In March of this year, Playstation Nissan GT Academy graduate Wolfgang Reip made motorsport history when he became the first virtual racer to be given a fully-paid works team drive outside of Nissan. Having made his Bentley Boy debut in the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza last month, the 29-year old writes exclusively for Mobil 1 The Grid to share his thoughts on why he “couldn’t be in a better place”.
There have been many highlights and turning points in my racing career, but none more significant and life-changing than signing a contract to drive for the Bentley Team M-Sport works outfit in the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Signing the deal in late March, I reflected on the winter months when I had found myself without a Nissan deal, as the programme reduced and seats for the new graduates were required. I thought at the time that it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. After all, Nissan had been my home for seven years.
A month or so later, standing in the Bentley garage at Monza, in my debut weekend with the team, I started to think that maybe things happen for a reason. After having taken my place on the podium that Sunday, I knew that I couldn’t be in a better place.
When you’ve always been with the same team, you wonder how you’ll fit into a new crew. The Bentley Boys are fantastic drivers and have all driven the Continental GT3 for at least a season. There was so much to learn in order to keep up.
In this situation, the most crucial part is your teammates, and I was relieved to discover that Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet are the ultimate team players. In recent weeks, they couldn’t have supported me more.
Unlike some teams, we don’t have specific roles ahead of each round – qualifying duties and starting order are all decided depending on our performance in practice. The decisions are made as a group and we all have input.
I knew my job in my Bentley Boys debut that weekend was not to try and go fastest. Instead, it was to be sensible, learn the car, put in a solid stint, and earn the trust and respect of my new teammates.
In terms of the race itself, Maxime did an incredible job to qualify us into sixth on the day. Andy started the race and overtook three cars on lap one, I closed the gap on the leaders in my stint and Maxime brought it home to take the podium. You couldn’t ask for a better start than that!
We’ve a long way to go, but I’m immensely proud of everything the team has achieved so far. And on a personal level, it’s crazy to think how far I’ve come since the days of playing video games in front of my TV. From Game Boy to Bentley Boy, as of right now… I couldn’t be in a better place.
Wolfgang Reip was writing exclusively for Mobil 1 The Grid. For more from Wolfgang and Bentley Motorsport, follow Bentley Racing on Twitter (@BentleyRacing).