Boredom is a funny thing.
Sometimes it leads us to a cupboard full of snacks. And other times, boredom can trigger the need to hop into a simulator to escape the monotonous mechanics of working an engineering job and yearning for slightly more excitement.
For James Baldwin, that’s exactly how he began his career in sim racing.
“I used to do go-karting and stuff when I was younger, and I wanted to try something different. I purely got into it for fun, as most people do,” Baldwin looked almost bashful in our interview over Zoom.
Many know him as the World’s Fastest Gamer. If you’ve yet to check out Season 2 of the docu-series on Amazon Prime, I highly recommend a binge-fest for the weekend. Baldwin was crowned the 2019 champ of the twelve-day intensive sim racing competition, winning a hefty sponsorship prize. He even became the first victorious contestant to receive support for a real-world drive.
From there, his boring engineering life took a backseat to his newfound love. Something he says was “just sheer luck.”
Now driving for both Veloce Esports and AMG Team Petronas, Baldwin’s luck has seemingly shifted into skill, since not only did he hold his own at Le Mans Virtual Series this past weekend… he actually claimed yet another crown by winning the 6 Hours of Spa LMP class.
Due to an interesting strategy by Coanda and a minor blip for Team Redline, Baldwin and the #63 Mercedes car finished on top in the third round of the prestigious virtual event.
“I’m new to Mercedes. And there are not many drivers there. But the ones that are there are really, really, really good.”
Of course, he’s referring to his teammates Bono Huis and Graham Carroll.
“If you pick any driver in the world on rFactor 2, you’d have to say Huis would be one of the best. So, I talked to him about driving styles. His one is perfect for rFactor 2, because his style is he uses the front tyres a lot more than I do. Watching how he drives and his tyre wear management is just phenomenal.
“Graham, as well, is a really quick driver. He drove in real life as well in Formula Ford and won the Walter Hayes Trophy. Both of them are top tier and to be in that team with them… it’s refreshing.”
Refreshing is a great way to describe the British driver’s humble vibe when it comes to his own success, too. In just five years, he’s won the 2019 eROC Invitational, gaining entry to that same year’s Race of Champions, and then again in 2020 alongside Romain Grosjean. The two were crowned victors of the Nations Cup as Team All-Stars during the virtual event.
Baldwin competed in the 2020 British GT Championship, winning his debut race at Oulton Park. He then dominated the British GT Esports Championship in 2021, grabbing three wins in just five races and eventually being named the British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star.
Thanks to Travel Planet’s support, the young star even raced in the 2022 edition of 24 Hours of Spa in June. Ironically enough, Spa would be the circuit where Baldwin eventually would earn his first big win in the LMVS. A feat he credits as being his most memorable moment—aside from Spa 24 Hours in real life—to date.
“It was such a good high, such a great win against some of the best of the best in esports. Coanda, Redline… and it was our first win. My first win with Mercedes. Definitely the most memorable win.”
The cheeky Brit has had plenty of firsts. On October 29th 2022, Baldwin and 471 drivers competed in the FIA Motorsport Games. Representing the United Kingdom in the Esports category, the sensational sim racer took home the gold medal—the UK’s first ever, in fact.
Baldwin’s accomplishments in the virtual world are inspirational to so many. He’s even been named one of the nominees for the 2022 Autosport Awards Esports Driver of the Year. An accolade he’s yet again humbled by.
Still, the 25-year-old strives for more.
“My main goal, to be honest with you, is to be a fully-fledged, full-time professional factory driver or racing river in real life. That is goal number one. Goal number two, I just want to be up there with the top five or top 10 sim racers in the world.”
I’d say he’s already accomplished just that. And all it took was a bit of boredom with the typical to elevate him to easily one of the most sensational British sim racers in the world of esports.
“To get where I’ve managed to get to,” he smiled. “It just is ridiculous. It is insane.
“It is honestly a dream. But I try to stay quite focused on stuff to make sure I can continue doing it because it genuinely is a job I love, which not many people can say they can do. So yeah, just sheer luck, really, how it all turned out.”