Driving and winning for Ferrari is a dream of many. Chris Harteveld achieved this in his first season as part of the esports squad of the legendary Italian manufacturer – and the SRO Esports Sim Pro Series champion sat down for an interview with us.
In the 2022 FIA Motorsport Games Esports Cup, James Baldwin was the favourite to win gold. With him driving the same McLaren 720S GT3 that he had won three SRO Esports championships with on ACC, everyone expected the Team United Kingdom representative to be unchallenged.
However, it was not all plain sailing for Baldwin. During the Final, he was shadowed very closely by a driver from the Netherlands by the name of Chris Harteveld.
The Dutch driver had already won the Silver class title in GT World Challenge America Esports with his previous team GTWR. After they disbanded, he got the offer to join Ferrari’s esports team.
Together with teammates Andrea Capoccia, Jordan Sherratt and Ferrari Esports Series champion Jonathan Riley, they placed third in the Intercontinental GT Challenge Esports series. Finishing behind Unicorns of Love and champions Williams Esports.
But it was the onsite Sim Pro series where Harteveld’s star shone brightest.
In his first year as a Ferrari driver, Harteveld won the first ever Sim Pro championship. This being the series taking place in the Fanatec Arena at all GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup events. But what made it so noteworthy was that across all five rounds, Harteveld’s best finish was second.
He never won a race and still won the championship. Something you rarely see in any racing championship, with last year’s Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup champion Diogo Pinto coming close, taking a solitary victory.
After the season ended, we reached out to Chris for an interview.
OverTake: How did you get started in sim racing?
I have been a huge fan of racing since I was young and also cars in general, especially Ferrari. Been watching F1 since I was 4 years old with my dad, loved it from the start.
When I was 10, I got to play my first F1 game, I think it was F1 2011 and I got a steering wheel for my birthday. Played mostly for fun of course up until F1 2013, after which I kind of stopped with racing for a few years.
For a while I was doing other things like playing football and other types of video games, but my love of cars never went away. Then back in 2020 when COVID happened, I began playing ACC with a controller. Even being on a controller, I was quite fast and got noticed by GTWR.
After that, I bought a rig along with a good wheel and pedals and things started going quite fast. That is how I got into professional sim racing.
OverTake: Prior to this year, what was your biggest accomplishment?
There is only one answer to that, the Silver medal I won at the FIA Motorsport Games in France. Being able to represent the Netherlands was amazing, and the whole event was one of the greatest experiences I have had so far in my sim racing career.
I competed in a qualifying race the month before with other drivers from my country such as Isaac Gillissen and Tinko van der Velde. I started on pole and won by 14 seconds.
You rarely get the chance to compete for your country, so it was a chance I grabbed with two hands. Plus at the event, I met all my teammates and even my parents were there to see me get Silver. I never expected to get a medal so it was amazing.
OverTake: After GTWR disbanded, how did you end up with Ferrari?
After the successful 2022 I had with the FIA Motorsport Games medal and the SRO Esports America Silver class title, I was hoping one of the big teams would make an offer. To my surprise, I had quite a few good offers.
But one day, I got a message from Ferrari, they offered me the opportunity of a lifetime to become a driver for them. I was over the moon when I got that message, and accepted it pretty much immediately!
Ferrari has been my all time favourite team and brand. Everyone in the team were very welcoming, met some great people and getting to win a championship with Ferrari is a dream come true.
OverTake: Talk us through your Sim Pro season. How did you win the championship without winning any of the races?
Yeah that is quite special, not winning a single race but still winning the championship. So the first race was Monza, my quali was horrendous and ended up I think it was 17th, then in the race my pace was not great but I kept it clean to finish 7th. Quite a good result considering where I started.
The next race was Paul Ricard, and from the start both Jordan (Sherratt) and I had great pace to win the race. Unfortunately it did not happen, I made a mistake but I still managed to finish P3, great points for the championship.
At Spa, we knew beforehand we would not have the pace to win. The Mercs were way faster than us, and I did not qualify or finish too strongly. Then it was Nürburgring where we knew we would have a chance to win, qualified P3 I think but I made a mistake that cost me two positions.
I recovered to fourth and Jordan was third, so he let me by since he was not in the championship battle.
Heading into the last race at Barcelona, I was nine points behind the championship leaders Unicorns of Love. Until my final lap in quali, it was going dreadfully, I was set to start like P8 or around there. But then I nailed my last lap which put me second only a few hundredths behind Nils Naujoks.
I knew if I could hold on to that and my competitors were as low as P6, I would win the championship. They were starting P10 so it looked likely. In the race, I had a dreadful start and had to run wide at T1 after getting knocked off by McCormack. I wrestled my way past him, then a huge crash happened at T5.
At that point I just had to drive my own pace, I did not have to pass Nils, did not want to risk it. He had amazing pace anyway so it was quite hard to follow him. So just got to the end and sealed the title which I was not expecting, I had just hoped to be in the top three.
OverTake: What has been the approach by Ferrari for their ACC program? Considering it was you and Sherratt for the Sim Pro races, then Riley and Capoccia with you for the IGTC Enduros.
So the rules in Sim Pro do state you can have multiple drivers per entry and some teams did that. We could only have two entries maximum, but we strategised that it was for the best to have me and Jordan all season.
That did leave Andrea (Capoccia) and Jonathan (Riley) to focus solely on IGTC whilst Jordan and I would do both. Of course for the IGTC endurance races, it would be tricky to do it with two drivers so we needed some more talented drivers and they were just the drivers we needed to be competitive in those races.
Andrea and Jonathan did not really do that many races this year, but with how long the IGTC races were and how much practice they did, both did a fantastic job and were invaluable to the whole team. The way we all worked together was great, and it was worth it. Third in IGTC and the championship in Sim Pro.
OverTake: Heading into next year, what are the plans for SRO Esports and other ACC-based competition? Considering the rumours that SRO are planning to move away from ACC.
I would hope it will be similar to this year. It has been a fantastic season, and Sim Pro has been a great addition to SRO Esports, so hopefully they continue with it. Honestly I do not have much news about it so time will tell of course.
It would be a shame if SRO ditched ACC, considering how many drivers and teams focus solely on it. Not to mention they went to the effort to add Valencia earlier this year so they could have it at next year’s FIA Motorsport Games. Which I am aiming to qualify for again and go for gold.
Plus, the Nordschleife. So many ACC drivers have been wanting to race that for years, and they are only just adding it in time for next year. Hopefully it will be on the IGTC Esports schedule.
What did you make of Chris Harteveld’s Sim Pro title winning season? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!