Munich. Jimmy Broadbent (GBR) is probably the most influential influencer in the booming sim racing sector at the moment. His YouTube channel has around 425,000 subscribers and during this current difficult time, in which no real-life motorsport is possible, he regularly competes in sim racing against professional racing drivers and other high-calibre sim racers. This coming weekend he will team up with BMW works driver Bruno Spengler (CAN) in a virtual BMW Z4 GT3 for the second race in the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series. A few weeks ago, Broadbent was given the exclusive opportunity to try out the BMW Motorsport simulator in Munich (GER). His video report on the experience has been viewed more than 900,000 times.
Jimmy, how was your experience in the BMW Motorsport simulator?
Jimmy Broadbent: “I was pretty excited and couldn’t wait for the time to come. I was really looking forward to it and had a lot of fun on site. I think you can see that watching the video.”
You mention the video. It is one of the most clicked on videos on your YouTube channel isn’t it?
Broadbent: “That’s right! It’s getting near to a million views now, which is a lot, especially for sim racing content. I think that’s because it’s rare for your average person to see a professional simulator like that, so it was a rare opportunity to get the insight that BMW Motorsport gave me and my viewers.”
So, you have a community that is also interested in technical topics?
Broadbent: “Yeah, definitely. Sim racers like my community and I all have a mini version of this simulator at home. So to see a professional simulator with a real DTM chassis and projector is like a fantasy for fans of sim racing.”
Let’s talk about your experiment in the BMW Motorsport simulator: As you can see in the video, you were super-fast – around just one second slower than BMW DTM driver Sheldon van der Linde. Were you surprised?
Broadbent: “I was a little bit surprised because I’ve seen other people who have done a lot of simulator stuff then try and get into a professional simulator and then have issues with it, so it was nice to not be terrible. (Laughs) I have to admit that I’m a competitive person, so it really sucks when others are faster than me.”
Did Sheldon van der Linde give you helpful tips?
Broadbent: “He gave me some really helpful tips, especially with braking because that’s what I struggled with at the start. The BMW Motorsport engineer who was in the simulator helped me with this a lot as well. He showed me a graph and said: “Look, this is what Sheldon’s doing, here’s what you’re doing, do what he’s doing.” With that advice I went a second faster pretty much straight away so having that feedback I think is really invaluable – for sim racing as well. Anyone who wants to go really fast and has the opportunity should be using data analysis.”
What were the biggest differences between your race simulator, which is a high-end one, and the BMW Motorsport simulator?
Broadbent: “First of all the motion. I’ve been in sims that have had motion, but it’s been done wrong. It’s very easy to overdo motion. But the setup was just right in the BMW Motorsport simulator. It feels like you are actually in the BMW M4 DTM driving laps at the Hockenheimring. Then there’s the real cockpit, the very cool and impressive realistic brake pedal, the seating position and the huge screen, on which I could see the track and the surroundings the same way as in real life. On my screen at home, I can only look to the apex in a hairpin. Here I could see the exit of the bend and look at the whole racing line. Overall it was definitely the best simulator that I have ever sat in.”
Coming back to you, how much time do you spend on sim racing?
Broadbent: “A lot. It’s my job and my hobby in one, which is the dream really isn’t it, but I focus on a wide range of sim racing in my videos. For example, I drove a virtual BMW M8 GTE, I then drove a Formula 1 car and then I went rallying all in the same day. That is probably my downfall. We have a phrase in the UK, it’s jack of all trades but master of none. I mainly enjoy the range that sim racing has to offer, and show this range in my videos.”
As a sim racing expert, what do you think of the current boom?
Broadbent: “When I first started, the idea of anyone putting up prize money or getting a manufacturer’s professional drivers involved was not really heard of. Things have really changed and now it’s almost a common thing. Having BMW get involved in particular was a really nice breath of fresh air. Recently – in part due to the global situation, where for a lot of us our real-life racing has stopped now – I’ve been in so many races with Philipp Eng, Bruno Spengler, Nick Catsburg and others. It’s nice to see that BMW Motorsport is getting behind it properly and don’t just view sim racing as a marketing thing. And the guys are pretty fast by the way.”
Last year, you drove your first laps on the real Nürburgring-Nordschleife with Nick Catsburg. There’s a video report on that as well. How was the real version different from the virtual ‘Green Hell’?
Broadbent: “The biggest difference was that I was aware that if I crashed I would have a big bill on my hands. (Laughs) Otherwise it was incredibly similar – apart from the differences in elevation and centrifugal force of course. Going to the track, you know the turns, where to brake – everything. The main thing is to find your rhythm in a real car. I think I did well, even though I was a little bit nervous having a professional racing driver like Nicky next to me. Otherwise, I probably would have gone a bit quicker.”
Do you have ambitions of competing in real races?
Broadbent: “I’ve been starting to get into it more and more recently. Last year, I was mainly racing in karting. I was due to take part in RCN this year, competing in races at the Nürburgring. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens.”
Are you interested in testing a real BMW Motorsport racing car?
Broadbent: “One hundred percent. I think if anyone answers that question with a no, then you don’t want to talk to them anymore. (laughs) Let’s see what the future brings.”