Going From Sim to Real Racing Is Hard, Even for an Alien


Sim racing holds the possibility of being an entry point into the world of real-life racing, but as James Baldwin found out, it's not a sure thing even for the World's Fastest Gamer.

A video posted by World's Fastest Gamer winner @JaaamesBaldwin gave us a candid look at how hard it can be to sustain a career at the top levels of auto racing, even for someone with an impressive resume.

Baldwin won the WFG tournament in 2019, which earned him a $1,000,000 sponsorship deal to transition to real racing. His crossover to the real track was a successful one, and he earned a victory in his debut British GT race and collected multiple pole positions throughout the season in his Jenson Team Rocket RJN McLaren 720S GT3.

But in spite of the success he was having in both sim racing and the British GT series, off-track issues would soon intervene in his racing career as he explains in his video.

James' story illustrates a number of truisms, but also brings to light some lesser-known facets of what it might take to break into the world of racing.

Most of us who are somewhat familiar with auto racing know that the barrier for entry into any professional series is very high. Racing skills, industry connections and money considerations all need to be sorted before a driver can make a bid for long-term seat. In Baldwin's case, even this wasn't enough.

The story of his struggles is a compelling one, and thankfully his video ends hinting at a positive outcome. Baldwin remains active both in his sim rig and on track, and surely we will see much more from him in the coming years.

If you enjoyed listening to James Baldwin's story? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter @RaceDepartment or in the comments below!
About author
Mike Smith
I have been obsessed with sim racing and racing games since the 1980's. My first taste of live auto racing was in 1988, and I couldn't get enough ever since. Lead writer for RaceDepartment, and owner of SimRacing604 and its YouTube channel. Favourite sims include Assetto Corsa Competizione, Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Automobilista 2, DiRT Rally 2 - On Twitter as @simracing604

Comments

Not surprising, sadly. Money is practically everything. And even with the money matter covered, sim-racing only is far from enough.

(Please, don't delete the video;. It answers a lot of whys, and exemplifies the reality that ONLY sim-racing is not enough to be a serious racer; let's not pretend to sell the idea that sim racing by itself can become you a real life racer and let be this topic a good oportunity to remember it. The content of the video is not false, harassing, or offensive according to RaceDepartment's rules. Sim-racing videogames are above all, videogames. Please remember this with all due respect and appreciation to video games of this genre. The very few people available to become racers thanks to sim-racing were people who competed in real life racing categories before, getting good physical shape, earning more money than they originally had, and getting contacts in that process)

 
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Moorea
Premium
The puzzling part about this story isn't that the money dried up, it's how and why was it there in the first place, and where did it actually come from?

I mean no disrespect to James Baldwin as he is obviously a very talented and competent driver but 1M€ is an awful lot of money and the ROI you can get in British GT(or even GT World Series) is pretty low in comparison.
 
Not surprising, sadly. Money is everything. And even with the money matter covered, sim-racing only is far from enough.

(Please, don't delete the video;. It answers a lot of whys, and exemplifies the reality that ONLY sim-racing is not enough to be a serious racer; let's not pretend to sell the idea that sim racing by itself can become you a real life racer and let be this topic a good oportunity to remember it. The content of the video is not false, harassing, or offensive according to RaceDepartment's rules. Sim-racing videogames are above all, videogames. Please remember this with all due respect and appreciation to video games of this genre. The very few people available to become sim-racers were people who competed in minor racing categories before, earning money and getting contacts in that process)
"ONLY sim-racing is not enought to be a serious racer" - That's false. If you are a talented driver you'll find the way to prove yourself IRL

Few examples:

- Norbert Kiss: a simracer who became a full time racing dirver, and a 4 times FIA ETRC (Truck) Champion
- Norbert Michelisz: FIA WTCR Champion (2019)
- Jon Armstrong: first ever eWRC Champion
 
I wonder as a percentage how many people here would actually want to be a full time race car driver and how many just enjoy playing a game.

Has this poll already been done?
As per me: I'm too old (56) to be a full time driver, but even when I was a teenager, I never wanted that. Sim racing is just a hobby for me, it's fun and it's a nice way to unwind. That's why I never join an online competition: I don't want any pressure when I simrace.
 
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RCHeliguy
Premium
As per me: I'm too old (56) to be a full time driver, but even when I was a teenager, I never wanted that. Sim racing is just a hobby for me, it's fun and it's a nice way to unwind. That's why I never join an online competition: I don't want any pressure when I simrace.
There is such a variation in what people want out of this.

I'm having a lot of fun just designing improvements for my rig and have spent more time designing and building my rig than actually using it. Some would see that as sacrilege, but it is a hobby into itself and I have fun with it.

Like yourself, I would never have wanted the life of a race car driver even as teen or at any point in my life. I like playing with sims, but my interests are very wide reaching and there are many activities that I like to dabble with that I could never see being my profession.
 
Early in the video, he says: « I don’t know where the money came from and it’s not important. » On the contrary, it is the ONLY question that matter! It’s always about the money.

As someone else wrote before me, where did the million$ came from? There is something weird in all of this…
Yeah this was before crypto and i cant remember any sponsor associated with this WFG stuff except McLaren. Maybe it was just McLaren and they were paying for the PR that the competition and the novelty of simracer in GT3 would generate?
 
Nitro McClean
Premium
Maybe I'm naive, but I would think everyone understands that sim racing is completely different from racing in real life. I don't think that makes sim racing better or worse, it's just different. It takes a lot to race in real life. It takes a lot of time, money and energy. And it is a condition that you know the business or have help from someone who knows the business. Without that there is no chance.
My son races at the most modest level, in rental karts. He too has dreamed of an F1 career, but it didn't take us much time to discover that this is only possible for the lucky few. He still uses sim racing as a practice for real racing. If this works in F1, it could work for us too, I naively thought. But it strikes me how few sim racers do this. You must of course have the same car / kart and circuit in the sim as you drive in real life and that will not always be possible. I'm lucky enough to be able to recreate the tracks my son drives in real life in the sim and adjust the driving characteristics to get as close to the real kart as possible. But not everyone can do that. And we realize very well that sim racing is never quite the same as racing in real life. You need to know what the similarities and differences are, and what you can and cannot practice.
It strikes me how many sim races make strong statements about the qualities of the drivability of cars in sims, which makes me wonder if they have ever driven the car in real life. What are they basing those statements on? Does it feel "good" or does it drive easily? That says little or nothing at all about being realistic. You only know that if you have driven it in the sim and in the real world under the same conditions.
When it comes to karts in sims, most of the karts we have tried in different sims drive very unrealistic. They feel more like small cars rather than karts. A kart has no suspension and dampers. The bearings of the rear axle are mounted directly in the frame. With that you feel very well what a kart does while driving, even every bump, even the smallest you feel very well. In many karts in a sim it feels like you are driving on a billiard table instead of the asphalt of a go-kart track. When you drive over a curb in the sim, you feel the steering wheel vibrate, that's all. When you drive over a curb in real life, you feel much more. Fortunately, years ago, we found a kart for rFactor in which you can feel all that. We still miss the changeable weather conditions in the sim. There are sims that have that and it looks impressive, but it has little to do with the real thing. Especially the transition from dry to wet and from wet to dry has little to do with the real thing. The change in grip levels is different on each track in real life and can be different from one track to another even on the same track. This is not even close in the sim.
If you know what the similarities and differences are between the sim and the real, you can practice it well. But it doesn't help at all to become a driver in real life, it really takes a lot more than that.
 
Like yourself, I would never have wanted the life of a race car driver even as teen or at any point in my life. I like playing with sims, but my interests are very wide reaching and there are many activities that I like to dabble with that I could never see being my profession.
Absolutely. Like you, I enjoy many different things that are very different from racing (music, reading, etc.) and simracing is just one of them, albeit a highly enjoyable one.
 
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"ONLY sim-racing is not enought to be a serious racer" - That's false. If you are a talented driver you'll find the way to prove yourself IRL

Few examples:

- Norbert Kiss: a simracer who became a full time racing dirver, and a 4 times FIA ETRC (Truck) Champion
- Norbert Michelisz: FIA WTCR Champion (2019)
- Jon Armstrong: first ever eWRC Champion
These are all people who have been racing way before sim racing. Like all of the these "sim to real" PR stuns. Don't get tricked by marketing.
 
the whole promoting from SIM to real racing, at the end of the day, is just comforting for us, grown men (and possibly women, if any) to believe that we are not into video driving game but racing simulator, so much so that the fastest among us, even though they often compete in game we sneer at (GT, Forza, F1 20xx), can access real racing, since it is so similar.
It is all baloney and thinking otherwise is at best a little sad.
 
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Colin Peach
Premium
the million € prize was a value not the cost to compete, its still probably an actual cost of €300,000 still a sum of money not to be sniffed at.
 
Good video by James but kind of surprised at the same time. Like what was he expecting is going to happen once sponsorship year is over?
I'm watching iRacing streams and sometimes some of the IRL drivers pop into streams (and some even stream themselves). It always has been about the money, there are plenty of new good drivers that have gone through ladder starting from karts but at one point there's just not enough seats & they are super expensive. Even some guys that are (were) considered as "factory" drivers don't have a seat because they don't bring in money and there are a lot of them to choose from. I don't want to type any names because who knows what and how it goes behind the scenes but you can tell when driver is "relieved" that he gets a seat for current/next season. Or not, and then he is like not much can do about it.
 
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I raced the New Zealand Superbike Championship Supersport 600 class, we had to pay $1280 and another $40 to supply our own transponder.and if your keen on a extra class chuck another $200 at that.

- race tyre's for weekend $280 depend's how many race's ( and sponsorship)
- Fuel $200 maybe more.
- Pit crew (mate's so beers's and BBQ stuff and hotel for weekend).
-Trailer's/Transsport and Fuel traveling (depending where did cost a small fortune.

at the end of the day was alot cheaper than said " " motorsport once you get to the big league's.
that's a differant story.
 

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