Huge weekend for iRacing alums as Güven scores Bathurst 12 Hour win, Byron crowned Daytona 500 champion

This past weekend, two prolific iRacing members scored career-defining victories in two of the biggest real-world events of the calendar year. Over in New South Wales, Australia, Ayhancan Güven, a former Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup driver and current Porsche factory driver, teamed up with Laurens Vanthoor and Matt Campbell to win the Bathurst 12 Hour on Sunday. Just over 24 hours later, across the world in Daytona Beach, Florida, William Byron, who began his real-world racing career after competing on iRacing, held on to win his first-career Daytona 500.

For Güven, it was his first start in the well-known endurance event on the Mount Panorama Circuit. The Turkish racer and his Manthey EMA Porsche 992 GT3R teammates also battled the elements, namely some rain, during the course of the event.

Güven’s shining moment came after the nine-hour mark, where he erased an 11-second lead and set sail in front. On a final showdown to the finish, Campbell took the wheel and out-dueled their main competitors in the Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Rain was also a factor in this year’s Daytona 500, but it postponed the event to Monday. Byron started from 18th, moving up to be in the mix throughout the day. With eight laps to go, Byron took a bump from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Alex Bowman, and that shifted his car enough to trigger “The Big One.” Byron escaped without hindering damage and lined up on the front row for the final restart. As they crashed on the final lap and the caution flew, Byron barely had the edge over Bowman for the win.

Credit: DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 19: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, leads Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, to the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Byron credited a portion of his victory to the fact that he started on iRacing, that he wouldn’t be in the spot he was without joining the service more than a decade ago. That’s been true of his entire career as he rose through the ranks, as the notion of being tied with iRacing followed him to his biggest win to date.

In 2020, Byron became a team owner in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, winning the title with Nick Ottinger the same year. That same year, Byron was a participant in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series; he showed up as a favorite to win every week, winning thrice during the inaugural season. 

Güven, meanwhile, has ties to Coanda Esports, the 2023 IMSA Esports Global Challenge champions and a potent threat to win in anything they sign up to compete in. Not only was Güven a member of the #92 team that competed in the GTP ranks of the IMSA Esports series last season, he’s also a past PESC winner in the opening round of 2022 at Hockenheim. Last year, Güven returned to PESC as an All-Stars competitor, scoring a Sprint win at the Nürburgring. 

While both drivers are set on their paths to become top real-world racing talents in their respective forms of motorsports, it still holds true that they can be among the top drivers whenever they return to the platform.

It’s already been an incredible year for iRacers in the wild. Güven and Byron join Daniel Morad, who captured another Rolex 24 victory last month. Many other sim racers have started or continued on their real-world journeys. It’s becoming more and more evident that some of the best sim racers can compete on the biggest stages, from the top of Mount Panorama to the high banks of Daytona, and iRacing is proud to be a part of two huge wins over the weekend.

Byron, in particular, now owns one of the most recognizable trophies in the world in the Harley J. Earl Trophy. “I’m just a kid from racing on computers and winning the Daytona 500,” he said. “I can’t believe it… this is so freaking cool.”