From the Simulator to the Track.. Aylesbury's James Baldwin wants to be number 1 racing driver in the world

It's been a fast moving few years for James Baldwin.
James BaldwinJames Baldwin
James Baldwin

Last October James Baldwin, who lives in Aston Clinton, was crowned 'World's Fastest Gamer' as part of a two-week gruelling series of challenges out in Las Vegas.

He was examined on his real life racing technique on the Vegas Motorspeedway, sim racing, how he faced up to the media and fitness tests.

As a reward for his success, James now faces a different challenge of transferring his sim racing skills to the track as he won a real world racing contract worth more than $1m US dollars.

James racing at Oulton ParkJames racing at Oulton Park
James racing at Oulton Park

Sim racing is the collective term for computer software that attempts to accurately simulate auto racing, complete with real-world variables such as fuel usage, damage, tyre wear and grip, and suspension settings.

Sim racers must understand all aspects of racing, including threshold braking, how to maintain control of a car as the tyres lose traction, and how properly to enter and exit a turn without sacrificing speed.

Before the Coronavirus pandemic ground sports and racing to a half, James was set to compete in the GT World Challenge Europe in a GT3 McLaren 720 2 race car.

In many respects, this is an experiment to see whether sim racers can transfer their undeniable talent in sim racing to the real life track.

James said he was absolutely thrilled to be given a chance to race.

He said: "I am excited to be given a chance to represent sim drivers on the track. It's an honour really.

"There' a lot of talent about, so I hope I can translate this onto the track and represent us well."

James’ racing journey began a long time ago however, in karting, aged just 8 years old.

He then made the step up to Formula Ford in 2015.

After two races in Formula Ford 1600, it became clear that the amount of money the family were spending was unsustainable.

To take part in two races for Formula Ford, it cost a whopping £15,000.

James said: "We tried to make it work the best we could, but we just didn't realise how much it was going to cost.

"I think a lot of talent is being missed because of the prohibitive costs of getting a racing seat.

"To race in the British GT a seat is worth nearly £400,000 a year. Not everyone has that kinds of money sitting around.

"To win a seat through a competition has been a real advantage. In many respects I am a guinea pig to see if drivers can make the transition from sim racing to the track,

so I hope it all goes well and this becomes a route for drivers with potential.

"The beauty of sim racing is you don't need these exorbitant sums of money to find a way in."

It hasn't all been smooth sailing for James, however.

In 2015 he decided to quit racing and took up motorsport mechanics followed by mechanical engineering.

Despite enjoying mechanical engineering he didn’t enjoy motorsport mechanics and decided to call it quits.

But luckily, he found out about sim racing in 2017, and hasn't looked back since.

James continued: "I am in training at the moment, and people might say, oh it's just online, how hard can it be?

"We undergo a real grind, with between 8-10 hours of training of practice a day.

"It's much more draining than racing on a track, where I just turn up to the race and adapt to drive the car.

"Driving on the track presents its own unique challenges.

"For example, braking in a car, you need to apply about 120 bars of pressure just to get the car to stop.

"At a test earlier this year I couldn't do it! So I've been in the gym trying to get stronger and fitter.

Be under no assumptions, you've got to put the work in!"

James doesn'tt want to just compete however, and wants to leave his mark in British racing.

"I want to be the best driver in the world.

"We won the first race of the British GT this year before lockdown, so hopefully we can continue that form for the next five rounds.

"You've got to dream big!

"This time year I didn't ever think I would be a driver. It's amazing how things can change so quickly. I've got a long way to go but you should never, ever, give up on

your dreams.

"You just don't know what's around the corner."

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