Williamson wins in world first

Last Friday night at Addington Raceway saw history made for the sport of harness racing, with the running of the world’s first ever E-Sport Harness Racing Championship.

In a joint venture to attract new fans to the sport, Harness Racing New Zealand, Addington Raceway and the Catch Driver team in Canada launched the oncourse championship which saw players compete via their phone, whilst the races played out live in real time on the big screen.

Three heats of nine players were held on the Lanson Lawn in front of the big screen, with the top three finishers advancing to the Grand Final later on the night.

The heats saw a great mix of first time players, young industry participants and trainers and drivers from the harness racing industry and were kindly called live from the birdcage by commentator Matt Cross.

After some friendly rivalry in the heats the Grand Final field consisted of:  Matty Williamson, Jayden Wyke, Matt Purvis, Luke Sutherland, Ashleigh Stewart, Gavin Smith, Hayley Clarke, Jack Ryder and Paul Hailes.

The winner of the Grand Final was Matty Williamson, who received a trip for two to Mooloolaba staying at the Peninsular Beachfront Resort for three nights thanks to Addington Raceway, with $1000 towards travel courtesy of Westview Racing. 

Jayden Wyke was second, and won two Lindauer Lawn tickets for Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup Day and Matt Purvis finished third gaining 2,500 Catch Driver game horse shoes for his effort.

Matty Williamson is a regular player of the Catch Driver game, and the win went down well with his fiancé Charlotte Purvis who learned of the victory whilst watching the live video via the HRNZ Facebook page from home.

“I was really excited to win and I knew Charlotte would be even more excited,” laughed Williamson. “It’s a great game and is very realistic. It’s great for racing fans, but it’s also a great game to try and get new people hooked on harness racing.”

“I’ll definitely be playing in another Championship again, even if it puts my good record at stake,” Williamson joked.

CEO of Addington Raceway, Brian Thompson, was also thrilled with the way the Championship was received by participants and onlookers.

“We were so happy to be a part of history, and for Addington to be the host of the world’s first ever E-Sport harness racing event,” said Thompson.

“To be able to give people an opportunity to experience harness racing like never before with Catch Driver is one thing, but it’s also great to be able to offer race goers some fun events to take part in on race night as well.”

“We look forward to holding more events like this in future, and also having Catch Driver events for everyone oncourse to enjoy on race nights going forward.”

Despite the Championship taking place in the early hours of the morning, Ryan Clements and Landon Mulhall of The Farm Ventures (creators of Catch Driver) were following the event with keen interest.

“It was very exciting for us and we were thrilled to do it with Harness Racing New Zealand and Addington Raceway,” said Clements.

“When I first visited there a year ago we knew right away that the industry was really forward looking and looking to do more to be innovative. We knew that we would have a great partnership to be able to try new things and take things to the next level.”

“Our team worked really hard to transfer the data from the game to be able to replicate a live race on the big screen as a game was in progress. It was a challenge but it was really rewarding to see it work so well last Friday.

“That was just the first version of the viewer and we can’t wait to keep making improvements and make the coverage even better.”

Clements and his team aren’t slowing down either, with plans new well in progress to launch a Catch Driver virtual reality experience at racetracks around the world.

If you would like to be a part of the Catch Driver E-Sport experience, simply attend any Addington Raceway meeting and keep an eye on the big screen for the night’s race code for the unique game event.

You’ll be able to play live against other players oncourse, with the race playing out on the big screen.

To download Catch Driver visit http://onelink.to/p9zknf




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