BEDFORD, Mass., June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Wyatt Gooden is a young driver in a hurry to get places. This past Sunday the 21-year-old kart-racing veteran and Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup rookie's destination was the top step on the podium at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – and with a little help from iRacing.com Gooden earned his first professional auto racing victory following a tight battle with fellow iRacer and Mid-Ohio pole-winner Arie Ouimet.
"This is a remarkable accomplishment, really a big deal," said Steve Myers, executive vice president of iRacing.com. "It's the first time that someone with no previous experience in racing cars has gone from an online racing competition to the real-world winner's circle – and in just half a season."
Last fall, Gooden, a computer information systems student when he's not racing, bested 1,163 competitors to win the iRacing.com Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup online racing series and earn his way into the selection process for the 2010 real-world version. Earlier this year, Gooden turned in a standout performance at the three-day selection trials in Las Vegas and not only made the 25-driver 2010 field, but because of his winning performance in the iRacing online racing series, qualified for a scholarship for his full participation fee for the 2010 season of ten real-world races.
"Clearly, Wyatt Gooden has a great deal of native talent, as he demonstrated in his kart-racing career and in the iRacing.com Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup series last year," said Myers. "But it's very gratifying for us to be part of the development of his real-world career. This should be inspiring to race game enthusiasts who dream about someday being able to follow Wyatt's lead."
Gooden took a couple of races to get up to speed with the series veterans. In the first race of the year he crashed and in the second he had a tire go down, dropping him two laps off the pace. But in the races since then he's come on strong.
"The last two races Arie and I have had the fastest cars at the end of the race," said Gooden, who credited his and Ouimet's late-race advantage to virtual-world practice on iRacing.com's internet-based simulation service and learning how to go fast without using up their tires. "In the first couple of races the experienced guys blew us away, but now we've figured out how to arrive at the track ready to be smooth and fast."
As a simracer, before he ever sat in a real-world racecar, Gooden had countless hours practicing and racing iRacing.com's highly-accurate simulation of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup car on tracks that host seven of the ten races on the Series' 2010 schedule.
"The level of competition (in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup) is really high," Gooden said. "There are six or seven guys who have really stepped up over the course of the season."
According to Gooden, there are quite significant differences between the diminutive racing karts where he excelled at a national level and a full-sized racecar, and competing in iRacing.com was a key in bridging the gap.
"I learned from iRacing how important it was to drive within your limit and hit your marks every lap," Gooden said, noting the similarities in competing in the virtual and real-world versions of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup. "To keep up with the fast guys in both the virtual and real-world series you have to push hard every lap and not make mistakes."
Racing at All Levels – And Everyone Having Fun
Like many other Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup racers, Gooden and Ouimet spend a good deal of time practicing their skills on iRacing.com. Gooden cancelled his plans for the evening of the Monday before the Mid-Ohio race when a friend texted him to say that iRacing.com had released its virtual version of the track two days ahead of schedule.
"I was so excited. I dropped what I was going to do, went home and downloaded Mid-Ohio and started driving," said Gooden, who lives in Gates Mills, OH, less than a two hour drive from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. "It has the best rhythm. I must have done three or four hundred laps last week."
In the four days between the release of the track to iRacing.com members and the first practice session at the real-world version of the track, Gooden drove Mid-Ohio in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup car of course, but also in the iRacing online service's Chevy late model stock car and the GRAND-AM Riley Mk XX Daytona Prototype. And in the latter vehicle, just two nights after Mid-Ohio became available, a number of other iRacers got the chance to see for themselves how talented Gooden really is.
According to Clive Whittaker, one of the participants in the Rennsport Racing League, an informal series that runs every Wednesday evening under the iRacing.com banner, last Wednesday's field consisted of people such as himself – motorsports fans and racing game enthusiasts who enjoy competing with one another each week in different cars and on a variety of tracks.
One of the league's regular members knows Gooden and invited him to join the race that evening. Gooden qualified fourth, but when the green flag waved, he just checked out on the rest of the field.
"He came up behind me, passed and then he was gone – he was just so fast," Whittaker recalled with a chuckle. "It's actually quite thrilling being in a race with a pro driver who is so good. There is no other sport where you get to compete with real professionals. I record the race and then I go back and look at what the pro is doing; sometimes I see they are taking a better line through a corner, and then I can go back and try it myself."
The company was founded in 2004 by Dave Kaemmer and John Henry. Kaemmer was co-founder of Papyrus Design Group, developers of award-winning racing simulations including "Grand Prix Legends" and "NASCAR 2003." Henry is principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and co-owner of NASCAR's Roush Fenway Racing. iRacing.com has developed corporate relationships in the motorsport industry, including partnerships with NASCAR, Indy Racing League, International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports, Volkswagen, Ford, and General Motors. iRacing is open to racers and fans of all skill levels from pros to complete beginners. To join in the fun, go to www.iRacing.com.
SOURCE iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations