The drive formed part of the prize for winning the WFG competition, which assembled a group of gamers from several different platforms for a tournament held in California last October. Following a series of tests, the judging panel – which included former F1 drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello – chose the British driver as the winner.
That saw Baldwin selected as one of the drivers for the Jenson Team Rocket RJN outfit, a partnership between ex-F1 world champion Jenson Button and Oxfordshire-based RJN Motorsport. RJN is a name well known in the virtual world as the team responsible for starting the careers of all of the GT Academy winners, during that competition’s eight-year life.
The RJN team is one of four racing the McLaren 720S GT3 in British GT this season, but like so many others the championship’s schedule has faced disruption from Covid-19. Baldwin has been waiting to make his first start in GT3 since winning WFG, and that opportunity finally came this weekend.
The team almost made a dream start, with Baldwin thinking he’d captured pole position in his very first race. However a track limits infringement saw the stewards strike his time, but nonetheless they started an impressive fourth – behind three other McLaren 720s.
Despite a relative lack of experience, Baldwin held firm throughout his stint and managed to hand over to teammate Michael O’Brien to get the car out in third. O’Brien passed the polesitting McLaren of Ollie Wilkinson to take second, before inheriting the lead courtesy of a pit stop penalty for Jack Mitchell’s McLaren. A late safety car made things a little tense, but O’Brien took the chequered flag by just over two seconds from Wilkinson.
Backed up with a sixth-place finish in the second race, after starting tenth, Baldwin and O’Brien now lead the British GT championship after one round.
Baldwin isn’t the first gamer to win a round of British GT. Jann Mardenborough, one of the GT Academy champions and now racing in Super GT in Japan, famously scored the closest ever win in British GT history – by just 0.022s – in the RJN Motorsport Nissan GT-R at Brands Hatch in 2012.
Lamborghini’s own esports competition, The Real Race, reached the end of its qualification stage this weekend too, with an hour-long race at Laguna Seca. After a race to forget in Suzuka last time out, Jordan Sherratt was the class of the field and took the win from pole by more than 14 seconds, ahead of Gianfranco Gigloli. The Italian had also been in the wars at Suzuka, but kept his second place throughout with a healthy 2.5 second advantage at the end.
However for this race there were three finals slots on offer, and a highly controversial move on the last lap of the race saw this position change hands. Running into what’s officially the second turn at Laguna Seca, Egor Ogorodnikov tapped Marko Pejic three times to take the spot and the finals berth. There’s yet to be any official word on whether there will be post-race consequences for the manoeuvre.
Whether Pejic or Ogorognikov take that position, all 12 slots for the final event next month, at Lamborghini’s headquarters in Sant’Agata, are now taken.
The 2020 season of ADAC GT Masters also got underway this weekend, with the championship - using the Raceroom platform – following the real-world event. Saturday’s first round saw the sim racers head to EuroSpeedway Lausitz for the 40-minute race, as the real drivers also made their way there.
Williams Esports driver Jack Keithley took the victory ahead of teammate Nikodem Wisniewski – who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual earlier in the summer. Nestor Garcia of Red Bull Racing Esports finished third, in a Mercedes 1-2-3, despite the best efforts of Erhan Jajovski in fourth.