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Lucas Blakeley’s GB4 Weekend Was ‘a Dream Come True’ For F1 Esports Champion

Written by Juan Arroyo

Credit - GB4 Championship

Lucas Blakeley's hunting ground doesn't typically lie at the track—physically, that is. The best part of his training is spent on racing simulators, where he hones his talent behind the virtual wheel.

Blakeley, an F1 Esports champion with McLaren Shadow in 2022, recently competed in a solitary round of the GB4 championship at Snetterton, an experience “he never thought he’d get to do.”

Despite testing with the team a few days prior, his participation wasn’t originally planned, he told Divebomb: “It was meant to be just the test, the Thursday and the Friday. To get the news on the Friday that I'd be able to do the racing and qualify was a huge dream come true.”

Blakeley had established a good relationship with KMR Sport earlier in the year, twice racing with the team in Formula Ford at Silverstone and Oulton Park. Team dynamics worked well, but the 21-year-old thought it impossible to run GB4 machinery with the team, much less join them for a race weekend.

Even so, it didn’t stop him from voicing his desire. Sure enough, he received the call for a two day test with KMR Sport on the Monday prior, with the promise of racing in the weekend’s GB4 round resting on his results. Blakeley achieved fourth in qualifying, taking eleventh place in Race 1 after avoiding a collision with another car and two seventh-placed finishes in the remaining races.

Sim racing and GB4 differ in many aspects, but getting used to the physical effects of downforce is top of the priorities list for anyone making the switch; power steering is also nowhere to be found on the Tatuus F4-T014 used by the championship’s drivers. Understanding the intricacies of the car—its limits, kinks, and strengths—was vital to Blakeley in finding his feet.

“The high speed stuff was really the stuff that blew me away,” he said, adding: “it was a massive (amount of) information slammed at me all at once and just trying to absorb it, I think we did really well as a team.” Adapting to new machinery offered the KMR Sport guest driver a chance to revisit the fundamentals. While it’s impossible to replicate the sense of speed on a home simulator, the core part of the job is the same: brake, steer, accelerate.

A self-described perfectionist, Blakeley conceded it took some modifying of his routine practice methods to make the driving enjoyable: “I'm used to trying to be so perfect on the sim that, jumping into the real car, it was refreshing having to strip it back and focus on some of the simpler things.

“I think the sim prepares me as a very useful learning tool, but you're just never gonna get that adrenaline, that speed, that fun that you get driving a car that quick around a track.”

“I think the sim prepares me as a very useful learning tool, but you're just never gonna get that adrenaline, that speed, that fun that you get driving a car that quick around a track.” Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Three years ago, Blakeley wouldn’t have imagined himself where he is today. “No chance, impossible,” he says. Dead last at one stage in the 2020 F1 Esports Series, he was keen to prove himself in a difficult environment.

“I felt like I was getting blamed for too many things that weren't my fault, and I was not happy with how everything was at the time. I knew I had more potential than was being shown and believed in my talent and my ability. From that point on, I basically wanted to prove my worth and my ability to show that I had what it took.”

Since then, the McLaren Shadow driver has mounted two title charges; the latter of which culminated in a championship victory. Blakeley cites his gratitude towards his persistence in adopting the ‘chasing the dream’ slogan as his own.

“Combining [the title win] with getting to do some more things in real life; this was all impossible a few years ago. Without esports and how things have gone for me from 2021 onwards, none of this would have been possible.

“I'm now sitting here having driven a GB4 car, which is something that, if you told me at 14 years old, when I had to stop going karting, that I could do these things and, you know, eight or nine years later—it's insane.”

Beyond his on-track ambitions lies a larger, wide-reaching goal for esports: to eliminate the stigma associated with sim racers transitioning to real life series. Blakeley’s career was given a second chance by esports, as was his competitor Jarno Opmeer’s.

The pair, who have a combined three F1 Esports titles, defeated Valtteri Bottas and Mika Hakkinen at the Race of Champions in January. This is just one of many examples of achievements by drivers of their background—not to be overshadowed by James Baldwin’s 2020 British GT campaign, or Jimmy Broadbent’s 2022 Praga Cup win.

“I think it is a useful asset as a driver because without the sim, I wouldn't be the driver I am today. I think from this fact that sim racing helps you to develop your skill so I think that it will only continue to grow and aid itself with the real life parallels.

“I think the stigmas will get broken down more and more. I don't know how much we're gonna be able to do that, but I think as years go on, more and more opportunities for some races and the world will open up and I hope that I can help break [the stigma].

“If I can help break down that mould and show what's possible, I've made a good impact.”

Credit: McLaren Shadow


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