Igor Fraga became the first F1 Esports competitor to feature on track in a Formula 1 race weekend, with the Japanese-born Brazilian racer trading virtual success for the real thing on his Road to F1.
We sat down with him to discuss the moments that made him.
1. GRAN TURISMO CHAMPIONSHIP SUCCESS
“The first moment I think was winning the FIA Gran Turismo Nations Cup. This really changed the perspective I had about racing. I was facing a really difficult time and I didn't know what was going to happen at the next race - whether I could keep racing or not. Winning that made it possible for me to make the transition over to Europe and start to compete in bigger championships. It definitely helped me a lot.
“Basically, it all started when my dad wanted to put me into karting in Japan, but I was only three years old. There's a category called Kids Karting which allows those kids to start to practice - not racing yet, of course! I think my dad was kind of scared, so he bought me a gaming steering wheel and Gran Turismo 3. I started playing it, and as soon as he saw that I had the basic control of the throttle, braking and the steering wheel, he just put me on the real thing.
“I raced in karting in Japan until 2008, but the prize amounts were quite low so I couldn't keep racing anymore. We moved to Brazil, and after a few years I was able to return to motor racing in the junior formulas like Formula 1600 and Brazilian F3. It was always very complicated when it came to the budget - taking from here or there and trying to put it all together. It was not enough and we had to deal with some tough conditions to keep racing. I saw Esports was growing more and more, and it was at that time that I really started to focus on it. I thought that maybe there was an opportunity for me if I won the big championships, and so that's what I did!”
2. BECOMING A RED BULL JUNIOR
“Secondly, there's winning the Toyota Racing Series this year as well. Winning that allowed me to join the Red Bull Junior Team. I think it winning that series created a really good opportunity for me to join an F1 team like Red Bull, so of course, that is really, really nice.”
3. HIS FIRST VICTORY IN EUROPE
“I think the third moment is my victory last year at the Red Bull Ring in the Formula Regional European Championship. It was my first year in Europe, and my first victory there as well.
"The year before, in the time that we spent in the USA, was really tough. My dad was my mechanic, and I was helping him to maintain the car. We used to sleep at my chief mechanic's house sometimes, or even in a Walmart parking lot or something. I missed out on the win a couple of times, getting second or third two or three times during the season. I was almost getting there and so that moment last year, being able to win in Austria, was kind of a breakthrough for me. It was quite emotional.”