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McLaren's World's Fastest Gamer: Last man standing

Last week, McLaren invited 11 of the World's Fastest Gamers to their Technology Centre in Woking for the competition's finals week.
The eSports drivers, who travelled from all over the world, have been locked in competition with each other and constantly assessed by some of McLaren's top engineers and coaches over the last seven days.

On Tuesday, we will find out who's going to be named the World's Fastest Gamer and win the greatest prize in gaming.

One of the 11 competitors will secure a contract to become McLaren's next Formula 1 simulated driver, landing their dream job.

But the path to achieving that is tough. The finals week challenged them in physical, mental and simulated tests, eventually whittling the pack down from 11 finalists to two as the week progressed.

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But getting to the final two is an achievement in itself.

The drivers had to perform well in four simulated challenges, plus other performance tests.

Here's what's happened across finals week.

Day one

On Saturday, the gamers were thrown straight into their first cognitive and reaction tests.

The human performance testers at McLaren were analysing their attention spans, focus and reaction time before adding the pressure of physical and psychological loads to see if they could still perform.

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The aim was to measure certain performance skills used while driving and see who could cope best with the huge pressure.

Speaking of the first tests, finalist David Hoch said:

"It's a really great opportunity because we got to test the same way as guys at McLaren do and you get to see where you stand and how much you can improve."

Day two

Sunday gave the gamers a once in a lifetime chance to watch the Brazilian Grand Prix from mission control at the McLaren Technology Centre.

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But it wasn't all fun and games. After that, they took on their first driving test of finals week. A full-length race at Interlagos, where the Brazilian GP is held.

But there was an added twist. The drivers took on the 1991 version of the race, where Ayrton Senna had to complete the last few laps stuck in sixth gear.

Greger Huttu was the winner at Interlagos, holding off his 10 challengers and putting himself in pole position for the rest of finals week.

He coped best with the challenge of being stuck in one gear and despite losing so much time on each of the last few laps, held on to win the race.

Day three

The second driving test took place on day three and had the World's Fastest Gamers take on the Indy 500.

McLaren have a lot of history at the American event, so there's no surprise this featured as a challenge.

Rudy van Buren was leading the race for a number of laps whilst Henrik Drue and Yordi Maldonado collided behind him.

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But after 90 laps, Van Buren crashed out himself. Bono Huis capitalised on his error and finished the race in first position, with British drivers Isaac Price and Harry Jacks taking second and third.

"It was one of the most difficult races I've ever done," said winner Huis. "It was so difficult to stay focused. But it was really fun and I really enjoyed it."

Day four

Race three simulated one of the most famous moments in Formula 1 history. The 1989 Japanese GP where McLaren's Senna and Alain Prost collided at the front of the pack.

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The simulated race was played on iRacing and it was a 46-lap challenge, paying homage to the 46th minute Senna and Prost clashed at the Suzuka Circuit.

Harry Jacks qualified on pole but after plenty of drama with competitors colliding and sliding off the circuit, Huis again stole in for the win.

Jacks had to settle for second after leading for most of the race. "Although I had track position at the start, I'm very happy to bring home second place behind Bono," he said.

Day five

The World's Fastest Gamer judging panel had a big decision to make on day five. They had to cut the finalists down from 11 to just six. But before that, the gamers had a surprise visit from two-time F1 champion Mika Hakkinen. It was the chance for many to meet one of their heroes, but also the end of the line for some.

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Only Freek Schothorst, Huis, Huttu, Van Buren, Price and Jacks advanced to round two of finals week.

David le Garff, Aurelien Malet, Drue, Hoch and Maldonado were all sent home as the competition began to really heat up.

Day six

The second round drivers got their first chance to try McLaren's real F1 simulator on day six.

"This was the most amazing experience of my life," said Van Buren after driving it himself. "Just sitting strapped in, in that Formula 1 cockpit, I'm not able to put it into words. It's amazing."

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Later that day came perhaps the toughest test of them all. A full 24 hours of Le Mans race, where the six gamers were split into two teams.

McLaren also invited 10 other teams to compete with the World's Fastest Gamer finalists filling the grid, but again there was a twist. The gamers were driving in a McLaren F1 GTR, first used in the 1995 Le Mans race, where the team shocked the racing world to win the competition on their first ever attempt.

It was the ultimate endurance test that was meant to whittle down the six finalists to just two. But following the 24-hour race, the judges couldn't decide on just a pair.

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Instead, Van Buren, Schothorst and Huis all faced another challenge after impressing so much during their eight-hour driving stints.

That challenge would finally decide the last two competitors on day seven, but unfortunately for Huttu, Price and Jacks, they were sent home after Le Mans.

Day seven

The remaining three finalists got to experience another professional simulator when they visited Carlin, junior single seat racing specialists who are based just down the road from MTC.

The aim of the day was to assess the drivers on another simulator, have engineers give them feedback and see who could make the biggest improvement.

"This is the first real thing we've done that would be somewhat close to what we would do at McLaren," Van Buren said.

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After their time in the Carlin simulator, the finalists and engineers returned to MTC where their data would be analysed and a final decision would be made.

After two hours of discussion, it was decided that Van Buren and Schothorst would go head-to-head as the final two in the McLaren simulator on Monday.

Huis, who'd performed so well over the finals week, reflected on just missing out on the top two spots.

"It was a really close decision, they were in there for two hours. It's just unfortunate." Schothost, who made the cut with Van Buren, was understandably in a much better mood.

"Knowing that I will be driving the Formula 1 sim on Monday is just an incredible feeling," he said, with a smile on his face.

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There will be plenty of challenges for those two ahead of Tuesday when the competition winner is announced.

Both Van Buren and Schothorst are within touching distance of achieving their dream of becoming McLaren's next Formula 1 simulated driver.

But to grab that opportunity, they'll have to impress even more than they did last week to be named the World's Fastest Gamer.

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