Part 2 of the my yearly round-up finds us in mid-June, after getting into the swing of things with Ben Palmer, Apex Racing Team and commentating on the 2019 Buckmore Park 24 Hours.
At the mid-point of the month, I was commissioned by sim racing team Mach-1 Esports to make them a team introduction video on iRacing, after being recommended by a friend. They were very helpful in providing replay files, liveries and instructions on what sort of result they wanted to achieve, and while I felt that the editing used in the video was rather basic, the resulting video was one of my favourite to date.
The MINI Challenge UK and Ben Palmer Racing's next stop was Donington Park to round out the first half of the Championship. Ben would unfortunately receive a penalty during Qualifying, which would put him 9th on the grid, and lowered the tone on Saturday evening. Race day wasn't any easier - the car wasn't behaving how Ben wanted, and despite securing a 6th place in Race 1 and 5th in Race 2, it was a weekend where the gap to the Top 3 in the Championship really opened up.
The Chazlington Touring Car Championship would take a few weeks' break while the World GT Championship on iRacing lept back into action with pre-season Qualifying. There was one session each weekday, consisting of a few hours' practice, and only a handful of laps in which to set a time - everyone had chance to take part in two of the five sessions across the week. I ended up 27th of 60 that would qualify, and secured my spot in Season 6, driving for CQR Club's subsidiary team, CQR Evolution.
Throughout the three weeks previous I'd been working on another sim racing team video, for the high-profile Logitech G Altus Esports. I had been recommended by Mach-1 Esports, and worked with Simon Feigl, who was brilliant at providing resources for the video, as well as feedback on the different versions we tried, fine-tuning every little detail to make sure it was as exciting as possible. The video was well-received by all - the team especially.
At the very end of June, Apex Racing Team managed to secure their first and second iRacing World Championship race wins, in the Porsche Supercup - Kevin Ellis Jr winning the sprint race and Jarrad Filsell taking the honours in the feature. After all the hard work I'd seen the team put in behind the scenes leading up to this, it was such a great moment to receive notifications about the results. I'm sure it's not the last time they'll taste such great success.
The Chazlington Touring Car Championship was decided in the penultimate round at Motegi West, with Jake Blackhall taking the honours with two races left to go. He'd been dominant throughout, and got big points on the board on nights where his rivals weren't participating, and clinched the title without even taking a race win on the night. There would now be a four-week break until the finale.
This break was due to the return of the World GT Championship, which was charging towards its sixth season, and with that would come my latest piece of video work - the Season 6 Trailer. Arguably one of my best videos - I utilised iRacing's newly-implemented motion blur to good effect, as I knew there were elements of my previous videos that didn't give a great sense of realism.
Heading into July, I received my biggest news yet. After being in contact with The Events House again, I was invited to be the MC on the Esports Stage in the F1 Fan Zone at the British Grand Prix! Here I would be commentating on the public races throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including an Esports Pro show on Saturday, visits from Formula 2 and Formula 3 drivers, as well as other internet stars and VIPs joining me on stage.
Arriving at Stowe School on the Thursday felt surreal - the place was wonderful, and far beyond anything I'd expected. I met the team and the people I'd be working with, and headed for the circuit. The stage was mounted with 17 simulators - 8 each side and an extra one on the left hand side for a DHL Hotlap Challenge. In the middle was an empty space with a large screen for me to almost broadcast the races to anybody watching and queuing.
I made sure that my commentary was kept light-hearted and entertaining, rather than sounding too serious based on my surroundings. The members of the public that came up to race were very welcoming, and great sports when it came to interviews before (and sometimes during), and after the races.
I felt like I was under a lot of pressure to deliver on Saturday's Esports Pro show, where I'd be joined for races and interviews by drivers from Racing Point, Alfa Romeo, McLaren and Renault. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Hawkins from Codemasters and Fanatec Founder Thomas Jackermeier. Despite me forgetting a lot of the pre-arranged questions I'd been given, I improvised and felt that conversation flowed naturally between us. I was kicking myself for forgetting afterwards though, but you learn from your mistakes, and hopefully - should I ever have the opportunity again - I'll know where to improve for next time.
A highlight for me was sharing the stage with the Formula 2 drivers Nicholas Latifi, Arjun Maini, Callum Ilott, Jordan King and the late Anthoine Hubert. The guys were such fun on the simulators, got stuck in to the interviews, and really interacted well with the audience. Overall it was an incredible weekend, and a real honour to have been chosen to do it all. It was the last thing I was expecting to do when I went into 2019.
I wouldn't be able to attend the next two meetings with Ben Palmer Racing in the MINI Challenge UK, but at the MINI Festival at Brands Hatch, Ben managed to keep his title rivals honest and take his third win of the season in Race 3 on Sunday! Despite being gutted that I wasn't, there I still had my sources for images, so was able to update Ben's social media channels, and make sure people knew how well he was getting on!
At this point came my annual trip to the Royal International Air Tattoo - the world's biggest airshow at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. Not really following the theme of my usual work, this was more of a holiday than anything - four days filled with the sights, sounds and smells of aircraft.
Not long after being back, I was contacted out of the blue by one Mr Jimmy Broadbent, and advised that he'd put my name forward for some upcoming Gran Turismo commentary. Former MotoGP commentator and Gran Turismo regular Tom Brooks got in touch, and advised me of the details, and that we'd be working together. We would be covering Gran Turismo's Top 16 Superstars Manufacturer Series, Nations Cup and Toyota GR Supra GT Cup races, and recording in a studio in Uxbridge.
Before long I was on a train on my way down there, still in disbelief that this opportunity had come about so suddenly, and from such a source. Either way I was extremely grateful, and found my way to the studio and met Tom for the first time. We hit it off straight away, and got to work on the 15 races we'd need to cover over two days. The guys recording us were a top laugh as well, and before long it was Day 2 and we were done.
Hearing Tom through the headset while sat next to him really highlighted to me how good people can sound as a commentator, and what I needed to do to step up my game. As you can imagine, there's only certain things you can change about how you sound, but I now knew exactly what level I wanted to get to, and picked up ways to improve myself. Tom was very humble and helpful throughout the entire process, and we had started a great working relationship.
After admittedly not having really any involvement in Gran Turismo and their games since the third instalment back in 2001, it was real eye-opener to how much the online racing and overall racing game world had developed since then. The live, World Tour events that GT put on are incredible, and in such awe-inspiring locations - hopefully one day I'll end up there, but for now I was very grateful for the chance to feature in their official videos, as it was that very first game that got me into cars and racing way back in 1996.
I decided to give streaming a go in early August, after getting myself a webcam. It was one of those things that I've always wanted to do, but just never got round to. Due to the events and work I'd been doing so far this year, I felt much more comfortable on camera and talking to people watching. I wasn't looking to make anything of it from a monetary value, but more using it as a fun tool to keep myself sharp when it came to commentating and on-camera work.
The following week, the Chazlington Touring Car Championship's first season came to a close, with a rather underwhelming final round at Oulton Park, which only saw five participants. It was a shame for it to end on a bum note, after so much fun and frantic action throughout the series. Despite this, it was enjoyed thoroughly by drivers and viewers alike, and was a really good laugh to run and broadcast. It would definitely make a return.
After a crazy summer filled with exciting opportunities, I booked my first ever spa break (not Spa-Francorchamps unfortunately). We all need to slow down from time-to-time, and I can tell you that even if you don't feel like you need it, you should do it. You won't regret it.
I'd missed a lot of Season 6 in the World GT Championship due to everything that had been going on, but managed to jump back in at Zolder, just after the half-way point of the series. Despite almost no practice or setup, I actually managed to maintain some decent pace, and in the second race of the night I secured a win in the AM Category - something I'd only done on testing days before now. Safe to say that this was very satisfying on my return.
The following week I tried to repeat my success, this time at Imola - a track I had very little experience of in any sim, and absolutely zero in iRacing. The night was chaotic, full of frantic door-to-door racing you wouldn't conventionally see in GTE machinery, and despite feeling like I was on pace with others, I finished outside the Top 30 in all three rounds. Back to reality it seems.
The summer had been very successful for me - some of the most enjoyable months of my life. I was hoping to continue this as the year came to a close. Find out in Part 3 what else lay in store for me.