James Baldwin is now a driver for Jenson Team Rocket RJN in the GT World Challenge Europe championship, having won the second season of the World’s Fastest Gamer competition.
The Brit’s drive for the McLaren GT team co-owned by 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button was his $1million value prize for beating the other nine gamers in WFG2.
It was a tough road to earn that drive. Baldwin was one of eight hand picked racers who joined the Gear.Club qualifier Riley Gerster, and the winner of the rFactor2 World’s Fastest Gamer qualifying race Erhan Jajovski.
Baldwin was picked, at least in part, for winning the 2019 eROC competition, where he beat two time F1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh.
The 10 gamers were split into two teams, a blue team headed by 2011 GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough and an orange team lead by the winner of the first World’s Fastest Gamer competition Rudy van Buren.
The 10 gamers faced a 12 day long event in which gamers faced a mixture of real world driving, simracing and physical tests in a tour across the USA.
Baldwin got off to an impressive start as he qualified on pole and won the first event, a sim race on rFactor 2 that was held on a rooftop at night in downtown Los Angeles.
The gamers also visited the ‘Batcave’, a movie location used for Batman, The Dark Knight. There they were subjected to a range of physical and mental tests, including a colour identification true or false test.
They were shown the name of a colour on screen and if the colour the word was written in matched the word itself then it was true. But if it was say the word brown written in the colour pink then it was false.
This test was done partially to measure their reaction times, but also their heart rate and brain strain while doing it.
Doing a test such as this often helps simracers to get into a state of zen like focus without putting too much physical or mental strain on themselves, useful for energy conservation and keeping mentally sharp during a long race.
From there they got to drive a range of supercars from manufacturers including Lamborghini, Ferrari and McLaren at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Following that they then pounded around in the Mitjet EXR LV02 racing cars, tackling the challenges of driving in the real world without power steering, ABS or other electronic driver aids. The stints in both cars were done to get any idea of the gamers’ real world driving ability.
The first elimination event took place at Willow Springs International Raceway. The finalists faced a hot lap challenge to close out a day of running at the track in which they had to impress the two team captains of Mardenborough and van Buren.
At this stage both the orange and blue teams lost one gamer each. Fabian Portillo and Jonathan Wong were the two people to be eliminated.
Next up the gamers were thrown into the deep end with some off road driving in Sprint Cars at Merced Fairgrounds Speedway.
Of the contestants, only Mitchell De Jong had driven something similar before, so the 800 horsepower machines were a fearsome beast for the remaining gamers to get used to.
Another challenge thrown the way of the top eight was all about teamwork along with physical and mental strength. The first task of that day was an orienteering challenge. The orange and blue teams were given a GPS and were asked to visit four points along the scenic California coast.
The orange team of Baldwin, Jajovski, Aurelien Mallett and Gerster took the win. The four gamers successfully worked together, climbing cliff sides and trekking through thorny scrub, to find all four locations before the blue team were able to find theirs.
Other challenges that day included a two ropes challenge and a four-way tug of war that required the team members to combine their physical strengths.
Then it was back to circuit racing and this time around the famous Laguna Seca Raceway. There two more competitors were eliminated, so it was in everybody’s interest to get to grips with the circuit and master the iconic Corkscrew corner.
It was only at this point in the competition that the gamer who qualified via a mobile phone app, Gerster, was eliminated along with pro Project Cars 2 player Kamil Pawlowski.
Six quickly became four as now instead of one member of each team being eliminated, any two people were able to be sent home. Before the judges decided who should go the competition’s final gaming event, this time held in San Francisco, took place.
In the end two team orange team members – Mallet and Jajovski – were knocked out, despite Jajovski winning the virtual race. The decision was made on the view that Mallet hadn’t been as consistent as the others and Jajovski hadn’t performed as well in the real world challenges.
The final four participants visited coastal Carmel before heading back to Las Vegas for the grand finale. There they were put through one final, gruelling physical challenge. The footwork and sprinting course left the finalists gasping for air, and even losing their lunches, on the otherwise-idyllic beach.
Finally the remaining four racers took to a racetrack one final time to see who would be crowned the champion. In a one lap shootout qualifying session Baldwin made a mistake and qualified for the four car race in second.
However Baldwin soon passed polesitter de Jong and then built up a 10-second lead. That meant Baldwin was crowned the second ever World’s Fastest Gamer.
Before the competition Baldwin’s real world racing experience was minimal, limited only to karting and Formula Ford.
Since winning he’s had a chance to drive his GT3 car around the Paul Ricard track in France for pre-season testing.