Sim2Reality: An iRacing Champion’s Journey to a Real-life World Title (Part 2)

Glenn McGee is one of the sim racing world’s brightest examples of what a talented virtual driver can do with the right real-world opportunities. After kicking off his real-world career in Global Mazda MX-5 Cup cars—a result of winning a globally contested championship on iRacing’s platformMcGee landed a Lamborghini Super Trofeo ride for the first time in 2023 and parlayed it into a Super Trofeo world championship victory at Vallelunga earlier this year. The triumph made him the first eSports and iRacing champion to earn an FIA-sanctioned world title in real-world motorsport.

In part two of this two-part interview, McGee talks about his experience in the Super Trofeo World Finals, the level of competition in those events, paying it forward by helping out the next generation of sim racers looking to follow his path, and what he’ll be doing next year:

The Super Trofeo World Finals bring together the best of the best from all the different Super Trofeo series. How much higher was the competition level at Vallelunga with the best drivers from around the world?

It’s amazing. I’ve had some surreal moments in my life, like obviously partnering with iRacing, but this is just like another highlight, right? And it really did feel like a movie.

I kept thinking of Rush—at the beginning of the movie, where they’re panning down on the drivers and all the fans there, and just the rawness of the cars and the track is just beautifully groomed and painted. And the fans are super interested, and they allow them around the cars. In the States, we don’t park on the grid or have the same process.  So here we park on the grid, we have the flagmen and women and just fans all over, you’re doing interviews before you race. Then you get to race and it’s just like a movie because you win it! (laughs) They’re giving you trophies and you’re kissing babies and whatever happens there.

But it was next level. The series has always been stuffed with talent, even in the States, because you go wheel-to-wheel with very accomplished, famous American drivers like Marc Miller, Andy Lee, Van Overbeek, & Guy Cosmo, and killers like Lewis Hamilton’s former F2 rival, Alexander Premat. The driver level was very high because of the Asian championship as well, so it was truly a global competition in a spec car. I don’t know that there is a higher global competition in a spec car, certainly in sports cars. So in a way that was probably as close to sim racing as you can get. Sim racing is truly global—no sport can be truly global like sim racing is, you’re racing the absolute best in the world at any given moment. But to procure all these drivers, you have the best French and Italian and Chinese and Japanese drivers there, there’s some factory drivers in there and a bunch of them are GT3 drivers.

We double dutied on that, too. I drove with a European team in the European rounds and drove with the American team for the rest. We came out of the gates fast in a warm up session. It was kind of damp conditions and I was fourth in that session, which put me ahead of Spinelli, who’s a factory Lambo driver and like a god, he’s super brilliant in these cars. The track was very—let’s say, if you were a good driver, you’re going to do well. It was a very difficult track. There were a lot of long corners that mattered for a lot of brake release and very precise steering and power down. And I think that helped. If it was a bigger track with more basic corners, I think it would have been a more difficult time.

Going through your World Finals weekend itself, you locked up the title with a win in the first race and third place in the second, and you turned the pole-winning lap for that first race. What were some of the biggest moments for you, both on track and off, from the weekend?

Yeah, I had the European pole when I was running with the European team. That was my first qualifying session, probably my third session on the track. And then I had pole for the World Finals. It was like every day was just something cool, it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. We did so good with the setup working with the Italian engineers.

My absolute favorite thing was when I drove in the rain. We had lost, I think, 30 seconds in the rain. Tony had an unforeseen issue that wasn’t allowing him to run his normal pace, unfortunately, and it was raining and damp, and they put me in the car. I had this Italian engineer and he was amazing, he was so good with the tires and everything was so serious. He wanted me to drive the car in a particular way, and he never complimented anybody, you could hardly get anything out of them. But he was a sim racer, he manages some sim teams, so he understood the value of sim racing, which was cool.

I was in the wet to going damp conditions, on difficult slick tires, I just came out of the pits, on it, and like my first flier, I was just, I was like, “As long as I’m sliding, I’m going to be fast.” So I was just trying to not wreck the car but slide at the same time. On my first flyer, I was purple on everybody and then I was like three tenths up. I was three seconds quicker than anybody at one point when the conditions were really bad, and I was always purple every lap as it dried out because the track kept getting faster. I think the coolest thing was the engineer, in a very heavy Italian accent, was like, “Your sector one is insane, your sector two is insane. What you’re doing is insane.” So that was the highest compliment. And that engineer actually said, “If I’m doing any work, I want you with me and I’ll keep you in mind.”

And then also the team owner, Imperiale in Europe and the manager, who was incredible to work with, were going nuts with some compliments over text that translated very funny. He’s like, “I’ve been talking about you with everybody”, “you are so special”, “I’m crazy for you”. It translated weird! (laughs), Because I was very fun to be with, I’m very relaxed and I think they’re not used to that with the European drivers mentality. But also I was very good on the engineering side, which comes from sim racing and doing just millions of set ups for different teams and championships. Then I delivered in the car, so it was like they just appreciated all that and I really loved and appreciated them. They were special to work with.

I think one of the bigger moments for me was when I got home from this long, hard fought journey. Two years ago, when I finally got back in a car, it had taken a number of years to get back in a seat. I got pole at St. Pete and had the lap record there and I just told myself, “I’m going to keep my head down and just whatever opportunity comes, take it.” Now, I just came off 17 weeks on the road. I’ve just been head down, trying to be the fast guy, I haven’t worried about my marketing as much—in any opportunity I have, I just have to do well and just don’t wreck the car. I got in like this Terminator mode where I’m just kind of droning on in there and just not sleeping, travel all the time, have zero time for yourself and just maximize opportunities. And what was cool is all the best global teams are there [at the World Finals], there are factory teams that are there, and some of the best American teams are there. All the hopes for the Americans kind of fell on us, and the European teams saw what we were doing, because they know how good the drivers are, and it couldn’t have really gone better. We were making passes in crazy places and quick in the wet.

But a big moment for me personally was when I got back, the coolest thing was factory teams, multiple teams are calling me and telling me how awesome I did, and how they’d love to have me drive for them, and can we set up a test. Getting that recognition, finally getting to a point where you’re on the radar, that was a two-year process for me to get here. You know, just head down, don’t sleep, travel every week. You don’t have a life, you can’t even sim race. I only train people on the sim like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then I’m out racing something or working an event. I kind of broke down in that moment just because it was the pinnacle and recognition of what had all happened.

But if you want to pick the coolest thing while I was there? I made a lot of great passes, I got trophies, but I don’t know. I think the biggest moment was, it was the first race of the World Finals. I made an important outside pass and then ran down the leader and got the lead, and I think that was when we had a good handle on it. And then the next race I was kind of able to  manage it from there, obviously putting on a good performance, going up against all those great drivers.

Our brains don’t see a real race any different than a sim race because you’re so involved in it your mind doesn’t really know the difference, but I’ve never been tested up against the best in spec cars. To be able to be in that scenario and then have the feeling like my ability in the real car to the other drivers is the same as in the sim, and my control of the tires, and to have control of this race.  I obviously knew that these guys would be hard to beat, but it wasn’t out of my ability to compete with these guys. And realizing it was going great, having the right people in the real-life industry recognizing it… I think I’ve been under the radar in the real-life industry and I think this was absolutely my moment where the industry was like, “Wait a minute, who is this guy?”

It’s clear how special it is to you to have taken your sim racing opportunities this far into real-world racing. So it’s also no surprise to see you paying it forward by working with some of the same folks who launched your real-world career at Racing Prodigy. How important is it to you to support other drivers with this background, and what have you seen in some of those drivers that, from your experience, you think will pay off for them in real racing?

I’ve always tried to help other drivers in sim racing, even before I did any real racing. Anybody who’s very determined and you can tell they have the passion, I’m going to help you. Like you ask me for your help, I’m going to help you if you have that. Maybe that’s a karma thing for me! So yeah, I’ve been helping with Racing Prodigy.

I can’t do this forever, right? I’m trying to make a name for myself, so I have the ability to help in the future. I want to be, I call it a wizard.  I know all the tricks and am an expert on transitioning sim-skills into real-life, and have some knowledge that I can pass on. And maybe in 10 or 20 years, I want to be the go-to-guy to help those going from sim to reality, to transition guys from that. The guys at Racing Prodigy helped me, they were involved with Mazda and iRacing back then, and I’m happy to help them with that and believe in their mission.  Additionally, I’ve also known Max (Verstappen) since he was 14. If he ever starts something, I’d love to be one of the main coaches on that just to help those top sim-drivers transition.

I want to get those guys that are purely talents—I’m interested in the guys that have zero money, all they have is passion and an iRacing account. Trying to help those guys learn how to transition and bring the value to themselves, because you can’t be just fast in the car, there are other values you need to attach to yourself to make it work because other guys can just write checks and they can easily out value you. I’m always interested in helping people who are passionate and determined. I kind of see a reflection of myself in them, and if they ever ask for help, I’ll give it to them. And particularly Racing Prodigy, I’d love to coach as much on that as possible. And then, you know, whatever the highest level of coaching I can do for sure. This kind of stuff, particularly in maybe 15, 20 years, I’d like to be the guy to go to that helps make that transition.

Finally, what’s in the plans for you for 2024—anything you can share?

Back when I was sim racing, I’d try to put together marketing materials, and that taught me a lot business wise about learning how to put plans together, learning how to cold call. But I didn’t always have a lot of success. This is totally different, coming from winning the World Finals with Lamborghini, and it’s nice to have an eSports career behind that. That’s special, and it puts me outside of what other drivers can bring. It’s been like call after call, where I have too many offers to go through. It’s nice, but totally bizarre. This never happened back then!

These past two weeks have just been going through what’s available and you know, how can a help here and trying to figure out what their motivations are. I’m not going to make like a million-dollar paycheck or anything, but I’m trying to see what I can actually do in racing that’s going to extend my career. For 2024, I’ve had factory teams calling me, but some of them want me to do evaluations on like a 2025 run. There are some Lamborghini teams and hopefully otherwise trying to test me to potentially come on board for their line up. But that’s very forward looking.

I’ll very likely be running in a European GT3 championship, and it’ll be my first next step up in the GT3 racing. I also have been offered to be a part of Wayne Taylor and Andretti Racing, which is pretty awesome. I have so much respect for Wayne and his boys, and they just were blown away by what we did in Vallelunga and immediately gave us an offer.  Just to be in their tent is huge, certainly on the American side, and I would learn a lot there because they have very good drivers and engineers. It’s a step up professionally as a team, so I have to be more professional, which I like the challenge of.

Hopefully there’s also other stuff that people are asking me to do. I’ve been asked to race for teams in Asia, which is kind of interesting but my schedule won’t allow for it. There’s a race in Suzuka that I absolutely want to do, I want to be on that track at one point. So, you know, I’m getting offers for Asian Le Mans, I had an opportunity for British GT3, but I got bought out of my seat by a rich kid. I’d like to do MX-5 races, but I may not be able to. I’d of course love to run some road course races for a NASCAR team, still waiting for that call. I have been asked to compete in the 24 Hours of Dubai, for the first time, which will be interesting. That’s a done deal with a Porsche GT3 team and I’ll be teamed up with Jason Hart, who is an amazing pro driver—he’s been a mentor to me and he’s a super nice guy. So I’m going to be in that race with him and try and learn a lot from him and that’ll be a big one for me.

What’s great is, now I’m just looking at a schedule and figuring out what doesn’t conflict. My aim eventually would probably be to be under a factory banner, the most serious factory effort I can be under. There are a lot of things that need to happen before that, but I can see it down the road as a as a possibility.

I’m very blessed just to have this movie happen. To have iRacing put me in this position—I learned to race on iRacing, like truly race and win and compete at a world level. And then when I go into real life and then win at a world level in GT cars and then to have a career in GT cars, you know, it’s been my dream forever. I’ve been a sim racer for over two decades. I’m sure it’s every sim racers dream, but it’s just very surreal and I’m blessed and grateful to be here.