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In conversation with Jimmy Broadbent – Part one

eSports has seen a monumental rise in popularity over the last couple of years. Formula E hosted the first-of-its-kind eRace in Las Vegas, Formula 1 organised its own virtual championship and now plans for a full eSeason in 2018 and a multitude of other sports are now getting involved.

YouTube has been the testing ground for gamers and prospective broadcasters alike, with racing leagues being set up for games such as rFactor and iRacing, with YouTubers either doing their own commentary or asking commentators to put some colour into a live-streamed league race.

Jimmy Broadbent is one such YouTuber, who along with the likes of Tiametmarduk and aarava self record their gameplay footage and provide their own commentary, as well as competing in various racing leagues that are broadcast on YouTube.

Having mostly played games such as Codemasters’ F1 titles and Assetto Corsa, Jimmy recently started making videos where he drives Formula E machinery, with the first ‘launch video’ seeing him in action against Formula E eRace competitors Graham Carroll, Greger Huttu and event winner Bono Huis.

Topher Smith sat down with Jimmy for a chat about his interest in motorsport and how it led him into a career on YouTube.

First of all, what got you interested in motorsport, why does it appeal to you?

The defining memory was back in 1996/97 of watching the Goodyear sign on Damon Hill’s wheel go round, I thought that was really great and from there watched a lot of Formula 1 with my dad. It sort of evolved from there and started as a Formula 1 passion as it does for a lot of people. I then realised that it wasn’t the only motorsport out there and I became like a kid in a candy shop and experienced everything.

That’s how it started and I was always that kid who wanted to be a racing driver as everyone does at some point and realised the world doesn’t work that way. I was then playing a lot of computer games as a racing driver and I don’t think there’s been a space of two weeks in my life where I haven’t played some racing game.

That sounds similar to myself wanting to be a racing driver but not having the money, but I suppose simulation racing is quite a good substitute?

You say that but the simulator itself is about the same price as a car! Whilst my dad was into motorsport he was never as heavily into it as I ended up being, so that thought never crossed my mind when I was younger. As I grew older it just didn’t become an option and I’m happy being ignorant to what might have been.

So what was the appeal of simulation racing and made you want to do it more full time as opposed to just a hobby?

It started when I was playing Gran Turismo 4 with friends on split screen, no one could beat me and I was thinking ‘I can do anything I want’ and that went into GT5 as well when I was playing online and winning most races I entered. I thought ‘I wish I had a steering wheel’ and had this really awful laptop at the time, so started doing some Googling. I used to love watching clips of old cars going round and watching onboard of ten minutes and two minutes, I’d watch the whole clip, take it all in and see where the guy is braking. Even if it’s a clip of some guy in a Super Tourer doing a lap and through that I saw a game called rFactor and thought ‘wow, this guy is driving a 1990 V12 Formula 1 car around, no one has this on a console!’

I’m a bit of an audiophile, I love the noise of cars and thought ‘right, I need to get this’. I worked for an awful insurance company at the time and I saved up for a gaming PC from PC World. Now I’m older I know that was a stupid thing to do, and I also bought a Logitech G27. I just wanted to experience driving the car and even if it’s just on a single screen there’s a lot to be said for having a steering wheel and having that immersion. From there it’s just been chasing more immersion.

That leads me onto your YouTube channel, I have the G27 myself but never thought I would get anywhere with a YouTube account. What led you to think YouTube would be a good idea on a regular basis?

It’s been a very long process, it’s only taken off in the last year. In reality I’ve been putting out videos for six years, as well as streaming. The first time I uploaded a video it was really awful with the wrong aspect ratio at a circuit that was awful, but I wanted to show off to my friends and say ‘look, you can drive this car at this circuit whenever you want, look how cool this is!’

There was no voiceover, I was far too shy for that at the time I still remember the first time I did voiceover, I thought ‘I’m going to do a Need for Speed playthrough’ and said ‘Hey everyone…’ and nothing came out from there. When racing it was different, but I could talk about what I doing and not have my performance affected too much, so I started doing that. People were really nice to me and saying ‘I like you taking me through your frame of mind’. I still get those comments today and I started doing commentary as opposed to doing the racing myself. I thought I could combine the two and realised that I had a niche, let’s go and make something. The most realistic way that I was going to make it into motorsport was as a commentator, I don’t think I could race now. I would love to do it but money and sponsorship and all that stuff, frankly I’m not the fittest guy in the world either. I know you don’t have to be super fit to drive touring cars or something like that, but I’m a bit of a realist. Even so, being a commentator would be magical.

That’s how Jack Nicholls got into the industry by commentating on rFactor, that led to him getting the job as the Formula E commentator and working freelance for the BBC. It’s a respectable route to go down being a commentator, people take it on board and think ‘wow, this guy is pretty good’ so it’s not a bad route to go down by any means.

It was a struggle at first as I have a little bit of a lisp. It’s not as pronounced as it used to be, it was a lot worse back in the day, so to speak, but people pick up on that. I’d be talking and getting excited, then I would have to think about what I was saying especially if there were a lot of S’s and have to think about it, but I’m getting better at reeling that in.

You mentioned that you’ve been doing videos for six years but it has only taken off in the last year. Making a YouTube account is one thing, becoming popular is another. How did you address that and get more people to pay attention to you?

I just kept making videos. I didn’t make the account to be popular at first, my grand goal was to hit 10,000 subscribers and now I’m nearly at 50,000, which is ridiculous and I’m still unsure as to why that’s continuing! I originally made videos to help with my own mental health, as I was off work for long periods of time with illness and thought I would be productive by putting up a video a day. If people can take some enjoyment or pleasure from it I can think ‘I’ve done something good today’. Just being like that and combining making videos with streaming, which was new on YouTube and not very popular compared to other platforms, but doing a combination of the two is what kept me relevant and kept me in the public eye, so I’ll keep doing that.

Keep your eyes peeled for part two!

About Topher Smith
Topher is an experienced and passionate Motorsport journalist with Formula E, Formula 1, GP2/F2, GP3 and IndyCar all on his resume. When he isn't at the trackside you can find him furthering his own capabilities and knowledge through his endless search for original ideas and material. Also plays league pool.