It hasn’t just been the one World’s Fastest Gamer winner that has been taking part in real-world motorsport this year as the inaugural winner of the competition, Rudy van Buren, has also been competing in real-life races.
While season two winner James Baldwin has been making headlines with his race win and multiple podium finishes in his first year of British GT – where Jenson Button joined him as a team-mate – van Buren has been racing in Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland.
It wasn’t his first time in the championship as he took part in three races last year and had a single race start in the Formula 1-supporting Porsche Supercup.
This year van Buren raced for the whole season and his results steadily improved, with a best finish of fourth at the Lausitzring.
It takes some drivers years to be able to extract the maximum from the rear-engined 911. He may have missed out on his first podium finish but he’s happy with the level of progression over the course of the season.
“I knew it was going to be an uphill battle compared to most of the frontrunners, with them doing this for multiple years in the Porsche Supercup and with me being the newbie, but I embraced the challenge,” van Buren told The Race
“Obviously we were off-pace in the beginning, there was potential but we were clearly not quick enough to go with the podium contenders. But in the compact season we had with so many races in such a short time, I think we optimised everything.
“We showed, especially in the last two weekends, that speed-wise it was at a minimum P4 with a sniff at a podium, sadly not the podium result we hoped for but was close twice.
“I need to raise my hand for not optimising it once and the other time we had a mechanical issue, but overall the season has shown steep progression towards the front. I’m not saying I am there with the frontrunners, but I’m definitely way closer than in the beginning and it’s a great stepping stone towards next year.”
A top-three finish never came to fruition but van Buren did take the lead of the first race at the Lausitzring, getting a good launch off the grid to move up from third to first.
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He made a mistake and ran wide into the gravel which dropped him down the order, crossing the line at the end of the race in sixth.
Race starts were previously an area that van Buren needed to work on and he spent considerable time getting better at them. Despite the extensive practice, his amazingly fast start on the damp track caught even himself off guard.
“I think there was nobody in the paddock before that race, including me, expecting that to happen into Turn 1,” van Buren said.
“But as soon as it happened and I saw the launch I had, I knew it was go time. The starts at the Sachsenring were terrible, after that we went to an airfield where we did test starts and at Red Bull Ring it worked out, at Lausitzring we were even better.
“In the second race there was an issue at the start with smoke coming from the radiator which put me off so I blew the start on that occasion but normally they were good. So it’s these little pieces of the puzzle that keep coming more and more, getting more comfortable with the tyres over a race run, learning little tricks with what to do with the brake bias, how to attack people in the race.
“It’s all these little things which you have to do wrong before you learn how to do them right.”
While he may be new to real-world racing, van Buren has had some roles with major motorsport teams since winning the first season of World’s Fastest Gamer. Those include being McLaren’s official simulator driver, his prize for winning the first running of the competition, as well as becoming a simulator development driver for Formula E squad Mahindra Racing in 2019.
Despite that, van Buren was keen to make the move to real-world driving and saw the one-make Porsche series as a way to get his racing career off the ground.
“I did a lot of sim training in Holland and we looked at what is a good stepping stone into the racing world.” van Buren said.
“Since I worked with so many of the Dutch Porsche drivers or I’ve been around people that did the sim training with me who drive in Porsche Carrera Cup, I thought ‘why not give it a crack?’
“In 2018 with McLaren I was hoping to get a GT4 or a GT3 test, I did tonnes of cool things that year but not a racecar test. Then I needed to pick my battle and I think that picking Porsche is the right way.
“It’s arguably the most difficult car to get on top of, but that’s the challenge and I know that if I can master this car I can drive anything. So being close to the frontrunners in the last races, and the three out in front are Porsche Supercup winners, so it shows it’s possible.
“I just need that extra little step next year but with the new car and more testing we could charge for the podium spots.”
Nothing has been decided for next year yet but van Buren is hoping to continue racing in Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland, or make the move up to Porsche Supercup.
The cars that will be used next year will be slightly different to what van Buren has driven previously, a fact which he hopes will give him an advantage if he races again in 2021.
“Next year there’s a new car, that is the magic card for next year,” van Buren said.
“The main thing for me this year was experience in the car and you only get that by driving. With next year being a new car, completely different from a mechanical side, more aero on the front, wider front tyres, it’s going to put everyone back on a blank page.
“So instead of running uphill and trying to catch up and learn while they are in their comfort zone, everybody’s going to start from zero and then it’s up to me to show that I can progress in the same way.
“I’m ready to grab the new car with two hands and start searching to optimise the new machine.”