2019 was a breakthrough year for me as a person, and Chazlington as a brand. So many things happened that I didn't expect - in a good way - and I really surprised myself with what I can achieve. I thought I'd do a full, uncut write-up of how my year went but before I knew it I'd written nearly 6,000 words, so I've split it into three sections for you.
I hope you enjoy reading it.
I set up a Facebook Page at the beginning of the year (soon followed by Instagram and Twitter) - the 5th of January to be precise - in the hope of building up a brand and a profile, and promoting my work, whether it be images, videos or commentary. As I thought there was a possibility of making some money out of it, I decided to apply for Company Directorship, and set up Chazlington Ltd. This would eventually go through on February the 1st.
For January, heading into February I would continue commentating on Apex Racing TV, on YouTube, covering multiple iRacing Leagues on a weekly basis. When I wasn't "in the booth" I would be competing in the World GT Championship for Beast Racing - a team managed by Drew Adamson, iRacing's Media Producer.
In my four years on iRacing, I had been noticing and chasing a team across all of the leagues I was in - CQR Club. Headed up by BTCC Champion Ash Sutton, and filled with talented sim racers, they were one of the teams to beat when it came to UK-based leagues. I had a lot of friends there, that I regularly conversed with and eventually made the jump and got accepted into the squad.
Before long I got chatting more with Ben Palmer, who had been racing in the Michelin Clio Cup, winning almost every race and becoming Champion two years on the trot. His aims were to get into the MINI Challenge UK for 2019, as it had been announced on the support programme for the BTCC in 2020. After some negotiation it was agreed that I'd be his Social Media Partner for the year, managing Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and doing photography at race meetings.
My first opportunity to do some work outside of my usual arena came in early February, where I did some presentation work for The Events House, working on the Playseat SMS-R Series, on Project Cars 2. This would be a quick round-up of the previous week's Qualifying events, explaining who set the fastest time, and would progress to a live final at Mercedes-Benz World. This would be my first work in front of a camera, and it helped me develop my delivery methods, and overall confidence.
In March I was contacted by Clinton Bell of Club 73 Karting, and told that I'd been recommended to Buckmore Park to commentate on their 24 Hour event in early April, where he would be the Race Director. Soon enough I was contacted directly by Buckmore's Marketing Manager, and we sorted out the logistics of getting me there to call the shots. This came as a massive surprise to me, as I was expecting to really have to chase an opportunity such as this.
Towards the end of the month I headed to Italy for a short break after things (from my perspective, and against my expectations) had seemed to really start taking off. I saw some of the most beautiful parts of the country, staying right near Lake Garda - which I drove around in a Fiat 500 of all things - and being only a half-hour drive from Milan. A trip to the legendary Autodromo Nazionale Monza was a real highlight, especially seeing as there was Blancpain Endurance Series testing going on, and it didn't cost anything to get in for the day.
I was actually quite surprised at the state of disrepair that a lot of the buildings and facilities were in. Despite this though, you could sense the history and atmosphere in the air - it didn't matter to me how it looked and how well-maintained it was - this was Monza, and let me tell you, the incredible sound of the Lamborghini V10 engines echoing through the forests was indescribable, and an experience that I hope you too can live one day.
It was absolutely magical being able to stand on the old banking as well - it's a hell of a lot steeper in person than you can imagine - it's not realistically something you can walk up, and to think that people used to race cars around it with nothing like the level of safety we have today, is jaw-dropping.
Only days after returning, I headed to Oulton Park to meet Ben Palmer and his team, for his pre-season test in the Mini Cooper F56 JCW. It was the first time I'd seen Ben in years, and first time seeing the car - Ben and I got on very well, as we did online, and outlined everything I'd need to do over the course of the season - what he expected from me and what I'd get back etc. I was very excited to be getting my logo on the car for the year.
Another opportunity presented itself to me as the month drew to a close - Alex Simpson of Apex Racing TV had become a fan of my media work while commentating on the BSR MX-5 Pro Series, as I'd started doing screenshots and "sim-tography" for the championship. Before long I was brought on as Apex Racing Team's Social Media Partner, with the aim of providing imagery and video work for them, as their World Championship campaigns on iRacing got under way.
Before I knew it, April was upon us and I was travelling down to Kent with my brother for the Buckmore 24 Hour, unsure of what to expect, both from the race and from myself. We stopped over on the Friday night and headed to the circuit on Saturday - there we met my fellow commentator Anthony Jordan. Throughout the entire event, Anthony was a joy to work with - we quickly picked up on each other's quirks and methods when commentating, and gelled together to provide - what we considered - a very entertaining broadcast with the amazing work of Alpha Live.
I surprised myself early on with my ability to improvise and find things to talk about - Anthony was heading down to the grid which left me to ramble for five minutes, but I felt that it went well, and was noticed by a couple of people commenting on the stream, it seems. Things came naturally after that, and Anthony and I delivered a strong balance of professionalism and fun to everyone watching.
We had guest commentators at points - Kieran McGinley, James Auld and Jimmy Broadbent joining us in the booth - and conducted interviews with drivers as well. Tom Bellingham from WTF1, YouTuber Steve Brown - known to most as Super GT - and Jimmy Broadbent all joined us on camera to have a chat about how their race was going and what they thought of the event. I felt that this further improved my composure on camera, and gave me something to work on, in the form of my interviewing techniques.
It was incredible event, and I met some brilliant people - most of which I am still in contact with - and laid some great foundations on which to build my network, and a multitude of working relationships. The importance of me doing this event would come to fruition further down the line.
At the end of the month, Ben Palmer's debut season in the MINI Challenge UK got under way, with Rounds 1 & 2 from Oulton Park, supporting the British GT Championship. To be attending this event for the fifth time running - but this time with a lot more involvement in the paddock - was incredibly exciting. I got to know plenty of people around the paddock very quickly, and learned so much about the little details of the motorsport industry - things I'd never even thought about before.
The team would have a tough weekend, despite a strong Qualifying performance putting Ben 7th. A gearbox failure in Race 1 meant a flat-out afternoon of rebuilding for Race 2, where Ben would start 26th and eventually finish 13th, getting the Sunoco Fastest Lap award along the way - something to really show his opponents the pace he had.
As May arrived, and we headed back into the sim racing world, the most recent Season of the World GT Championship had come to a close, and after some very hurried organisation, I started hosting my own fun little series - the Chazlington Touring Car Championship. This would see iRacing's selection of Rallycross cars pitted against each other on short, conventional road circuits. The first rounds took place at Brands Hatch Indy, and was well-received, with a 15-car grid on show to kick things off.
A few weeks later I was getting my first experience of Snetterton, out in the sticks near Norwich - a circuit I'd always wanted to visit, but with the drive being over 4 hours compared to the 15 minutes it took me to get to Oulton Park, I'd never found reason enough to do it, until now of course. Ben Palmer and the team were there for Rounds 3 & 4 of the MINI Challenge UK, and produced a stronger weekend than the last, with two 4th place finishes securing Ben 74 Championship Points. At this stage it was becoming apparent that Ben was definitely in a position to secure race wins.
The Chazlington Touring Car Championship continued through Rounds 3 to 8 over the next few weeks, with grid sizes varying massively - anywhere from 4 to 12 cars showing up, with the smaller grids not actually having a negative impact on the quality of racing. The season reached its half way point, and I was pleased with the amount of views that the broadcasts were getting each week.
On top of this, I continued to commentate for Apex Racing TV, exclusively covering the BSR MX-5 Pro Series on Tuesdays nights with Tom Jacobs and Alex Simpson - we'd developed into quite the trio, bringing a positive vibe and fun attitude to the stream, receiving many positive comments from drivers and viewers alike each week.
June was upon us, and it was time for the MINI Challenge UK to head to Silverstone for another frantic weekend supporting the British GT Championship. I only attended the Sunday due to commitments on the Saturday, but arrived to the news that Ben had qualified 5th despite a very tough session. To a lot of people's surprise, Ben was challenging the leaders from the start, took the lead and secured his first win of the season! Everyone was ecstatic.
While it was incredible high, the team couldn't let themselves get distracted, and the focus shifted to Race 2, where Ben would be starting 6th due to the reverse grid draw. Two of his main title rivals ran into trouble and failed to score, so he took full advantage, got the lead, and built up a gap, taking two from two - the first driver to do so in 2019! It was an absolutely electric atmosphere, and a pleasure to be there to witness it.
With a couple of weeks between race meetings, I swung my attentions to Apex Racing Team, who had plenty going on in the Porsche iRacing Supercup and iRacing VRS GT World Championship - plenty of video editing and screenshot capture was going into making sure their coverage was as comprehensive and well-polished as possible.
As we finish Part 1 in June, you're probably thinking that I could just make this a two-partner. No no. The summer then became busier than I could've ever imagined.