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Esports WTCR champion Baldi: Racing online is mentally tough, racing in real life is my dream

After claiming seven wins and scoring 309 points, it’s easy to assume that M1RA Esports driver Gergő Báldi had an easy run to the 2020 Esports WTCR Championship title on RaceRoom. However, as the Hungarian online racing sensation explained, finishing the five-event season on top took plenty of preparation and mental strength.

You successfully defended your Esports WTCR title but how did you prepare?
“The lucky thing was the behaviour of the digital Hyundai i30 N TCR didn’t change much so my preparations from last season really came in handy and I could use the data. But I also put in the extra practice time to be ready for the races.”

How tough was the 2020 season?
“It was really tough. My whole year was filled with competitions and that mentally drains the driver heavily. As this is such a mental sport this was a really crucial point in the season.”

You faced two tracks new to Esports WTCR on RaceRoom, MotorLand Aragón and Circuit Zolder. How hard were they to learn and master?
“They were hard, especially Zolder because it was a shorter track than Aragón and I knew the field would be extremely close. I saw it during my preparations for Aragón with my team-mates – who are really fast guys, all of them – that my pace could be good there. But in Zolder I was really jumping into the unknown, I didn’t know what to expect and it was so close that even one tenth of a second made up 10 places more or less.”

What processes do you follow to be quick at a new venue like Zolder?
“Well, I never thought I was competitive there and that made me practice a little bit more, to extract every inch of the track. Because I never thought I could be competitive I tried to improve and improve. At the end of the qualifying, I had a really good lap but I thought the others had some time left in them.”

With a second Esports WTCR title secured what’s next?
“I will have some break in the next month because it was mentally quite draining with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the races I have done. Next year I will try to come back stronger because the competition is extremely tough in the team, we have very good drivers in the M1RA team and outside we also have strong competition. If I want to stay on top I will need to improve.”

How good can you become?
“I am quite hard on myself and I will criticise myself the most because I found out that this works for me to constantly improve, not if I try to hide my mistakes or try to find something or someone else to blame. I saw my race pace wasn’t that good, I don’t know if that was the car or if that was due to me. It’s something I need to improve but there is always something to improve, it’s never that you’ve done everything perfectly. I will try to focus on those things.”

What role does the M1RA team play in your success?
“Because M1RA was a racing team first, we get something extra from Norbi [Michelisz], Dávid [Bári], and every other member. We get a lot of support in terms of how to work professionally. Since we joined M1RA we feel like professionals and that helps us in the preparation and to work more efficiently. We try to improve on driving styles, on managing the lap times in the races or about the whole process and how we prepare for the weekends. It’s a really big plus and I’m really proud to represent them.”

Would racing for M1RA in the WTCR one day appeal to you?
“Definitely, that would be a dream come true, it’s very far away but I am working hard for that. It’s my next big project in the coming times, I will try to focus on getting with M1RA into the WTCR but it’s difficult and you can’t take anything guaranteed. I will focus on what I can do now but I hope the opportunity comes one day and I can compete with WTCR drivers in real life. I am in the best place to achieve my dreams.”

So you believe you have what it takes to transfer your online skills into real-life racing?
“You can never know but today’s simulators are quite advanced and you can translate those skills into real life. We have seen it so many times. I don’t have to say that but Norbi [Michelisz] started like this as well and we could see [in the WTCR in 2019] he was the best of the best. Definitely the simulator can be a good tool to learn the things and the skills that I can use in real life.”

You had the opportunity to visit a WTCR event at the Hungaroring earlier this year, while of course observing the COVID-19 protocols. What was that like?
“It was crazy. I have been watching these guys on the TV, and then giving interviews after they did, and being in the same environment was an amazing feeling but I never thought this would happen.”

How important is online racing, particularly when so many restrictions are still in place?
“When people couldn’t race in real life, they could show their sponsors they are still racing and they could stay sharp. We can see so many drivers use simracing when they have real racing because very similar skills are needed.”

Finally, leading WTCR drivers Yann Ehrlacher and Esteban Guerrieri have both proved to be competitive in Esports WTCR. What do you think of their level?
“If a real driver practices they can be just as good as somebody who does it for a long time because they have the skills. The time is the question with them. They have just finished the season and maybe they are exhausted and didn’t have much time available. But I am 100 per cent sure they can be on a very high level in simracing because the skill is there and they are very good.”