When I set my goals for 2020 I included one small statement at the end, “… but even with my years goals in place it could still all change.”
Boy if I had known how much that would ring true across the world.
No one will be forgetting 2020 any time soon. It was a year the world got flipped on it’s head with plans ripped apart in an instant and lives changed forever. But for me it wasn’t all covid doom and gloom, there was a lot of exciting moments and achievements mixed in. I even managed to achieve some of those goals I had set myself.
My year recaps have become a tradition. A point in time where I stop and reflect on all the incredible opportunities I’ve had in the past twelve months. For many 2020 was a year of separation, concern, and unknowns. For me it was all those things but it was also fun and exciting.
Last year my recap post was titled “2019 was a big year. The challenge is to go even bigger in 2020!” and oh boy did I go big when it came to Virtual 2 Reality.
Virtual 2 Reality was an evolution on sim racing series I’ve organized in the past but on a MUCH grander scale. With the prize being a drive in a real race car at the end I was hell bent on making sure it lived up to the hype it deserved. We had great different car and track combos, an epic grid of drivers, and a mega stream setup on an almost weekly basis.
By most accounts it was a great success. But I would never do that again the same way. Week after week of preparing for streams and organizing the series, stressing about bring all the pieces together for the track day, constantly working trying not to disappoint anyone involved. Despite that it’s still one of my proudest sim racing achievements (if you can call it that) and I learnt so so much from it.
As part of the build up for Virtual 2 Reality I made a quick trip to Auckland to get some footage of the car the winner would drive. To make the most of that trip we snuck out to Pukekohe for a track day in the Red Dragon, bumping into the old Bumble Beemer (which has been sold) while we were there. Such a wild track that made for an awesome day behind the wheel. A day that included handing the keys to my buddy Everard and giving him a blat.
When the lockdowns came they brought with them a HUGE uptake in sim racing. Suddenly there was no motorsport taking place, the only outlet was sim racing. All the real race series eventually jumped on the bandwagon and created their own esports series. Millions of peoples opinions about sim racing and esports generally were suddenly shifting as they were forced to take interest with no other live events available.
My favourite way to explain the public’s shift was with a joke I saw online:
“in 2019: esports isn’t a sport.
in 2020: esports is the only sport.”
And of course traditional media took notice too. And to explain sim racing they called me!
The news on TV wasn’t the only time the media pulled me in for a story. During the year I also appeared in the NZ Herald discussing the state of sim racing and the events I was competing in.
When the real racing stopped due to lockdowns one of the first race series to get on the esports bandwagon was actually local. The 2kcup put on an iRacing series and it exploded in popularity. There was over 100 people taking part made up of huge range from the 2kcup regulars trying sim racing for the first time right up to the biggest names in NZ motorsport such as Shane Van Gisbergen and Brendon Hartley.
I hated that series. It was super frustrating the terrible driver standards. I was constantly caught up in other peoples mistakes and over aggression, which unlike in some games, would hamper me for the rest of the race.
That’s not to say it didn’t provide some great moments. This particular pass will stay with me forever.
I don’t usually like to make goals. Part of that is I want to always stay open to new and unforeseen opportunities. One such opportunity was the chance to work with LetsPlayLive as a race steward for an oversees series they organized (for a big name motorsport brand that I’ve been told not to reveal as it was a white label event). While I didn’t love the middle of the night race times I did love getting involved and having a small peak behind the curtain at how these esports events are organized and run. Basically as much of a mess as I expected but the broadcast was super slick.
This year I celebrated a new milestone on twitch with a 1000km for 1000 followers race. This big race built on my my previous 500km event in 2019. Don’t expect 2000kms. During the event I also took the chance to look back on my journey in racing and in content creation on twitch and earlier. It was cool to dig back through my past from playing TG Rally on the gameboy to making minecraft videos for youtube right through to competing in sim racing events and streaming on twitch today.
I still have the 10 hour recording from that stream (yes it took 10 hours to drive the 1000km race, I told you it was crazy) and I plan to clip out all the recap parts to make a full career review video at some point.
The Armageddon conventions were definitely the highlight of the year. Working with PingZero and Racetech to take sim racing to Armageddon Christchurch, Wellington, and finally the big one in Auckland was just so much fun. I felt like I achieved the vision I had when starting Monkey Motorsport Club of bring people together around sim racing. Hanging out with all the people I’ve been racing online, everyone with a shared passion in sim racing was everything I wanted it to be.
Totally astounding that they even happened. Totally bizarre to attend right after a long period or lock down essentially in isolation then suddenly surrounded by thousands of people. Even more bizarre when considering so many places in the world were still in those lock downs without any gatherings allowed.
After working with Racetech on the Armageddon plans I was over the moon excited to take up a spot as Racetech ambassador. As a result my race setup got a serious upgrade and I still pinch myself every time I walk past it. Getting my hands on such an epic new setup built by an NZ company and providing feedback to a team keen to hear was super awesome. I can’t recommend them enough.
Another exciting part of this year was the relationship I was able to foster with Logitech ANZ. It was awesome to have support from Logitech personally but also through the various online series I organized and at Armageddon. It’s something special to give away sim racing equipment that helped bring new drivers into the sim racing fold.
Esports Rally NZ. I don’t like to talk about it after coming 2nd but it was an amazing event. Qualifying and getting a trip to another sim racing final is always a huge exciting achievement and to do it on my favorite series WRC, in fact to even have a competition like this on WRC, made it all the sweeter.
I just wish I had done better than second.
After Rally NZ I had one more event. The Logitech McLaren G Challenge. An event I didn’t expect to qualify for the final of. But somehow I was there and predictably I was well beaten. It was awesome to be a part of though. It was a shame the finals couldn’t be held in person but the consolation loot crate caused any feeling of hardship to instantly vanish.
So that was my year. A huge success. A lot of fun. Exhausting.
In past years there’s would be the part where I lay out my plans for the year ahead. Explain how it is going to be “bigger and better” than the years before. But this times different. I’m closing a chapter on my sim racing.
For a long time I’ve been battling to keep up. Constantly running trying to be fast enough to set the top time or reach the next final. Always wondering if it’s worth the effort. I’ve reached a point now where the answer is no, it’s not worth it. So I’m taking a step back. I’m not racing competitively, not streaming on twitch, and have no events lined up for the future.
And the timing feels right. In some ways Esports Rally NZ was the perfect send off. My career coming full circle back to where it all started for me in the world of esports and sim racing with Esports WRC.
So I’m not sure what 2021 will hold.
I’ll still be driving for fun. Maybe I’ll organize some competitions with the help from others in MMC. I definitely hope we can grow the sim racing presence at Armageddon. Maybe EeveeP and I will get around to starting that podcast. Maybe I’ll finally get around to working on those app ideas that have been floating around in my head for years.
One things for sure; I’ll always be keeping an eye out for new opportunities and I can’t wait to see where 2021 takes me.