GIF via McLaren

2003 Dutch Karting Championship winner Rudy van Buren gave up on racing at age 16 when the budget to continue became prohibitively expensive. Now he’s been picked as McLaren’s new Formula One simulator driver after beating 30,000 other gamers worldwide in the World’s Fastest Gamer competition.

Van Buren is now 25 and working as a sales manager—a far cry from the traveling circus of racing. Yet he was still able to shine in McLaren’s Formula One simulator in the final round of the World’s Fastest Gamer competition, beating out fellow Dutchman Freek Schothorst, according to a McLaren press release.

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The simulator used in Van Buren’s final shootout was the same one McLaren’s F1 drivers use to develop their cars outside of real-life practice time, and the one that McLaren’s new simulator driver will work with on a regular basis.

The competition started in May 2017, eventually whittling down competitors worldwide to just 12 who got invited to the final rounds at the McLaren Technology Center in Britain. These 12 grand finalists raced around a selection of tracks important to McLaren’s history, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Interlagos, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Suzuka Circuit.

Van Buren’s story is all too common in the lower rungs of racing. Van Buren started racing at age eight in go-karts and showed some real speed, but was forced to quit at age 16 when he couldn’t get the funding to continue. Van Buren told McLaren of his second chance:

You search for a replacement because you’ve still got that racing feeling inside you. You want to go on but there’s no option or route available. That burn inside to win, doing a lap quicker and quicker, lap after lap, it’s a feeling that you can’t express.

Every boy that starts karting dreams about F1, and at a certain point that dream just vanishes. Now by winning World’s Fastest Gamer, I can relive that dream.

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Holy crap, this rules. It’s refreshing to see someone get an “in” with an F1 team through a more accessible path than the usual one nowadays, where a lot of parental cash is usually needed just to get started in racing.

There are far more Rudy van Burens in the world than Lance Strolls, and so many of us want to see the most talented drivers get to shine regardless of how well funded their family is. So, here’s hoping this works well for McLaren, and opens the doors for other gamers to get a second chance in motorsports.

One of the partners behind World’s Fastest Gamer has some experience getting gamers to work behind the wheel of real-life race cars: Darren Cox, the man largely considered the mastermind behind Nissan’s GT Academy. So, maybe fill a Le Mans seat next? You know you want to, McLaren...