Ayhancan Güven: Virtual and real-world pro racer

Ayhancan Güven: Virtual and real-world pro racer

One of the success stories in both real and virtual motorsport is Coanda Simsport professional esports racer Ayhancan Güven, who balances both sides of the racing world.

Image credit: Coanda Simsport

Three rounds into the current Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup season, it has again proven to be ultra competitive. As of after Round 3, there has been a different winner in every race and it’s Redline’s Diogo Pinto who leads the standings on 155 points, only four points ahead of Coanda’s Jeremy Bouteloup.

Bouteloup has achieved this without being one of the six different race winners. Along with Pinto, there’s also 2020 champion Sebastian Job, Porsche Esports Carrera Cup GB runner-up Kevin Ellis, Jr., VRS’ Zac Campbell and two-time Supercar Pro Eseries champion Dayne Warren. The other race winner so far this season is Ayhancan Güven, who is a professional racing driver both in real-life racing and virtually as well.

Success on both sides

In the last few years alone, Güven was runner-up in his first season and third in the last two seasons of the F1 Grand Prix-supporting Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, he was also runner-up in Porsche Carrera Cup Germany in 2021 and was champion in the Porsche Carrera Cup France twice. Outside of Porsche spec championships, he won the FIA GT Nations Cup event in 2018 and was also 2010 Turkish Karting Champion in the Mini category.

But his ability isn’t just limited to racing the real-life cars. Having joined Coanda from Redline a couple of years ago, Güven teamed up with two-time Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup champion Josh Rogers in the first season of VCO ProSIM Series.

They won both the Pro and Esports racer titles despite Güven missing one of the rounds, and having to rush back to the Coanda house in Germany from a test at Zandvoort for the finale. Also along with Rogers, Tommy Østgaard and 2015 24 hours of Le Mans overall winner Nick Tandy, Güven won the GTE class in the inaugural Le Mans 24 Virtual for the Porsche Esports Team.

This year, the Turkish racer is tackling both the Nürburgring Endurance Series and the ADAC GT Masters championships having graduated from being a Porsche junior to a fully fledged Porsche works driver. His racing season got off to a great start with a win in the Feature Race in PESC Round 1 on the Hockenheimring.

We had an opportunity to talk to Ayhancan in the leadup to Round 4 of PESC to learn about how he balances being on top in both sides of the racing world.

OverTake: What was your background in sim racing alongside your efforts in real world racing?

Ayhancan Güven:

My father played the first two Gran Turismo games with my uncle, so as soon as I was 3 or 4 years old I began racing on there all the time. There was no online racing at that time so we’d organise effectively LAN events, bringing TVs together to race in real time.

So that’s how I got a sort of start in sim racing when I was karting. My dad made me do all the licence tests and get gold which did help me. Then as soon as Gran Turismo started doing online races, it was big progress for me as I began to compete with other players all over the world.

I moved to iRacing in 2017 because I was going to drive a Porsche Cup car in real life and there was a Porsche Cup car on there, I heard that the cars were really great to drive on iRacing with the physics and since then, I’ve moved on to other PC simulation titles like rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa and Automobilista, so pretty much all the major sims.

OverTake: What are the pros and cons to balancing both real and virtual professional racing?

Ayhancan Güven:

There are some advantages and some disadvantages. Advantages are like, keeping your brain always in a competitive mode, you always mentally need to keep that up because of course, being a racing driver, you always want to win. I think in sim racing, this is what I really like because even when I’m not racing in real life, I’m still always in a racing mood and always thinking about how to be faster.

Disadvantage is time of course. For real life racing you need to travel a lot and sim racing is all about practicing as much as possible. It’s not easy to give all your free time to sim racing because you’re busy with real life, it’s not super easy mentally, sometimes you need to give it some rest but there’s never any real rest with sim racing because as soon as you give it some rest, your competitors are able to go so much faster. Unlimited time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week which compared to real life, you have limited test days so you have to plan all year.

OverTake: We saw your Coanda teammate Laurin Heinrich participate in both the real life Dubai 24 hours and then went back to Germany to compete in the 24 hours of Le Mans Virtual. You participated in a Le Mans Virtual Series round in the paddock area after winning a Porsche Carrera Cup Germany race. How do you prepare to potentially compete in virtual events even when you’re at the real race track?

Ayhancan Güven:

When I moved to Coanda, we would cross reference virtual races with my real life racing commitments and saw some clashes, we’d pick which ones we could do both of. It was Coanda’s idea to bring my simulator to Monza, we checked to see when my Porsche Carrera Cup Germany race ended and the start time of the LMVS race.

We found they began at the same time but my teammates did the first stints, and I won that Carrera Cup race and I was so happy but didn’t have time to celebrate after the podium. I went to change my overalls, skipped interviews and only did them after the race. It helped that the LMVS race was on the same track but the car was different so it wasn’t exactly easy to adapt, and the race didn’t go so well for us as we were having pit stop bugs.

The setup of doing it in real life and going straight to the sim can be difficult, especially if you’re doing both races on your own. Since you need to practice, if you haven’t been doing it for the three days. But it’s what we have to do sometimes when the calendars are so tight.

OverTake: How has competing in the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup helped you improve in your career?

Ayhancan Güven:

PESC is really difficult. I drove real life Supercup and there, I won races and finished top three in all my seasons. But in the esports series, last year I was nowhere as I had to focus more on real life. Also, I was home in Turkey as opposed to being at the Coanda house, I didn’t have a certain bit of equipment, and I had to go to a friend’s house one time for one of the rounds too because of a COVID situation.

This year I’m already enjoying it a lot more, I take it more seriously and I have more time to practice and focus on it. After last year’s result (finishing 29th), it was in my mind that I knew I was nowhere and whilst I have an excuse, I don’t want to use it. This year I said I’d try, see if I can do well or not and already it’s worked.

The competition level has made it even better. Everytime I work with my teammates, I learn something from their driving. The pressure when doing qualifying is so high, as you often have only one lap and I can feel it when I’m doing the real life racing, it’s exactly the same due to often getting only the one lap in the real car.

It all keeps me sharp and maybe even improves my driving in real life.

OverTake: How important do you believe it is that professional real world racers like yourself compete and be competitive in virtual racing?

Ayhancan Güven:

Very good question. For me, it’s important because as we know, in real life racing it’s always about budget which is not always easy to find. Whereas in sim racing, it’s really fair and you’re on a much more level playing field. Of course you need the right equipment but compared to real racing, it’s much more affordable.

I like seeing myself where I am now, with the same chance as everyone else in the rest of the world. In real life, it’s difficult to see how you compare to your competitors on track. The difference between you and your rivals can be down to your equipment or mechanics, so you never know where you stand sometimes.

Sure you can see who are the top drivers but the procedure getting there is not as straightforward in the real world, much more so in sim racing. I always see this as means to improve my racing, and maybe it’s also good for the esports drivers, they see they’re holding it against a real world pro who are focussed on the sim.

It’s good for both them and real world pros like me that we can compete on a level playing field, and it’s great motivation for me to see how well I can do against some of the best in the world and shows I can be fast in any situation. Win-win for both sides!

OverTake: You have already won a race in PESC, what are your aims for the rest of the season?

Ayhancan Güven:

My aim for this season will be to just remain in the top 15 qualifying positions for next season and not have to requalify in the Contender Series. I’m going to miss many races because there are a lot of clashes with my real world programs, I can’t do both at the same time.

It’s not possible to do PESC-level driving from a real life event because you have to then not focus so much on the real life race which is not possible in my situation. I want to remain in the top 15 even with the races I miss and keep my pro iRacing licence so I can still compete without needing to requalify.

Main focus is when I have the time and I can focus on PESC, I want to be competitive, at least top eight in qualifying, score points and if at the end of the season I am still in the top 15 then I’ll be satisfied.

You can catch Güven and all his comtempories compete this weekend 19 March on the Silverstone circuit, and for the first time this season you won’t need to wait two weeks for the next round as Round 5 will be the week afterwards on 26 March at the Red Bull Ring.

Watch all the action on both Porsche’s Twitch and YouTube as well as iRacing‘s Twitch and YouTube.

How well do you think Güven will do in Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

Biggest esports racing fan in the world.