On Saturday 19th September rFactor 2 racer and 2017 World’s Fastest Gamer Rudy van Buren took the green flag in arguably one of the toughest single make series in the world, at the home of endurance racing at the mighty Circuit de la Sarthe in France.
2020 was always going to be a challenging year for the Dutchman, made doubly so by the world health situation pausing any planned motorsport activities before the racing season even began. Undeterred by these delays, with the help of his Cartech team, van Buren began what would be an extended period of physical and mental preparation for his first season in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland series – easily one of the most competitive and hard fought Porsche single make categories on the world stage.
2020 will mark a first full season in the championship for van Buren, as the Lelystand man takes yet another step up from sim racer to professional racing driver. Having secured the inaugural World’s Fastest Gamer title in 2017, van Buren has been on a roller-coaster journey from Formula One Simulation driver at McLaren to race winner in the national Porsche Sports Cup Deutscland – firmly cementing the Dutchman as a future talent worth keep an eye on in the seasons ahead.
That said, past success would mean little as the 2020 Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland travelled to France for their opening weekend of the season, kick-starting their racing year as a star support act for the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours race – the world’s biggest stage for endurance racing fans.
Despite having considerably less experience than many of his rivals, the weekend started strongly aboard the #157 rFactor 2 sponsored machine. The two opening practice sessions of the season produced plenty of valuable track time for van Buren, who displayed a composed performance on this difficult circuit to firmly place within the top 10 positions once the chequered flag fell on Friday afternoon.
When the pressure really starts to ramp up we get to see what the drivers can achieve, and qualifying at Le Mans would prove to be the ultimate test of driver skill, bravery and mental fortitude. At over 13km in length and with lap times coming in at over 4 minutes long, the drivers have little time in which to bed in their cars and pick up the speed needed for a top grid position.
Having spent considerably less time behind the wheel of the Porsche 911 than many of his rivals, qualification would be the first significant test of Rudy’s raw pace and ability against the packed grid of cars, something that the Dutchman displayed in fine style with a composed drive to seventh place of the German series runners, which translated to a 16th place starting position once the French Carrera Cup runners are filtered into the equation in the mightly impressive 52 car grid. A very solid start indeed!
If the pressure and expectation alone wasn’t enough to get the heart beating a little faster on Saturday morning, Rudy would have one further challenge thrown his way ahead of the very first green flag of the season… rain!
Yes, a little bit of the wet stuff is often a leveller amongst drivers, however for someone keen to just put down the laps and build up their experience in a new category of racing, throwing down a some water on a track that is already low grip thanks to the long straights and necessity to run low downforce configurations for maximum straight-line speed, damp conditions into the mix makes the task of bringing home a strong result ever more challenging behind the wheel of the stunning Porsche – as displayed by Michael Fastbender, the 43-year-old Irish actor losing the car in the early stages of the race as the field circulated under the safety car!
Acknowledging the difficult conditions, race control made the wise decision to start running under safety car conditions as the drivers acclimatized to the new weather, preventing opportunities for van Buren to make strides from his initial 16th place starting position.
With just under 40 minutes of the scheduled 45 left of the clock, the pace car peeled into the pits and the first race of a brand-new adventure would begin for van Buren and his rFactor 2 sponsored Cartech Motorsport Porsche 911 – a baptism of fire amidst the rain of France!
With conditions remaining far from ideal in the opening race, and competing against rivals from the French Porsche series already on their second race of the year, van Buren performed exceptionally well to keep the car on track and fight hard with those around him on the track.
Despite having only taken to the track for the very first time on Friday morning, van Buren had an exceptional first 30 minutes of racing, calmly bringing the #157 machine well inside the top ten as others around him made mistakes and fought for their own slice of real-estate at the French venue. With just over 10 minutes of racing left on the clock, van Buren found himself in the lofty position of 7th overall, just a couple of seconds shy of what would be the fight of the race for the top six places. Sadly, wet conditions, a tight field and a significant disadvantage in terms of car / track / championship experience would bite Rudy hard in the final few laps, as the Dutchman finding out the tough way that elbows out means exactly that in this series, as Florian Latoore spun round the Cartech machine exiting one of the many Le Mans chicanes. Latoore would slip down the order to 15th following the contact, with van Buren fairing less well as he recovered back to the circuit and outside the top 20 overall runners.
With just over 2 minutes left on the clock as the final safety car to of the event came to a close, van Buren managed to recover his race in fine style to cross the line a very respectable 10th in class and 21st overall, just 23 seconds behind eventual race winner, 2020 Porsche Supercup Champion Larry Ten Voorde.
An outstanding start to what should be a very entertaining adventure to watch as the season progresses – and proof positive that sim racers can very much make the transition to a real world motorsport series.
If you missed it first time around, you can catch the opening round once again in all of it’s glory below: