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Interview: winner of McLaren's World's Fastest Gamer

25-year-old Dutchman Rudy Van Buren is officially the world's fastest gamer

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A 25 year-old sales manager from Holland has won McLaren’s ‘World’s Fastest Gamer’ esports competition, and will become one of the team’s official simulator drivers. Rudy Van Buren beat fellow countryman Freek Schothorst in yesterday’s four-hour final (moral of the story: the Dutch are good at video games), which saw the pair try to “demonstrate the speed and agility required by all top racing drivers, but also the engineering know-how and mental and physical ability required to develop, refine and engineer an F1 car” in one of the team’s hyper-realistic sims. 

We had seven minutes with Rudy post-win and McLaren’s director of esports Ben Payne. Here’s what they had to say for themselves…

TG: How’d you get into gaming? 

RVB: Well I was karting from the age of eight until about 16, and then it stopped. That sense of speed and wanting to race has always been there, and sim racing was kind of a replacement for me. At first it was for fun, and I didn’t even know about the online part of it, but as soon as I found that out I was pretty much hooked. And look where it’s got me now – nine years later, McLaren comes with this competition and I’m as close as I’ve ever been to my dream of ten years ago. Simply amazing. I just saw an advert on Facebook on the rFactor 2 page. It said they were working together with McLaren on this project, so I went through them. 

TG: What was the hardest part about competing in WFG? 

RVB: I think the most difficult thing from the whole experience was keeping your head held high through all the different exercises. We were tested on so many different things, you knew there were things in there where you’re not as good as others might be. Performing at the top of your personal level and making sure that on average during the week you still stand out. If I need to pick anything out that’s more hard it would have been racing on one of the platforms that I’m less familiar with, but even then for everyone you’ve got the same steering wheel and pedals so it’s just about adapting and showing the best you can even when you’re not comfortable. 

TG: For the final you spent four hours in McLaren’s state-of-the-art sim. How different is it to playing a commercial video game – something like iRacing or Gran Turismo? 

RVB: First thing that stands out is that driving these simulators is actually a physical thing. It’s not like you’re sitting at home with your desk chair, where you get away with it. In the simulation you have to apply the proper brake pressure, the steering is heavy. So it’s a proper workout. The driving itself – obviously F1 is lightening fast to drive with. The cars have a lot of power – and every little mistake gets punished. It’s hard to compare it to the sims we run at home. It’s the thing that comes closest to driving a real Formula One car. You both run with a set of pedals and a wheel, and that’s about it. You know where to brake and the different techniques for turning in or what to do when you have different problems with the car – but the home sims are not that close to the real thing. 

TG: How do you think the WFG process could be improved for next year’s competition? 

BP: It’s the first time we’ve done this. There’s a lot of learning anytime you start a new project. There’s a whole host of learning we can take in terms of expansion for next year. We need to try and get more gamers involved, tell gamers on the basic sims how to prepare for these qualifiers. There’s a whole host of things we could do next year. It’s about sitting down with Darren [Cox], and the guys in both the sims here – MAT and the race team – to figure out how to make the event bigger next year. But the appetite is there. 

Nothing is set in stone for next year yet, but you’d imagine we’d have people who will qualify next year (this year half the competitors qualified, the others were pre-selected by a panel of judges). Again we need to sit down with Darren and the team and figure it out. If there’s a 100 per cent was of everybody having a chance of getting here – a qualifier won this year. That’s a good message. 

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