The Grand Prix Virtual World Championship (GPVWC) is an institution in the simracing world. During the course of its history, the GPVWC established itself as one of the most successful, most respected and most enjoyable leagues on the internet.
After years offering cutting edge offline racing experience, the GPVWC entered a new era: the 2008 season, indeed, marked the rebirth of offline racing, before the introduction, in 2009, of online racing in the forms of an rFactor Superleague Championship.
The Grand Prix Virtual World Championship was established as an offline, Grand Prix 3 based league in July 2000 by Englishman Dan Lawrence. Featuring a reduced calendar, spanning only between July and December, the first Championship resulted in a success beyond expectations.
The great response by teams and drivers during the 2000 season prompted the GPVWC Administration to develop a new format for the year 2001. Inspired by games such as Grand Prix Manager 2 and Grand Prix World, Dan Lawrence single-handedly developed a Team Management system that included full control over finances, car developments and Drivers' contracts, creating the most realistic league experience on the web.
Unfortunately, several organisational problems, in addition to the lack of cooperation by a part of the participating Teams, brought the 2001 season to a premature ending. If anything, this allowed Mr Lawrence to invest time into rebuilding the foundation of the league in time for the 2002 season, when a full grid of teams and drivers competed in a legendary Championship.
2003 saw the introduction of Grand Prix 4 as game platform; unfortunately, after a very promising start of season, the league came to a sudden halt when Dan Lawrence had to resign from his Administration post due to personal reasons. Mr Lawrence's departure meant the league's future was dramatically compromised.
The GPVWC had achieved, in three seasons, some remarkable goals: it had established a benchmark for all the world of simracing; it had created the most advanced simulation available on the net; and, mainly, it had created a close-knit community of racers that extended beyond the boundaries of the virtual racetrack.
This was what was in the mind of William Ponissi, Team Manager of EIRE, on the day the GPVWC folded: and these were the reasons that brought him to undertake a salvage attempt for the league. Temporarily rebranded, due to the unavailability of the GPVWC name and domain, the 2003 Championship was brought to an end in the most dramatic fashion: despite most of the season saw a reduced field of no more than 8 cars, the last three events were competed with a full grid, and the Drivers' Championship went down to the wire, being decided in favour of Shiro Ryong by a single point.
Under the Administration of joint Admins William Ponissi and Andy Graydon, the league saw a strong 2004 season, a year in which the league clearly demonstrated to be back in its original splendour. At the end of the season, Finn Kari Koski was brought in the Admin team: the seasons 2005 and 2006 saw a steady, if uneventful, growth of the league, which successfully launched a feeder series (with Formula Renault and GP2 mods).
However, 2007 represented a step back in the development of the league: lack of improvements in the system, neglect by the Administration and a bitter turn in the general atmosphere meant that the organisation failed to stop the haemorrhage of drivers turning away from Grand Prix 4 in favour of the new horizons of online racing.
It is in this critical situation that the new birth of the GPVWC occurred. A new Admin team, led by William Ponissi and Michelangelo Manrique, set up the league according to its original ideals of friendship, fun and joy of racing. With the blessing of GPVWC founder Dan Lawrence, the league retrieved its historical name and looked up to the challenges that online and offline racing are offering.
2008 proved a mixed season: while the enthusiasm of the competitors and the intensity of the races never faltered, Grand Prix 4 showed all its limits, prompting the Administration to announce the switch to online racing for the 2009 season.
The Drivers' Championship was won well in advance by Laurentiu Albu, but the Constructors' fight went down to the wire, being decided at the very last lap of the season finale - a thrilling conclusion that reminded of the exciting 2003 season, and a perfect sendoff for GP4.
The doors to a new world were opening...
The 2009 season represents a new chapter in the history of the GPVWC. A new website, a new core community but, most importantly, a new racing experience are the direction the Grand Prix Virtual World Championship has taken to best face the challenges of the future.
The introduction of rFactor brought online racing to the GPVWC community, resulting in the first, historical official online race taking place in Melbourne, Australia on March 26th. The opening of this new world brought new challenges to the Administration, having now to manage increasing expenses and issues, but also being able to rely on a quickly growing community of enthusiasts.
Online racing managed in reviving many old members' waning interest in simracing and attract new faces, resulting in the GPVWC website being the centre of a thriving community and the host of one of the most exciting online championships on the internet. The 2009 season led the way for an exciting 2010, a more professional and compelling racing experience for all users. A feeder series, the GPVWC Supercup, was introduced in order to nurture new teams and drivers, and the community grew exponentially to reach heights unthinkable only a few years before.
2011 marked a massive innovation for GPVWC: for the first time ever, races in both Superleague and Supercup were broadcasted live over the internet, while the creation of a committed staff team resulted in an improvement in the website flow. An increased number of drivers and the return of some heavyweights ensured plenty of action in both series, with some of the most exciting moments in the GPVWC being written. The season also saw the expansion of the Master Series to accommodate huge drivers' numbers and the introduction of endurance events.
In 2012, further expansion in the number of available series - Superleague, Supercup, Master Series and the new Formula Challenge - provided a new depth in racing, while a website overhaul improved the way the GPVWC activities are presented. The introduction of dynamic weather and a new engine manufacturing simulation added a new perspective to the Career Ladder and gifted a new lease of life to rFactor. With this solid base, GPVWC was able to introduce more independent series in 2013, 2014 and 2015 with the addition of the World GT Championship, the International Touring Cup and the Atlantic Series.
After seven years of racing on rFactor, the GPVWC embarked on the next natural stage of its development by embracing the game's successor, rFactor 2. A full programme on the new platform was complemented by the introduction of a legacy series on rF1, the Vintage Series.
This new era for the GPVWC starts under the best conditions: with a new and motivated Management Team, passionate drivers and organised teams, GPVWC is at a new dawn.