Turkish racer Cem Bolukbasi has made the change from the virtual world of sim racing and F1 eSports to real life racing in Formula 2.
It’s not very often you see a pro eSports F1 sim racer get an opportunity to race in Formula 2, well, Turkish racer Cem Bolukbasi has made that transition into the real life motorsport world.
Following a successful Esports career in the F1 Series, Turkish racer Bolukbasi is approaching his official F2 debut behind the wheels of a Charouz Racing System car. He’ll become the first ever sim racing driver to transition from the screen to an actual track in this feat.
“I haven’t really had time to let it sink in,” Bolukbasi told the media. “I think the realization is kicking in more and more every hour. It was a big dream that has actually happened, so it’s quite difficult to put into words, but it’s very exciting, and I’m thrilled.”
The 23-year-old Turkish native began his racing career on the virtual racetracks of F1, starting in 2017, but the previous handful of years have seen him make a name in sports car and single-seater championships.
Bolukbasi initially contested in the 2017 and 2018 F1 Esports Series to dedicate his time in two complete seasons of GT4 racing in 2020/21, collecting two victories inside the Pro-Am league.
His focus on single-seaters saw the youngster compete in the F3 Asian Championship in 2021, which eventually led to a winning debut race in EuroFormula Open under the tutelage of Van Amersfoort Racing. Before the year ended, another victory, Spain sealed the 5th position in the standings.
“If I were never in F1 Esports, I would never have had the chance to get into a real car. I would not be where I am now,” Bolukbasi commented.
“I think it’s also essential to be the first gamer to do this because It can give people hope. If people see that one person can do it, they will believe they can do it as well. If I can go from F1 Esports to Formula 2, I think anyone can.”
After a successful 2021 in F3 competitions, Bolukbasi was faced with his first F2 test before the year’s end. He tested himself in Abu Dhabi again, racing a Van Amersfoort Racing car.
“I was in Abu Dhabi in 2017 for F1 Esports as an Esports driver,” he added. “To return after four years testing an F2 car was pretty insane for me, realizing everything. I watched the F1 finale, testing, and then I was driving the F2 car a day later. I was like a kid living a dream over those six days.”
Bolukbasi begins the 14-round FIA Formula 2 Championship this year, which coincides with F1 race weekends on the exact dates. Graduation from Esports to Formula 2 will break barriers, but the Turkish competitor will now face the toughest test of his racing career.
Between March 2-4, Bolukbasi will test in Bahrain; his debut in the F2 cockpit will commence at the exact location two weeks later.
The popularity of racing is being assisted by its Esports counterpart, particularly in states where the legalization of online gambling is blossoming. New York sports betting is at the forefront of spearheading the wagering market for racing fans of all genres.
Alongside the popularity of real sports racing, post-pandemic heights have ushered in the Esports generation of sports bettors in New York and worldwide.
Not only did the pandemic prevent live events, but it has additionally boosted the popularity of online sports betting. As New York has recently altered their gambling legislation, racing fans on the east side enjoy the freedom of movement in the betting sector with tournaments like the FA Esports Pro Series that Bolukbasi stemmed from.
The F1 Esports Pro Series that Bolukbasi once competed in began its qualification stages this week with its Challenger Series. When competitors raced in qualification events online late last year, the upper echelon of drivers from Xbox, PlayStation, and PC platforms was positioned in the Pro Exhibition.
They will race for a position on the Pro Series grid, as the official F1 teams will be required to choose one of their three drivers from the Exhibition tournament. However, those who missed the online event can compete in the Challenger Series.
Each platform will participate in twelve races between now and March 2022 during the Challenger Series, with each race awarding championship points. At the end of all the races, the competition’s top six drivers from each platform will advance into the F1 Esports Series Pro Exhibition alongside those who qualified online in 2021.