The nice thing about music is that the meaning of a song often is different depending on who you ask. I picked this song by Depeche Mode as it has a very positive association to me, the “best friend” in the lyrics in this case probably being the race car you depend on when competing.
Some of you might know Rudy, who has been on stage in a keynote at our DevCon a few years back after winning the World’s Fastest Gamer competition. He is the reason I’m sitting in the Porsche hospitality tent at the Nurburgring on a Saturday evening, typing away and observing the scene. A scene that, earlier in the day, gave me flashbacks to an adventure we had with Luminis regarding AutomaniaX and developing a racing simulation for Porsche, but that is probably a story best told again over a beer or two!
Today’s story probably started some years before that, when a young Rudy started his career in karting. He was quite successful, becoming dutch champion in 2003, but still he had to stop for a reason that hinders many talented drivers in the sport: lack of money. Fast forward a few years and, by pure chance, he ran into a copy of GTR2 in a local video rental shop. Without a wheel or pedals for his computer, driving this simulation with the keyboard was such a fun experience that he went and bought a wheel and his own copy of GTR2 and started “simracing”. The amount of realism, even in those days, amazed him and made him realize this might be an opportunity to race again! His new-found passion for simracing soon had him win races and top leaderboards. Around that time, we got in touch and he even briefly drove for my team, Simracing For Holland.
Then, in 2017, McLaren announced the World’s Fastest Gamer competition, spanning several different simulations including rFactor 2. Rudy was one of the many who decided to enter. He qualified quite easily and in a close race, ended up winning the rFactor 2 final, making him one of a small group of finalists that were invited to Woking, where McLaren have their headquarters, to compete for the overall win. I vividly remember talking to him before that trip. Rudy was leaving nothing to chance, working on his physical and mental fitness and in general doing everything he could to prepare for the tests they could throw at him. He really did not need any advice from me. The only thing I told him at that point was to never give up, always be positive and open and really treat this whole experience as an extended job interview as the people over there would probably be the ones you ended up working with.
Needless to say, Rudy came out on top that week in Woking and went on to become an official F1 simulator driver for McLaren. In the year that followed, he drove many of McLaren’s ultra fast road cars on different racing tracks and competed in the Race of Champions, where for the first time he showed off his talent and skills amongst many extremely experienced and successful racing drivers. Probably the personal highlight for him was the opportunity McLaren gave him to drive James Hunt’s M23 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Tall as he is, like James Hunt, he had to cut off the noses of his shoes to even fit and for this demonstration run they even had to take out the whole chair to make him fit in the car. Truly a once in a lifetime experience.
The story does not end at Goodwood though as in 2019 Rudy set his sights on trying to get into the Porsche GT3 Cup car with the goal of competing a full season in 2020. For those of you not familiar with this car, it is a 485hp race car that looks a lot like the 911’s you can see roaming the streets worldwide. They race this car in competitions in “Carrera Cups” multiple different countries and the “Super Cup”.
End of July, during the F1 weekend at Hockenheim, Rudy debuted in the Porsche Super Cup at the same track. Only having driven the car once before at a test day, the goal was to learn and get as much experience in the car as possible. The weekend was a success, he showed pace, kept out of trouble and finished mid-pack which for someone debuting in this series is certainly promising!
A week ago, the ADAC GT Masters, that the German Carrera Cup is a part of, visited Circuit Zandvoort. Rudy had found a sponsor for the race with Bavaria and knowing the track well from the simulator and his early racing days, he set out to try and gain experience. Saturday he ran a fast qualification, getting the car on the grid in the top 10. The races themselves saw him struggling with the standing start, lacking some experience with the racing clutch in the Porsche. He lost a few places at each start. Ultimately, he managed to make up for that later in the race and even scored some prize money for the team. Experience gained!
So when Rudy called last Tuesday to talk about supporting him at the Nürburgring, rFactor 2 decided to team up with World’s Fastest Gamer to ensure he could drive there, starting with four test sessions on the Thursday. We quickly came up with a logo design to match the livery of the car and Hans and me planned a trip to the ring to cheer him on. Training sessions on Thursday were good, he was consistent and the gap with the fastest drivers was smaller than in the races before, which was an encouraging start. Friday’s training was a bit tougher, with the whole team struggling to find the right tyre pressure and dropping a few places, also because the rest of the field got closer, time wise.
On Saturday the qualification session started early. Armed with two sets of fresh tyres, the first run was troubled by a safety car in the opening laps which meant everybody was struggling a bit to get the tyres to the optimum temperature. The whole field was very close and Rudy was in P19 as he came into the pits for new rubber. The second run he improved, initially to P17 only to end up on P18 at the end of the session. Your two fastest laps actually determine the starting positions for race 1 and 2, so he ended up starting 17th and 18th respectively.
Race 1 was later that same day. Having done a few more practice starts before he had a great start and immediately gained a few places. A lot is always happening in the opening lap and as the cameras focused on his teammate loosing control of the car, getting hit and flying off the track, the next shot saw Rudy flying through the gravel trap. Out of sight of the cameras, he ended up getting hit by another car from behind really hard. The car broke and he ended up with no brakes at the end of the gravel trap. That ended his race obviously and upon inspection after the race, the car had significant damage. Racing is a tough sport and even though he was clearly not to blame for this damage, he still had to pay a significant amount of money to cover the repairs. Anticipating a wet race the day after and possibly having a car that might not have been fully fixed, he assessed the risks and concluded that chances were too high to end up in an accident the next day again, so he decided not to participate in the second race on Sunday and focus his energy on the next weekend at Hockenheim.
All of this is first of all a lesson in character building. Never giving up on the dream. The racing world is a tough environment. You have to beat everybody and that statistically is a really tough challenge. You can’t let that deter you from pushing as hard as you can though. Especially when bad things happen, you need to get over them, learn, look ahead and focus on your goals again. Failure is not an option. I deeply respect people who are so determined, and in this case I am very confident that Rudy will become highly successful in the racing world!