James Baldwin has been crowned as World’s Fastest Gamer, which will see the 22-year-old Brit earning a $1 million real-world race drive for 2020.
Baldwin was among the ten gamers that took part in a 12-day shootout on the West Coast, which included competitions at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Willow Springs Raceway and Thermal Club before concluding in Las Vegas.
Split into two teams, led by inaugural winner Rudy van Buren and Nissan GT Academy graduate Jann Mardenborough, the contestants completed a series of on-track, virtual and physical tests prior to Tuesday’s final race, which was won by Baldwin.
Baldwin’s performances were judged by Juan Pablo Montoya and fellow ex-Formula 1 star Rubens Barrichello and competition founder Darren Cox.
“It feels surreal to be the World’s Fastest Gamer,” said Baldwin, a driver for Veloce Esports and the Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Esports team.
“I don’t believe it yet, and I won’t believe it for a few days. My whole career, my whole life almost have revolved around racing. This makes it all worth it.
“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 will soon begin an intensive driver development program in the UK to prepare for his professional race debut next year, which is understood to come in GT4 Europe with a to-be-announced team and co-driver.
He was the only remaining member of van Buren’s orange team, with Mardenborough’s blue team members Mitchell de Jong, Sebastian Job and Max Benecke making up the rest of the final four.
“James had great speed, great energy, great composure, every single step of the way. He’s also just a sponge for information. He was the clear choice for us,” said van Buren, who became a full-time simulator driver with McLaren in 2017.
“You need to be ready to go first thing next year. James is really the only one that is ready to be a real-world racing driver immediately, starting right now.”
Though he had prior racing experience in karting and Formula Ford, Baldwin shifted his focus to sim racing full time after being unable to raise the funds necessary to continue his on-track career.
“One of the things that really drove me, personally, to decide on James personally is that he was just a little more complete,” Montoya said.
“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.
“Today, he made a mistake in qualifying, but thought his race pace would be better than the competitors. It might sound cocky, but it’s important that he’s confident and believes in his ability.
“He’s grown a lot over the course of this competition. The big thing with him is that he really wanted to learn. He takes advantage of everything you tell him and applies it and that made a big difference.”
The 2019 World’s Fastest Gamer competition took 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.