The lines between reality and simulation are blurring more and more as we tick off the years in this 21st century, and one field where this is becoming more obvious is motorsport. With the news that 23-year-old Turkish sim racing-turned-real racing star Cem Bölükbasi will be of Charouz Racing System’s FIA Formula 2 drivers for 2022, it’s clearly laying down the marker that being fast in front of the screen can translate to being just as fast in the real world.
By Matt Jeffray
Over the past few years however, Bölükbasi has been plying his trade in the GT4 European Series, and even finished runner-up in the Pro-Am category in 2020. But it was in 2021 that the former Scuderia Toro Rosso eSports racer switched his focus to single seaters, making a full campaign in the F3 Asian Championship and taking a 9th place series finish. But showing up for the final five race meetings of the Euroformula Open Championship, and even winning two races including his debut race at the Hungaroring in Budapest was what really got the racing world talking.
Bölükbasi isn’t a complete stranger to racing, however. Before his sim racing career he competed at national karting level in his native Turkey and claimed a 3rd place championship finish in the Turkish Karting Championship in 2009. In his sim racing career Bölükbasi competed in the inaugural Formula One eSports Series in 2017, taking a win and finishing 5th in the standings. He competed against drivers like eventual champion Brendon Leigh and Igor Fraga, who have both recently switched to real racing and Fraga has had some success in FIA F3. He also won the Toyota Racing Series in 2020, beating the likes of Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda.
When asked about his upcoming venture into Formula 2, Bölükbasi said he was ecstatic to be joining Charouz Racing System. He wishes to build a fast relationship with the team to learn as quickly as possible and get up to speed with the Dallara F2/18 chassis, after testing on old GP2 car at the back end of last year.
“I’m really, really happy to join Charouz Racing System for the FIA Formula 2 2022 season. I worked so hard to get an opportunity like this and first of all, I want to thank Charouz for putting their trust in me, I’ll do my very best to honour it.
“I obviously can’t wait to get in the car for the testing sessions, after my first taste of an old GP2 car later last year. It’s as close as you can get to a Formula 1 car, and I’m fully determined to give my 110% to learn how to master it and prove my potential as a driver.”
And with Formula 2 being just one step below Formula 1, Bölükbasi will be working with a larger team, something that is completely different in the sim racing world. Yes, the Turkish hopeful has had a few years of real racing experience at this point, but working with a larger group of individuals in search of a common goal is something that is pivotal to a young driver’s success, especially in an intense single seater series such as Formula 2. Keeping his feet on the ground however, Bölükbasi can’t wait to integrate with the team in what will be a long and challenging debut season.
“I also can’t wait to start working with the team, the season ahead is going to be very long and demanding and establishing the best possible relationship with all the guys is going to be crucial for the final outcome”.
The 2022 FIA Formula 2 Championship begins at the Bahrain International Circuit on 19th March 2022, the first stop on a 14-round campaign that eventually ends at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on 20th November later this year.
Header photo credit: Charouz Racing PR