F1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh will make his single-seater debut by competing in the BRSCC National Formula Ford 1600 championship.
Leigh, who raced with Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports in 2018, will race with Kevin Mills Racing at the season opener in Snetterton this weekend. He is also set to take part in the next round at Oulton Park on May 11.
BRSCC’s National Formula Ford 1600 Championship uses 1600cc Ford Kent spec engines and wingless cars with minimal aerodynamics. Leigh conducted three days worth of testing ahead of his debut this weekend.
Leigh will race with Kevin Mills’ racing team, who was the vice-champion last year with Michael Eastwell. The team will field Neil Maclennan and Michael Macpherson for the season, but Mills was impressed with how quickly the nineteen year old got up to speed behind the wheel of one of his cars.
“He was fast straight away,” Mills said to FF1600website.com.“He wasn’t too different to my other two drivers really. His lap times were fairly similar. He’ll go well.
“I don’t know about his racecraft and being used to having 20 other cars all around him but certainly speed-wise, he’s compared quite well with my other two (drivers).”
The Reading-born driver has had previous experience of driving in real-life cars as well as racing on the simulators, having competed in eROC at the Race of Champions for the last two seasons. He lost out on both finals to McLaren Shadow driver Enzo Bonito and Veloce Esports‘ James Baldwin.
Leigh is one of few drivers to transition from Esports into real-life racing, with the first coming from the infamous Nissan GT Academy in collaboration with the Gran Turismo games. Jann Mardenborough became the noticeable star in the series, leading into a career racing in FIA European Formula 3, GP3 Series and taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Nissan.
Other noticeable names include Sebastian Job, who won a drive with B-M Racing in FF1600 after winning through a JMR Scholarship. Job now is with Red Bull Racing Esports. Igor Fraga, who won last year’s McLaren Shadow Project has a career in racing in series online and in the real-world in the U.S. F2000 National Championship.
Despite being a two-time F1 Esports champion and one of the best in the worlds, Mills admits that he didn’t know who Leigh was until his son told him before 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!” commented Mills.
“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.”