It’s mid-March and the British Automobile Racing Club is broadcasting live the first round of a brand new national one-design championship, the Praga Cup. Unlike most early series, however, this one has garnered over 76,000 views on YouTube, and the chat is spinning feverishly with new articles on “car 87”, “Jimmer” and a gold livery. This epiphenomenon will henceforth be known as the Jimmy Broadbent effect.
For the uninitiated, Broadbent comes from the virtual realm of sim racing. He himself isn’t virtual, but the PC-based platforms he primarily uses to drive – like iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione and Automobilista – are. He started a YouTube channel nearly 10 years ago by simply uploading video game footage with no commentary, and it quickly evolved into sharing his sim racing exploits. He has now amassed over 800,000 subscribers.
Two things set Broadbent apart from countless other simulation content creators. The first is that, yes, its audience is gargantuan, but it’s also engaged. His followers connect, primarily, because of his eagerness. The second is trying to forge a career in motorsport and taking his fans with him. Combining its loyal clientele with the British motorsport scene is proving to be a boon for domestic competitions.
Sharing a car with famed Scotsman Gordie Mutch, Broadbent form Fanatec Praga Team87 in the new 2022 Praga Cup. But things started a bit more humble away from the big circuits.
“The first race car I ended up driving properly was a McLaren 570S GT4 around Dunsfold, which is a bit of a jump – but, so far, most of my career has been a bit of a jump. “, he explains in his inimitable style.
This test took place at the beginning of 2019 – the associated video has over 700,000 views – where he nervously exclaims before driving: “I never thought I would have the chance to go from simulation pilot to to drive something like that!”
Fast forward 10 minutes, and his tune has changed significantly.
“I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like this before,” he says. “I think I made a mistake going out there and driving something. Now I have to do it again.
Broadbent has a huge following online among other sim racers
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
This he did. Working on a first-generation Mazda MX-5 project was all he originally planned.
“[A motorsport career] wasn’t something I was actively pursuing initially,” he admits. “What I was chasing more realistically – but no one could have seen what happened next – was to put my little Mazda on the track.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a driver, but I realized around the age of 26 that it wasn’t going to happen, because to get to a professional level, you traditionally had to drive since childhood. I was just going to bolt some turbos to the MX-5 and see what happens.Apart from racing Club100 karting rounds in 2019 to see what the races were like, there were no big plans.
Other opportunities presented themselves throughout the year, such as testing an Audi RS 3 LMS TCR, taking a course at TT Circuit Assen and taking a spin on a Radical around Brands Hatch, all while continuing to simulate the race. This led to an incredible deal to join Praga for the Britcar Endurance series last season. After two wins at Donington Park, Broadbent followed Praga into the new one-make championship for 2022.
“For me, club racing is the heart of motorsport. The competitors are not there to make money, everyone is there for the passion. It’s very laid back and welcoming.” Jimmy Broadbent
“I mean, it would be nice to aim for a championship,” says the former cabin dweller, known for previously creating videos from an outhouse in his mother’s backyard. “It’s mostly a Pro-Am series. I have Gordie [Mutch] next to me. He was an amazing coach last year and that’s why I found the slightest speed.
“My goal is to be somewhere close to him and if I can do that then we have a very strong couple. But I have a lot of work to do. [to reach that level].”
After mixed conditions threw a wrench in the works at the opening round in March, the duo have since fought back with a podium at Oulton Park and then secured a victory at Snetterton earlier this month (they have been robbed of a second win at Norfolk due to a boost in questions) to currently sit second in the standings. Game on.
“Last year we got to a place where he was the fastest Pro and I was the fastest Am,” Broadbent continued. “If we can do that again, that’s amazing, but it’s not as simple as jumping in the car and doing that.”
Broadbent enjoyed working with Mutch and learning from him.
Picture by: Prague
Although the Praga Cup is the main focus for 2022, it’s not Broadbent’s only on-track activity. He deployed an MX-5 again recently to compete in the Pocket Rocket class of the first two Cadwell Park Time Attack rounds. He set the eighth-fastest class time in lap one and sixth fastest in lap two, and intends to compete in other events.
He also recently competed with GT Radial in the Fun Cup Endurance Championship, finishing third at Oulton Park. His video has been viewed more than 200 times more than the race stream.
“For me, club racing is at the heart of motorsport,” he explains. “Competitors are not there to make money, everyone is there for passion. Things are very laid back and welcoming. On the circuit, the objective is to have a good time and the peloton will compete. You don’t care what you drive when you’re having a good race and the Fun Cup really delivers that. I would love for more people to be aware of this, especially at these levels.
With a Praga Cup championship challenge looming and strong performances in Fun Cup and Time Attack so far this year, it may come as a surprise that someone with very little on-track experience could be so competitive.
“I think the naysayers of sim racing might be people who go to a show or an event and try out a setup that was designed to be completely crazy to draw a crowd,” Broadbent suggests. “Obviously, that’s far from realistic.
“If you have a properly configured racing sim cockpit and spend a few hours in it, you will immediately see the link [to the real world] and the advantage of testing in a virtual space. We even use MoTeC when we train at home.
“The brake tracks and the curvature of how we accelerate – it’s all analyzed on the simulation and we do the exact same thing in motorsport. It’s a directly transferable skill.
He is uniquely placed to explain what it is like to go from intensive simulator use, for over a decade, to a competitive motorsport championship – highlighting what is similar and what is not. is not.
“I would say that in a competitive Esports race your mind is working even harder than in a Praga, for example,” says Broadbent. “In many cases, Esports drivers are their own engineers, and they change setups and strategies on the fly. That’s more mentally taxing. But, of course, that’s then offset in the real car by the fact that your body is also beaten in the real world.
Broadbent combined his Praga outings with Fun Cup appearances
Photo by: James Roberts
“I think there’s definitely a comparison, if you have a strong mind, and that’s something that I think really helped me. When I first got in the car, I knew already the racecraft tips and where to place the car i think a sim racer can jump to a higher level than someone who has never raced before.
“I wish more people would come out and show how simulator racing is a really accessible entry point into motorsport.”
In addition to focusing on the transition from sim racing to motorsport, Broadbent has also launched the Team87 initiative.
“Motorsport is often neither cheap nor easy,” he explains. “Team87 will hopefully bring in more competitors from sim racing.
“Ultimately, we’d like to try and get a few cars running in a few club-level series driven exclusively by sim drivers and show that this talent exists. I have my own motorsport aspirations, but my real joy would be to see more people come from space sim, and hopefully i can help them do that.
“We showed up for the Miami Concours event and the person at the door saw the Praga logo on our clothes and said ‘Jimmy Broadbent!’ “It’s amazing to go somewhere on the other side of the world and see the impact it has” Mark Harrison
Broadbent’s racing exploits aren’t just the pin-up of the sim racing community. For Praga, the partnership has an unexpected benefit.
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“In the US, it’s really exciting that people know who we are,” says Mark Harrison, Managing Director of Praga UK. “We showed up for the Miami Concours event and the person at the door saw the Praga logo on our clothes and said ‘Jimmy Broadbent!’ It’s amazing to go somewhere on the other side of the world and see the impact it has.
It is clear that taking someone from the virtual world and placing them in motorsport can both deliver strong racing results and reach a wider audience outside of traditional motorsport media, potentially engaging with an audience younger – and the increase in viewership figures bears witness to this.
The sim racing and Esports fanbase are looking forward to the genre’s most recognizable face who makes a career out of not just entertaining fans, but also earning silverware. If anyone can successfully bridge the gap between home racing and around the world racing, it’s Jimmy Broadbent.
Broadbent’s involvement helped the Praga brand grow
Photo by: Mick Walker