The Biggest eSports Prize Ever: World’s Fastest Sim Racer Wins $1M

Until recently, sim racing hasn’t enjoyed a comfortable status in the world of motorsports. Often questioned and occasionally derided, games like Assetto Corsa and iRacing have only recently been seen as the wonderful training tools they are. Nowadays, they’re considered crucial for the ambitious driver who wants to familiarize themselves with a new track or a new car before it actually counts.

Sim racing has also helped launch a few talented sim racers into professional motorsports. With ever-growing scholarship prizes, sim racing has proven to be a new jumping point for drivers looking to make a name for themselves in racing, but lack the necessary funds to climb the conventional rungs of the racing ladder.

Britain’s James Baldwin was one of those drivers who struggled with the finances. Though Baldwin had some experience in karts and Formula Ford, he, like so many drivers, had to hang up his helmet when he could no longer secure funding. With empty pockets, Baldwin got his fix through sim racing. Excelling in the virtual realm, he never lost his drive to succeed.

Eventually, Baldwin noticed an opportunity to return to the real thing.

Baldwin’s latest achievements might get more budding racers to take a serious look into pursuing the digital alternative to karting, as his most recent achievement is remarkable. After the ten-day, 12-race California Dreaming finale to the World’s Fastest Gamer competition, Baldwin won the largest prize in eSports history: a $1,000,000 contract helping him towards a bright future in the big leagues.

“It feels surreal to be the World’s Fastest Gamer,” Baldwin said.

The 2019 World’s Fastest Gamer competition took ten gamers from PC, console, and mobile platforms with the goal of finding the quickest racer — regardless of the platform. This year’s competition was the first to have the winner graduate to a real-world race seat.

In the final race, Baldwin started second and quickly passed polesitter Mitchell de Jong before building a ten-second gap. The victory was the last piece of information the judges needed. After spending the week demonstrating a willingness to learn, high overall speed, and a great attitude, the judges and teams had no difficulty picking their favorite.

Jumping into EXR racing cars and quickly finding the pace, proved both these drivers’ versatility and the value of sim training.

The all-star lineup of judges included two-time Indy 500 winner, Juan Pablo Montoya; World’s Fastest Gamer Season One winner, Rudy van Buren; Japanese Super GT star and former gamer Jann Mardenborough; World’s Fastest Gamer founder, Darren Cox; plus surprise guest judge, F1 legend Rubens Barrichello. With that sort of talent looking to sim racing for genuine talent renders the questionable status sim racing once suffered a thing of the past.

“Whenever James got out of the car, when things weren’t perfect — like today with the one-lap shootout where he made a mistake and ended up second — he owned up to his mistakes, but was still confident in himself,” said Montoya (center).

With the support of greats and over a million in his Nomex-lined pocket, Baldwin will soon begin a rigorous training program to sculpt him into a professional racing driver.

“The last 12 days have been an absolute pressure cooker. But, that’s the point of it; to train you to be a racing driver. It’s also been amazing even off-track because I was able to meet some amazing people, the other competitors, of course, and the production team and everyone involved in World’s Fastest Gamer. Plus meeting my hero, Juan Pablo Montoya, it’s just been a dream come true,” Baldwin reminisced.

With teams looking outside the regular ladders to pick the next talented driver to go professional, those young hopefuls without the means to sit in a racing car ought to consider taking the digital route. Those whose dreams aren’t deflated by the realities of funding ought to consider the World’s Fastest Gamer, where they stand a chance against the children of moguls and magnates who can afford to scrap a chassis every weekend.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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