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In conversation with Jimmy Broadbent – Part two

We have been in conversation with Jimmy Broadbent, a sim racer and YouTuber, who recently decided to tackle Formula E amongst his array of wacky scenarios and endurance endeavours.

Jimmy’s YouTube channel provides an eclectic mix of flat out racing, mixing new cars with old circuits and live streams of classic racing video games.

Following on from part one of the interview, part two delves more into his first experiences of Formula E machinery, being outdone by certain Las Vegas eRace competitors and competing in online events.

So Jimmy, looking at your YouTube account, you do a lot of 100% races on F1 2017, some videos on Assetto Corsa, Need for Speed and iRacing, but recently you did a video on Formula E driving around Hong Kong. How was it making the transition into an all-electric series and how did you find the car being something that is completely different from the norm of Formula 1 combustion engines and such?

It reminds me of when I first started sim racing. I had to relearn how to drive because this car felt so different. I had already experienced hybrid P1 lifting and coasting techniques in Assetto Corsa, but in Formula E you are entirely mindful of that instantaneous electrical delivery. I had to do research for these cars before experimenting with them on track.

Since they don’t have much downforce and they’re essentially on street tyres, you end up driving this like a road car — having to slide to get around certain corners. I remember my friend asking ‘Can you get it loose? Can you powerslide it at all?’ and yes! Yes you can! The last corner at Hong Kong is a long sweeping left-hander and you find yourself thinking ‘Can I do it flat?’’, and it’s definitely possible, but you really have to hang on for dear life. It’s quite easy to end up in the wall, like.. who was it, Vergne?

Yeah, he set pole position backwards across the line.

I did that in practice a couple of times!

So you could say you’ve done something the same as Jean-Eric Vergne…

And I was faster as well!

The launch event video has been viewed over 25,000 times, that’s quite a popular video! That was against the likes of Graham Carroll, Greger Huttu and Las Vegas eRace winner Bono Huis. It must have been an experience driving against racers of that calibre?

Those guys are in a different league from me. I like to think that I’m in the top 15-20% in terms of skill level, but they are the top 1%. When practicing for a race I have to put in about 150 laps to get to my maximum pace. Those guys get to my fastest weekend lap time within their first ten laps, they’re blisteringly quick! I remember doing a qualifying lap and thinking ‘That’s the best lap that anyone has ever done’ and then I look up and notice someone has gone a second quicker. I just didn’t understand how!

However it was nice to have a goal. I thought if I could get anywhere NEAR those guys, I would be happy. In my off-time I bested Greger Huttu’s pole time; that was a big deal for me as Greger is one of the original sim racers. I said hello to him and the other top drivers just before the race on their TeamSpeak; weirdly they all know who I was! It’s so odd because I view them as sim racing royalty. We were just chatting away like old friends for awhile, but when I suddenly asked for a setup? They all went very quiet!

At last season’s Berlin ePrix I had a go on the simulators. Once I had finished the guy there said my lap time was fast enough to be entered into the eRace against the pros which I was quite happy with. I turned around and Graham Carroll was there setting a lap time 2.5s faster than mine! I set a time fast enough to be in the race and he obliterates it, I have no chance!

In the previous official Studio 397 rFactor 2 event, I was told that certain famous sim racers would be there and unfortunately they didn’t show. So for this event I thought ‘maybe one or two of them will appear’. Slowly but surely, bigger names started trickling into the server. I was pleading ‘Oh no, no, no! Stop it!’ so that I’d be higher up the grid. In the end I was best of the rest, sitting just behind the fast guys. That’s good enough for me.

Against racers like that, to some people they are unbeatable.

Pretty much. I’d say that on my day I might be close to the back of them, but I also have to be realistic.

On your channel you also post competitive videos, not just scenario videos, such as the Virtual Endurance Championship. How did you get into that?

There’s a strange path for how I got into that. It started off whilst i was involved in iRacing, mostly driving the Pontiac Solstice around — for those who don’t know, it’s a horribly slow car — because I was decent in it. I met a guy through there who asked if I wanted to drive for his rFactor 1 team. I thought it could be fun, but unfortunately it fell through and I didn’t drive for them.

I ended up looking through the league’s forums and messaged a different team lead by a guy who was 70 years old with a teammate not far behind him in age (quite the gap as I was 21 at the time). He gave me potato recipes in between pit stops! I always love watching real races like Le Mans, but this was my first foray into actually driving an endurance race. I wasn’t the fastest, but I discovered that my consistency to drive within a tenth of each lap is a desirable talent in that kind of event.

After four hours of racing, the best part was when we crossed the line in sixth position (the team’s best result to that point was only 12th). That was a massive achievement for me and I had the biggest smile on my face! I still get a wonderful feeling at the end of each endurance event.

Have you enjoyed much more success since then?

I started my own team, Glorious Nippon Steel (GNS), to drive the radically designed front-engine & front-wheel drive Nissan GT-R LM Nismo. In the previous VEC season we had an absolutely torrid time. Our best result that year was a third at Le Mans, a decent finish, but other than that we had failures left, right and centre. In this current season we achieved our first ever win (and at a 12-hour race even) at Istanbul! I actually got pretty emotional afterwards because I’ve been a part of VEC for several years and I had had just one win to my name. This time, however, it was with my team, and my fellow drivers (Joe Ciampa and Nate Lupson) put in a fantastic effort.

It’s easy to play it down with thoughts like ‘I’ve just won an online race, what’s the big deal?’ But, we put in hundreds of hours of practice to create a setup, to feel comfortable on the circuit, to practise driver swaps & pit-stops, have the livery painted just right (can take at least five ours to make the car look nice), then have it all come together across 12 chaotic hours and finally win. It was the best feeling! I got to finish the race in the car as well, that was pretty magical; it’s one of my top ten moments.

Sounds like sim racing not only simulates the on-track action but also all of the emotions and the teamwork, it’s a lot more involved than someone might take at face value.

Definitely, but it also simulates the whining behind the scenes! The amount of discussions I heard was enough to last a lifetime. But we used Motech to create data to help us improve (e.g. knowing where we’re bottoming out; compromises to the rake angle; tyre pressures changes). It’s very technical and you can spend many hours setting up a car and testing, that’s why it’s so immersive.

The final part of our interview with Jimmy will be made available following this weekend’s Marrakesh E-Prix.

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.