If you want a shot at becoming a Drone Racing League champion, among your best opportunities to get in is via the 2023 DRL SIM Tryouts, which is the Drone Racing League’s annual player-to-pilot esports tournament on the DRL SIM video game. The stakes are huge, and the prize is something money can’t buy: a spot to drone race as part of the 2023-24 DRL Algorand World Championship Season.
And the 2023 DRL SIM Tryouts kick off next week. Starting Monday, July 3 at 10 a.m. ET, you’ll be able to compete on the Qualifier Circuit. From there, you have a week to log your best time, as the Qualifier Circuit closes on July 10 at noon ET.
Of everyone who participates in the Qualifier Circuit during that period, the 64 fastest ones will then advance to what’s called the “Esports Tournament Series.” That’s the race for the overall winner which culminates in the ultimate prize: a contract with DRL for the 2023-24 DRL Algorand World Championship Season as the official DRL SIM Pilot.
The esports tournament series consists of seven tournaments held throughout mid-July. They are:
July 11 and 12: Stage 1 (four tournaments)
July 13: Stage 2 (two tournaments)
July 14: Grand Final
Here’s DRL’s promo reel outlining the whole thing (both the simulator and the IRL final races):
How to join in on the 2023 DRL SIM Tryouts
To participate, you’ll first have to actually have the DRL SIM, which you can download on Steam, Epic Games, PlayStation, or Xbox. While it’s free to participate in the Tryouts, you will have to have the game, which costs about $10 and includes options for additional in-app purchases.
From there, you’ll have to register on the tournament page. Once registered, navigate to the ‘Tryouts’ section of the DRL SIM and start racing.
If you end up in the top 64, you’ll be invited into the Qualifier Circuit, which kicks off the day after the qualification period closes, which is Tuesday, July 11. Each tournament has three rounds consisting of Time Trials, Semifinals, and Finals.
In the time trials, semifinal seeds are established, upon which 12 pilots advance to the semifinals. And in the semifinals, players are grouped into two groups of six, with the top three in each group advancing to the finals, which is a single group of six players.
For even more tips, advice and support, you might also join DRL’s SIM Discord page, where other racers (and yes, pro pilots) participate.
Tips for winning the 2023 DRL SIM Tryouts
The 2021 DRL SIM Tryouts Champion Leon “Halowalker” Schubert, had never flown a real-life drone prior to earning a spot on the DRL Pilot roster — and he managed to place second in the overall season standings.
Halowalker shared his tips on how to conquer the DRL SIM — and snag that spot in the 2023-24 DRL Algorand World Championship Season:
- Have a training partner (or rival): “Find someone that is as good as or better than you,” he said. “If you push each other to the limit, you have a goal, a way to measure improvement, and a reason to grind as hard as possible.”
- Contrast the high speeds with calm: Halowalker suggests meditation and breathing exercises. “They help calm yourself down in high-stress situations,” he said.
- Perfect your linework: “Practice with purpose,” he said. Look for mistakes in your race lines, and then compare your lines to others. You will eventually find the fastest lines, which is very important for the Qualifier Circuit portion of the 2023 DRL SIM Tryouts.”
Another tip: you might as well enter multiple times. You can take a spin on the sim as many times as you want — in fact, DRL says multiple attempts at logging the best possible qualifier time are encouraged.
DRL would not say how many competitors entered last year’s DRL SIM Tryouts, but expect the competition to be strong given that interest in drone racing is growing (in fact, DRL’s global race views for the 2022-23 DRL Algorand World Championship Season were up 23% from the 2021-2022 season), and it’s social following grew by 45% year-over-year. In short, bigger interest is likely set to mean bigger competition. That said, it’ll be easy to see where you stand, as DRL says it’ll maintain overall leaderboards showing entrants with the lowest (aka the best) race times.
Halowalker said that even when he raced, the competition was still intense.
“Brace yourself for the fiercest competitors,” he said. “Many pilots start preparing for this tournament weeks or months ahead of time on the DRL SIM, the true-to-life drone racing video game. I myself spent over 100 hours in the 10 days leading up to the final race.”
And one final tip: have a strong Wi-Fi signal. DRL recommends a 20 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload internet connection.
Of course, if you win the Sim and snag a spot in the real 2023-24 DRL Algorand World Championship Season, that’s when things really heat up — and drastically change.
“There is much more noise from the huge audiences when you fly IRL, so it can be harder to focus on the racing,” Halowalker said. “The comfort of your own home is definitely soothing when flying on the SIM compared to IRL, but the pressure is just as high.”