The United Kingdom’s James Baldwin has taken the gold medal in the esports discipline at the FIA Motorsport Games, to give the country its first ever category gold.
Baldwin had been among the pre-event favorites, coming off the back of a very strong season in a variety of championships using the same Assetto Corsa Competizione platform in use at the Motorsport Games.
After successfully defending his solo title in the GT World Challenge Europe sprint bracket, he recently claimed the Intercontinental GT Challenge endurance title with team-mates George Boothby and Eamonn Murphy. Not only that, Baldwin claimed the Alpine Esports series title and was drafted into the Garage 59 squad for the 24 Hours of Spa and took the sim race win in the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series at the event.
However the British driver wasn’t top of the timesheets going into the Quarter Finals. That honor went to Brazil’s Igor de Oliveira Rodrigues, a finalist in Lamborghini’s The Real Race North/Latin America region, ahead of Chris Harteveld of the Netherlands who won the silver category in GT World Challenge Americas this year.
The trio was kept apart until the semi-finals by the event draw, and each came through their quarter-finals without much of a hitch. Rodrigues would cruise through from lights to flag, while Harteveld had to settle for second after being passed by Czechia’s Martin Kadlecik, in unbroadcast events.
Baldwin’s quarter-final did make it to the stream though, and he delivered a crushing 33-second victory in a 60-minute race. In fact such was Baldwin’s pace that his QF ended up being a lap longer than the others and one driver didn’t make it into the qualifying top ten as he ran out of fuel…
The semi-finals saw Baldwin and Rodrigues go head to head, and it was the Brazilian who’d lead for much of the first half of the race. However with Harteveld gaining on the duo, Baldwin darted into the lead just before the pit stops and dragged clear to the finish by a comfortable 2.6 seconds — made wider by a five-second penalty for Rodrigues for a pit-lane entry infringement.
Kadlecik was victorious in a bad-tempered second semi-final which also saw Alberto Garcia Gomez (Spain) and Philippa Boquida (Australia) on the podium — and plenty of carnage behind.
Baldwin would start on pole for the final, and he was able to stay clear of a turn one racing incident involving Kadlecik and Harteveld that saw the Czech driver slide off track and collect Rodrigues even as the Brazilian was trying to avoid him.
That effectively meant the British driver could escape up the road a little, building enough of a gap from Harteveld — in an identical McLaren 720S GT3 — to keep him at arm’s length and run to his own pace right through to the checkered flag. Harteveld would remain in second throughout to keep Gomez, the only non-McLaren in the top ten, in the bronze medal spot. Defending champion Australia could only place fourth.