at, and I gravitated towards [Veloce Racing co-founders] Jack Clark and Dan Bailey.”

Veloce made its first steps as a business in the tough world of driver management. “The established management in the sport is still pretty old school – the manager walks in and out of the paddock once a year with their briefcase, signs a contract and that’s sort of it,” Svendsen-Cook says.

“It was really hard to penetrate and I needed something exceptional – or an exceptional talent – to make that leap.”

It turned out the “leap” would be something more abstract than what Svendsen-Cook first anticipated.

“Jamie MacLaurin [now Chief Sporting Officer of Veloce Esports] came to us with the opportunity of esports. Jack was straight on the bandwagon, but I took a lot of convincing because I couldn’t draw the parallels [with real-world racing].”

Shortly afterwards, however, came a life-changing epiphany for the young entrepreneurs.

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Part of the Veloce stable since its pre-esports days, Jamie Chadwick now drives for its Extreme E team

Extreme E

“At the end of 2017, Formula 1 – under the reasonably fresh ownership of Liberty – put a toe in the water with the F1 Esports series at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“We noticed on the Monday morning after there was a huge amount of viewership on YouTube – in fact more than on the actual real-world F1 highlights they’d posted.

“We realised there was more viewership on the Esports race than the real-world F1 highlights”

“We just thought “Who has ownership of that talent? Who’s managing it, who’s representing it?” The answer was nobody.”

And thus, Veloce eSports was born, at that point with a singular goal of virtual domination. It was at this point that Svendsen-Cook’s F3 rival and friend Jean-Eric Vergne joined as a founding member.

“We went in with a pretty one-dimensional approach: just tried to sign as many of the top talents as we could – with great success,” the Englishman says.

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Its ambitions weren’t just purely on the driving side. Veloce founders realised they could manage teams, leagues, events and all other commercial angles of eSports racing – and has done exactly that.

“We saw esports seeing as a great opportunity – nobody from the racing world had really entered the eSports space.

“No one really had a hold of it, nobody was organising anything.”

Svendsen-Cook’s last point on the professional eSports vacuum is perhaps the most telling: “No one had ownership of the audience.

“It was quite scattered – and still is now – but we sort of harnessed it all to create our own ecosystem, which has evolved into the Veloce Group that we have today.”

Veloce’s social media presence is mighty. Veloce team members stream races practically everyday, and its team of digital content creators produce material to do with real-world motorsport as well esports

“Content is king for us,” says Svendsen-Cook. “We do the best part of 200 million views a month now across our network.”

So effective is the group, they now not only manage esports teams on behalf of F1 squads, but also a national team for an United Arab Emirate.

“We have an exclusive agreement with the Abu Dhabi government – we’re building a team and an academy in the region out there to nurture young talent,” Svendsen-Cook reveals.

Sarrazin ee

Stéphane Sarrazin has been brought in both for his vast experience and also leadership qualities

Extreme E

“Our media network is also huge, and this is going to be boosted by the fact that we’ll now have ITV’s audience every month (watching Extreme E).

“We’re just continuing to commercialise and that’s the model – whether it be our own leagues, our own games, at the moment blockchain integrations are huge for us. NFT’s (non-fungible tokens) and the rest of it – it’s all a honeypot of opportunity.”

The idea for moving Veloce on from virtual reality back into the real world came at Monza two years ago. “We were all at the Italian Grand Prix on business, sat in the McLaren motorhome,” says Svendsen-Cook. “We were talking to each other, saying we wished we had a Formula E team. Extreme E had been announced that week, we looked at each other and were like “Let’s have a team!”

Thus Veloce Racing was born from Veloce Esports. The environmental bent of Extreme E is flaunted as its main USP but cold, hard business reasons also seduced the Veloce boys.

“The buy-in and then the value of the current teams, from a franchise investment perspective, was really attractive,” Svendsen-Cook tells us.

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“The series is so unique, it was tricky to find a reason why we wouldn’t do it. We see it the same as we saw Esports, as a honeypot, an enormous opportunity. It fits our mentality and our mindset.”

“It’s a cross between the America’s Cup, Blue Planet and the Dakar rally – I think that’s what we’re going to have as a spectacle.

“It’s funny, because for the last three or four years we’ve been saying to all the big, real-world manufacturers, athletes, and whoever else: ‘Trust us, the real world of motor sport needs esports and gaming more than it needs you.’

“Now, here we are going back into the real world with a real-world racing team, but for the right reasons. It’s raising awareness around climate change and it serves as a platform to develop further technology.

“As a sporting proposition, we’re really excited about it. We want to win – we’re taking this really, really seriously.”

Helping them take things seriously is the accomplished ART team, winners of titles in GP2, GP3 and F3, in addition to having DTM experience. The link-up with ART came from Veloce’s esports ventures.

“We’ve been working with Alfa Romeo Sauber for three years in Esports. Initially we were exploring a potential opportunity with Sauber but they’re pretty limited with personnel and the commitment to the F1 project. We looked further, but it became a no-brainer to work with [Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vausseur’s] ART.

Further completing the circle from real world to virtual and back again is its female driver, Jamie Chadwick, the last real-world driver signed by Veloce before it moved over to Esports. The W Series champion now has the chance to take on some of the all-time motor sport greats in Sébastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz Sr and Jenson Button.

“I’m so glad that we stuck with Jamie and we kept with her,” Svendsen-Cook says. “She’s been with Veloce family for three or four years now, and we always had a belief that we could take her a long way.

“She’s a total and utter off-road rookie, but an immense talent.”

Accompanying Chadwick will be arguably the best all-rounder in motorsport: Stéphane Sarrazin. The veteran driver has F1 experience, is a four-time runner up at Le Mans, has 22 WRC stars to his name and also an electric racing pedigree from Formula E.

teams Extreme E

Svendsen-Cook describes Extreme E as cross between “the America’s Cup, Blue Plant and Dakar”

Extreme E

The strength of Veloce’s ascendancy also persuaded F1 design guru Adrian Newey to join the Veloce Racing project, giving technical advice as well a being a face of the racing project.

Veloce already has one eye on the future of Extreme E, when teams will potentially be allowed to design their own drivetrains, as in Formula E.

“Adrian’s obviously very tied up with his former one commitments, but he does have great belief and great commitment to what we’re doing here,” Svendsen-Cook says.

“He doesn’t believe that batteries (which are powering Extreme E cars) are the long-term answer for the EV sector but he does think Extreme E is a great platform to develop further from where we are right now.

“That’s where Adrian will come into his own. He had his eyes over the technical regulations as soon as he could, his input’s been really useful.

“The ambition really is to have a conglomerate”

“The fact he endorses not just the series but also the Veloce itself is something we’re really proud of and we’re excited to expand that relationship as time goes on.”

Progress is unrelenting, and Veloce is already looking to the future, with Svendsen-Cook saying big developments could even be announced later this year – his company has already spied the next opportunity.

“I think there’s certainly legs in Veloce establishing an innovations arm,” he says.

“I just recently ordered my first electric car. We’re all making ‘the switch’. With that comes a much greater strain on infrastructure in the UK – there isn’t charging capacity or infrastructure for everybody to have an electric car yet, so there are opportunities abound.

“I think we sit really well to help bring that technology in and secure it – whether it be import rights of technology or developing our own patents in the sector and implementing them across the world. I really see that as a big opportunity for this company.”

It’s not just in the real world where Veloce continues its aggressive expansion though…

“When it comes to esports, we’ll be announcing our own league that we think is going to be the biggest racing esports league in the world. In quick order we’re also establishing a game integration – if not a game itself – that puts us in a really different spot.

“The goal and the ambition really is to have a conglomerate, and that sounds a bit punchy, but we’re gonna give it a good crack.”

Perhaps even the sky isn’t the limit, in this world and the virtual, for racing’s new ‘Brat Pack’.