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F1 Esports Champion to Make Single Seater Debut

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Brendon Leigh in a Mercedes-AMG F1 Car
Photo: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport | YouTube

Brendon Leigh, the reigning back-to-back Formula 1 Esports Series champion, will make his single-seater racing debut in the Avon Tyres BRSCC National Formula Ford 1600 championship.

Leigh has joined the Kevin Mills Racing team and will compete in the season opener at Snetterton as well as in the following race at Oulton Park. He may also appear sporadically at future events in 2019.

According to team boss Kevin Mills, Leigh showed good speed in his first three days of testing with KMR. “He was fast straight away,” Mills said. “He wasn’t too different to my other two drivers really. His lap times were fairly similar. He’ll go well.”

Some question whether Leigh has what it takes to make it in real racing, as he made a name for himself in a virtual F1 series that uses the Codemasters F1 games, which are not as realistic as some other simulation titles like Assetto Corsa or iRacing.

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However, we’ve seen great drivers produced by other virtual-to-reality programs like Nissan GT Academy, which uses the even less realistic Gran Turismo games. Leigh also worked on his physical fitness for 2018, losing more than 44 pounds in the process, a testament to his commitment to the sport.

The young Briton even has some real-life racing experience under his belt, having competed for a place in the Race of Champions over the past two years. In fact, Mills didn’t even know Leigh was a simracing champion when he gave him his first test.

“He just asked to come and do a test two months ago. I didn’t even know who he was — my son knew who he was, I didn’t know!” Mills said. “He tested and he went quite well. I thought it would just be a one-off but then he came back and did two more days and he was very good again.”

Despite his dominance on the virtual track, Leigh wasn’t above using what some would call dirty tactics, such as deliberately slowing down in a corner to cause the competitor behind him to rear-end him and damage his front wing. Those kinds of moves, and that kind of mentality, won’t cut it in real racing, so hopefully he’ll mature as a driver. He is still just 19, after all.

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