British motor racing team McLaren Racing has expanded its existing partnership with Saudi Arabian city development project NEOM.
As a result of the expansion, NEOM will become the Official Principal Partner of McLaren Shadow, the team’s sim racing division.
As the principal partner of McLaren Racing’s esports initiative, NEOM will collaborate with McLaren Shadow to ‘develop talent pathways’ for Saudi Arabian people. This ranges from grassroots projects up to top-level sim racing initiatives in the region. One initiative includes a chance to train at the McLaren Shadow Academy, which aims to develop aspiring sim racing drivers.
In addition to launching a new livery for its Formula One (F1) car, McLaren Shadow team members will wear a new jersey where the NEOM logo will be ‘visually prominent’.
NEOM is no stranger to controversy within the esports industry. In 2020, the development project had its partnerships with esports tournament organiser BLAST and Riot Games’ LEC terminated following backlash from the public and members of talent. This backlash largely focused on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record regarding LGBTQ+ and women’s rights.
McLaren Racing launched its esports team in 2018. In recent years, it has launched a UK-based facility for its drivers to train and produce a range of content. In 2022, driver Lucas Blakeley won the F1 Esports Drivers Championship marking the team’s first win.
Neil Walker, Head of Esports and Gaming at McLaren Racing, spoke on the news: “It’s great to re-launch the team with this new look and feel. I can’t think of a better way of doing it than with our new Official Principal Partner NEOM and our strong line-up of Lucas, Wilson, and Dani.
“The team are pleased to welcome NEOM to McLaren Shadow, building on their successful partnership with our NEOM McLaren Electric Racing teams in Formula E and Extreme E. We look forward to the collaboration to come, with a focus on developing grassroots talent in the sport.”