Baguio’s own Iñigo Anton will go down in history as the first Filipino Olympian to reach the finals in sim racing in the inaugural Olympic Esports Week held in Singapore on June 22 to 25.
The 19-year-old Anton who became a racing phenom even before he secured a driver’s license placed eighth in the qualifying rounds, edging equally world-class sim racers.
The 32 sim racers from different countries vying for the overall title were divided into two groups with Anton topping the group two qualifiers with the fastest time of 1:15.5.
He came in 11th fastest overall during the semifinals with a time of 1:15.7.
Of the 12 racers who have qualified for the finals, Anton was the eighth fastest with a time of 1:15.3.
But a wrong tire choice and strategy left him struggling with pace and with three laps to go, he suffered a puncture and had to do a pit stop to change tires.
It was a surprise for him to even get into the finals because he has never joined any official Gran Turismo Race, while the rest of the top 10 finalists are all part of the Grand Turismo World Cup.
Grateful to become the first Filipino Olympian in e-racing, Anton said qualifying for the Olympics was a dream come true and he could not ask for more, especially when he reached the finals.
He said the Olympic Esports Week was a great learning experience for him, as he claimed that sim racing is entirely different from actual racing, where he has emerged as a multiple champion in national competitions.
The Automobile Association Driver of the Year 2023 awardee also said in his social media post that his whole experience of being part of such a historic event and to meet and greet people sharing the same passion are what make the Olympic Esports Week unforgettable.
“Another highlight of my week was having dinner with the creator of Gran Turismo, Kazunori Yamauchi-san, at the iconic Marina Bay Sands and having Jimmy Broadbent a commentator in our race. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Anton said in his post-race post.
Anton was also grateful to the unparalleled support of his parents, multi-awarded racer Carlos and world dance champion Karen, and younger brother, Alonzo, including his sponsors from the motorsports industry.
Anton’s first challenging test on sim racing was when he joined three young racers from Southeast Asia and bannered Axle Sports in the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual Championships in January 2022.
Along with Naquib Azlan of Malaysia, Mohammad Aleef of Singapore, and Josh Purwien of Australia, Anton placed fourth in the competition that saw the participation of high-profile grid of racers included Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen, and Juan Pablo Montoya. – Harley F. Palangchao