Racing lines: From sim racing to a GT3 win for James Baldwin

A dose of reality

The Oulton Park result stood out because, no matter how much sim-racing technology has come along, you would think that racing and winning in an all-too-real and expensive McLaren at one of the UK’s most challenging circuits must have been daunting. “I had driven it at Paul Ricard before lockdown, but at Oulton everything felt amplified and faster, because the barriers are right next to you,” says Baldwin. “Every morning before I got in the car, I felt nervous, but once you get in, you feel so connected, you just know what it’s going to do next. It’s really enjoyable to drive, so now there’s no need to be nervous.”

What about the physical sensations that a simulator can attempt to replicate but not yet match? “The physicality is different,” he admits, “especially pushing the brake pedal, because you need 120bar of pressure in heavy braking zones, which is quite hard.

“At Paul Ricard, I was hitting 80bar, then at Oulton I was hitting 100bar, so I’ve improved. The heat, even the smell inside a car, that can throw you off. But for the most part, you do what you would in a sim. The core skills are the same – except there’s no room for error.”

Has he met Button yet? “No, but I’ve been interacting with him over social media. I’m sure he’s going to come to some rounds later in the year and he’s quite involved [with the team] behind the scenes. It would be nice to get some advice. You couldn’t hope for a better coach.”

Johnny Herbert returns to F1!

Johnny Herbert is planning an unlikely return to Formula 1 this weekend at the age of 56. But the three-time grand prix winner hasn’t finally lost his marbles (well, not all of them). Instead of taking on Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, he will be lining up to race a 40-year-old Ensign N180B in the Masters Historic Series at Brands Hatch.

The guest appearance is to promote a new scheme run by the National Centre of Motorsport Engineering at the University of Bolton that encourages its students to gain hands-on experience of running a racing car.

Herbert has already tested the Ensign, which was an F1 backmarker in 1981, but it should allow him to be competitive this weekend, at a circuit with which he has a long and bittersweet association.


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