Gaming is his life: even as a boy Jimmy Broadbent’s favorite thing was to play with cars on the computer. The 28-year-old Englishman started his sim racing career with Gran Turismo on the Sony PlayStation, later switching to the PC. These days he revs on the starting line in rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa and iRacing, and has over 327,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, set up in 2012. He is also a commentator on the Gran Turismo World Tour.
Below, Jimmy reveals his most important tips and tricks for all gamers, whatever their game skills.
Which racing games are a good place to start virtual motorsport? Which racing simulation is the best?
Jimmy Broadbent: I'm often asked that. Every racing simulator is good in its own way. Personally, I have a lot of fun with iRacing, which focuses on online racing and competition. In terms of driving physics and tire modeling, rFactor 2 and Automobilista are very good. These two racing games also have enough content for solo drivers who don't want to race against other people. In terms of range, Assetto Corsa should be your first port of call.
So all I can say is this: if you have the opportunity, take a look at all the different simulations. And if I had to decide, iRacing would be my number one recommendation for competition, and Automobilista for solo players.
What is sim racing?
Sim racing means accurate computer simulation of real car racing on a PC or games console (PS4, Xbox One). The driving physics, traction, grip and tire behavior are all modeled as accurately as possible. Sim racers compete online against each other or against an AI, and need a steering wheel with pedals in addition to their racing games of choice.
GT races are well-suited to beginners, as the cars behave themselves.
Sim racing and YouTube star
What race classes and racing licenses should I start with as a novice at sim racing?
Jimmy Broadbent: GT races (such as GT3 and GT4) are among the most popular sim racing categories. You can get into things pretty quickly with both of those. The cars behave pretty nicely in the normal range. Only when pushed to the limits do they become difficult to maneuver. Beginners may want to try, for example, a Mazda MX5 on iRacing. It's lightweight, doesn’t have too much power and will understeer or oversteer depending on how you adjust your settings. This way, you can master the basics behind the steering wheel before you dare to move up to faster classes. At the other end of the scale is the highly potent prototype class, where you need great reaction speeds.
What’s the best way to learn new racetracks and their racing line?
Jimmy Broadbent: The best way – at least for me – is to drive a new track very slowly at first. That way, I get the structure of the course and the path of its curves. Then I try driving faster and pushing the car to see how it responds to the track. There are also drivers who go straight into giving it 100 percent even on unfamiliar racetracks. But if you do that, don’t be surprised if you find yourself skidding in the corners.
What I find super helpful is the racing line that you can overlay on motorsport racing games. But I only do that for five or six goes, then I turn it off. Another tip: Follow the fastest drivers in multiplayer sessions. This enables you to monitor things like their gear changing, braking points and setup. Some gamers are too proud to do this and prefer to just practice themselves. But why make things complicated? The fastest boys and girls know how to do it, so why not take a look at how they do things? (➜ Read also: How to find the racing line)
What’s the best way to approach a corner? What’s the best braking technique?
Jimmy Broadbent: This is an important point. Because one thing is crucial when you’re getting familiar with a track: how to corner. First, look at the exact braking points. Get your bearings from prominent objects like the distance markers for corners. Memorize them! Another crucial point is the apex. You have to catch it on the inside of the curve. And don't forget your rearview mirror in a race – you don't want to be taken by surprise by someone behind you on a corner!
Another thing not to forget is that every corner is different. If, for example, a curve is followed by a long straight, then my focus is not so much on entering the corner, but on exiting it. So I enter the corner more slowly, orient the car towards the exit faster and get back on the gas as early as possible. It’s quite different with esses; With these, don’t be afraid to really throw the car into entering the corner to prepare it for hitting the opposite direction quickly. (➜ Read also: Profile of a racetrack architect)
One very good technique for fast cornering is known as trail braking.
Sim racing and YouTube star
In motorsport, there’s a great technique for fast cornering that can also be used in many racing games: “trail braking”. Normally, you brake before a curve, turn in and then start accelerating again. Trail braking is different: You stay on the brakes as you enter the curve, but with less force than when braking on a straight. So you brake into the corner smoothly and use the shifting forward of the weight of the car for more grip on the front wheels – giving you better steering wheel control. Trail braking is especially useful after long straights or for inclined curves. Some games, like iRacing, favor this technique; others, like rFactor 2, less so.
What’s the fastest way to exit a corner?
Jimmy Broadbent: It's certainly tempting to just hit the accelerator as fast as possible when you’re sim racing. But there aren’t many cars where that works – racing games are simply too realistic these days. As an example, in group C cars, with their 700 hp, at full throttle the turbocharger will kick in and the car will hit the skids at the drop of a hat. The rear wheels go crazy and you have zero grip.
It’s better to go gently and evenly on the gas pedal after a corner. Exactly how fast and how hard depends on the car. F1 cars, for example, have tremendous grip on the rear wheels. For front-wheel drive cars, you need to go by feel a lot more.
One of the most important gaming tips is to be a good listener to what your car is telling you.
Sim racing and YouTube star
How can you learn the characteristics of your own car?
Jimmy Broadbent: More than anything, what that takes is time. In iRacing, I like driving LMP1 prototypes for which there’s a lot to learn – from the hybrid system to the throttle response to the brake balance. It just takes time and a lot of driving practice.
One of the most important gaming tips is to be a “good listener” to what your car is telling you. In sim racing, you don’t feel the g-forces, which makes things more difficult. However, the force feedback from the steering wheel does give you information about grip, drift behavior, and the vehicle’s limits. You should also pay attention to tire squeal when cornering to avoid overstraining your tires. This is particularly true for racing cars, less so for road cars.
The nice thing about sim racing is that you can reset everything after a crash. This means you can confidently take the car into borderline situations in racing games (something that is not advisable in a real-life race!). In fact, borderline situations are the best place to learn how a car responds. Former Formula 1 and IndyCar champion Nigel Mansell, for example, always used to do skid tests on his new cars. He would get the car drifting and spin donuts so as to get a real feel for the vehicle. (➜ Read also: The most spectacular street circuits in motorsports)
Does a driver aid, like traction control or ABS, make you faster or slower?
Jimmy Broadbent: A driver aid is not a bad thing in itself. Even real GT3 cars use assistance systems such as traction control and ABS. That said, you shouldn’t rely on them permanently. At full throttle, you always notice the traction control coming on and helping – but it does make you slower. During full braking the ABS kicks in, which lengthens the braking distance. That's why you should aim to drive with such control that the ABS or the traction control just doesn't even come on.
How do the right field and direction of view help in racing games?
Jimmy Broadbent: The problem with gaming is that you are limited to the viewing width of a monitor and you don’t have the circumferential visibility you have in real life. That's why it's extra important that you always know where the other vehicles are. Your field of view plays an important role in this, and you can adjust it in racing games.
Even more important is the right direction of view – the same rule applies here in e-sports as in real-life motorsport: you look where you want to go. Take cornering, for example: first you focus on the braking point, then on the apex, and finally on the exit of the corner. If you keep these points in view, you’ll be on the right track. Don’t be distracted by the numerous overlays that exist in racing games. You can check out their information on the next straight!
Proper overtaking is a bit like a game of chess.
Sim racing and YouTube star
How do you overtake properly?
Jimmy Broadbent: Overtaking maneuvers are like a dance – everyone has to play their part. Many online drivers overtake without due regard for others, thinking only of themselves. They show no concern for other drivers and just take opponents out. Their comeuppance tends to be swift… the whole thing is totally senseless.
That’s why you should approach overtaking with brains, as well as quiet guile. If I'm planning an overtaking maneuver, I might fake it a whole lap earlier by going inside the curve. That way, the driver in front thinks he knows my plan for the next lap. But when it comes down to it, I do the exact opposite: I make a passing attempt around the outside on the same curve. So you can see that proper overtaking is a bit like a game of chess – a lot of tactics.
How do you compete in a racing simulator? How do you win motorsport races?
Jimmy Broadbent: Above all, good concentration is essential in racing games. Especially when you’re out in front, there’s a great temptation to become careless, take it easy. But that would be a mistake. That's why I always try to keep consistent lap times so I don't lose focus.
Alongside concentration, durability is the most important quality needed to win. There are drivers who are really fast in qualifying – unlike me. I'm very good at keeping my times consistent throughout a race. Lots of my opponents find that difficult. Maybe they drive too hard and overstrain their tires.
The biggest mistake in a race is to focus on what others are doing.
Sim racing and YouTube star
Yet the biggest mistake in a race is to focus on what others are doing. Because that’s when driving errors occur. I concentrate fully on myself. You also mustn’t forget fuel consumption and tire wear as factors for success in multiplayer races. The easier you drive and steer, the longer your tires will last – unlike in qualifying, where you’re constantly racing at the limit. In a race that driving style causes way too much wear on your tires – suddenly you’ll start to slide around, and that costs you time.
The same applies to fuel consumption. If you’re constantly at max RPM, that will drain your fuel tank, which could mean an extra pit stop. To put it simply: you have to engage your brain! After all, in sim racing you don't have a race engineer, just your own head.
Ten world-class sim racers, ten BMW factory drivers and lots of influencers like Jimmy Broadbent all came to BMW’s home city of Munich, Germany in December for a sim racing event at BMW Welt.
At SIM LIVE 2019, motorsport fans competed against each other on the gaming platform rFactor2. Jimmy won the media race contested by journalists and influencers. In the pro race, Mitchell deJong (USA) of VRS Coanda Simsport emerged victorious.
For Stefan Ponikva, Head of BMW Brand Experience Shows & Events, BMW SIM LIVE 2019 was the first round of an exciting competition: “Our vision is clear: as a premium automaker with strong motorsport DNA, BMW wants to lead the way in the field of sim racing.” (➜ Discover more)
Author: Thomas Stuchlik; Images: iRacing, BMW