October 2015

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The Street Brawl At COTA – Rounds 83 To 85 Of The BSRTC

BSRTC PRO Series, Features

Much as it is raved that the British Sim Racers’ Pro Series Touring Car Championship – an IRacing member created touring car championship whose rise we covered in its biography last week and that is near the end of its MotorsTV broadcast- $10,000 prize fund season– is perhaps the most professional, disciplined and competitive IRacing based touring car offering that could, in ways, even surpass the real world British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), there was little hope that things would stay that way come Race 29 of its 35 week season. Sure, the BTCC is high-contact frenzy. Yet even so, the tension that seemed to precede what was being deemed the final race of the ‘actual season’ of the BSRTC Pro Series, only served to forebode outright barbaric virtual racing that is often looked down upon by the matured likes of the Sim-racing community.

Back at the time of the season’s inception in the days prior to March earlier this year, the BSRTC’s administration had decided that in order to keep things unpredictably competitive till it’s very end in December and to minimize any of the 50 participating drivers’ chances of securing a title win prior to the final race – a British Super Bike Championship styled Showdown format would be adopted. While each of the drivers would compete for points towards the titular Pro Drivers’ championship, the Amateur Drivers championship and Team championship over the first 28 races of the season – only the top 10 Pro Drivers and top 5 Amateur Drivers as per the season’s drivers’ standings at the end of the 29th race; and the top 3 teams as per the season’s team standings at the end of the 30th race would compete for their respective championship titles in the last five weeks of the season. At the start of those Showdown races, their scores would be set to a base of 10,000 plus any points accumulated as a result of podium finishes (1st -4 points, 2nd – 2 points, 3rd – 1 point) over the season – while the top 2 drivers outside of the top 10 Pro Drivers and top 5 Amateur Drivers each, would be eligible for the Showdown as Wildcard entries, with their base scores set to 10,000 alone.

The upcoming 29th race of the season then, was to determine which of the drivers would obtain their shot at the title after 85 rounds of racing over nearly 7 months  – not something either of them would be willing to give up, given the blood and sweat invested. In the week that preceded it then, as I geared up to cover what was setting out to be the most intense battle of the season, I decided to stop by the office of the BSRTC’s keeper of scores – Jeroen Keizer and take a gander at the statistics and possible race scenarios thus far.

Permutations, Preparations and Potshots.

As Jeroen put it – looking at the scoreboard that lay in front of us prior to Race 29 that was to take place at the Circuit Of The Americas on the 22nd of October – nearly anything and everything could happen.

In all likelihood, the top 5 PRO drivers’ and Apex Racing TV’s Sebastian Job in position 6 – given his impeccable performance through the season and uncanny ability to find his way to the podium through an entire pack of  20+ – of the current drivers’ standings were to make it to the Showdown. This however didn’t mean that either of them could call in sick and go for a stroll while the race progressed; each of the Top 6 would be competing against each other to gain a podium finish and acquire the smallest of points that would put them ahead of their peers in the Showdown.

Peter Newman Media’s Simon Field and Leo Bodnar Motorsport’s Andreaz Katz meanwhile- currently in positions 11 and 14 respectively- would get in as wildcards, given their seasons’ wins of 6 and 7 each. This meant that the real tension would reside around positions 7 – 10 as New Homes Digital’s Kip Stephens, Apex Racing’s Lee Thompson and Peter Newman Media’s Pete Newman would fight to maintain their positions within the top 10. GT Omega’s Daniel Hunt meanwhile, despite being in 9th could rest assured that a drop out of the top 10 would still ensure a Wildcard entry given his 5 seasonal wins.

Stephens, Lee and Newman of 2,1 and 2 seasons’ wins respectively however were the most threatened, for if either of them were to drop out of the top 10 and Peter Newman’s Daniel Craft in position 21, currently with 2 seasons’ wins to his name, were to win another race – Craft would beat them to the Wildcard that would lay vacant as a result of Field moving up the scoreboard. Field moving into the top 10 was more highly likely, given his proximity to Pete Newman in position 10.

On the AM side of things- while Engine Oil Direct’s John M.Roberts and Stem Sim Racing’s Paul Smith were relatively secure – New Homes’ Steve Richardson, Apex’s Richard Gore and again, New Homes’ Laura Bond would have to ensure they stayed within the top 5 AM standings to make it to their Showdown. Laser Tools’ Scott Malcolm however, was lurking dangerously close to Laura Bond in the standings and should her luck decide to abandon her – Malcolm would quite possible replace her in the AM showdown. Her chances of a wildcard entry would then be naught, given her 11 season’ wins in comparison to Peter Newman Media’s Steven Burke’s 13 seasons’ wins in position 24. Reeling from what all those permutations and combinations had done to my mental well-being, I quickly left Jeroen to his doings and decided instead to find out how the drivers themselves were coping.

My ramblings found me on the Facebook haunts of Team Engine Oil Direct , Team Apex Racing TV Stem Sim Racing, Laser Tools and New Homes Digital  – all leading contenders to each of the three championships. Confidence at best – was bleak. With its wide, annoyingly twisty S turns that succeed a blind up-hill corner, multiple hairpins and huge run off areas, the Circuit Of The America’s Grand Prix layout seemed to be nobody’s favorite. While one would assume that the width of the track would mean fewer crashes, concern against erratic drivers looking to jump the queue and dive late into corners was rife. Meanwhile, the massive run off areas would bring with them heavy penalties that could very well lead to the disqualification of those looking to gain inches at the apexes. Struggles with finding a suitable tyre-friendly setup for the front-wheel driven Kia Optima were also at an all-time high, with the possibility of Iracing’s dynamic weather adding further mess to the situation not serving to be of much assistance to the drivers.

With all of this hanging over the teams’ heads like a sharp-edged sword, many seemed to be concerned with merely ‘surviving’ the three rounds of the race. Except for perhaps the New Homes Digital team, whose driver Kip Stephens would reinstate rather amusingly when asked about his teams affinity for the track and car combination, ‘I suck at the track and will probably be only up until the 5th lap of the third round before I hope to get comfortable with it. Regardless of whether we win every race today or not – we are going to be pushing Stem Sim Racing out of the Showdown. Yes, they’re falling apart tonight!’

While Stem Sim Racing wished to rather not elaborate on the rivalry between the two teams -specifically between their drivers Steve Walker and Stephens respectively whose potshot exchanges I’ve enjoyed within the BSRTC community for quite some time now – Stephens would elaborate by saying, ‘Walker makes no sense half the time. He continues to bombard with messages when off-track and at some point, I just decided to start playing mean. It’s probably the age gap between the both of us but anyway – Now that you brought it up – I am looking forward to taking him down tonight’.

Actually, quite a few would be going down that night. If not up.

Round 83 of 85 – Desperate Dives For Glory.

As of 8 P.M GMT – the starting grid of Round 83 at the Circuit Of The Americas stood as so –

Pro Drivers 1—6 of the Season’s standings were clearly off to a good start with each of them – with the exception of Stem Sim’s David Baker who would be starting at the back of the grid as the result of a non-participation in Qualification penalty served from the previous week’s race -occupying spots within the top 10 on the grid. Meanwhile Stephens, Thompson, Newman and Hunt were peppered across the mid to the back of the pack and would – as Jeroen had predicted – have to fight to ensure they made it up to the vicinity of the top 10 to be carried over to the Showdown. On the AM side, Stem Sim’s Walker who was in the running for New Homes’ Laura Bond’s spot, had been penalized just as Baker and would start the race in last. Fortunately for him, Laura Bond wasn’t too far ahead with Scott Malcolm and John Roberts in tow. Paul Smith and Richard Gore on the other hand had within their grasp grid positions 17 and 20 respectively, seemingly secure from the rest of the AM competition.

The dogs of war had been let loose. Apex Racing TV’s Sebastian Job had brushed past Laser Tools’ Aleksander Smolensky’s comparatively poor start off the line to the inside, forcing the latter to prepare for an outside approach to Turn One. As the blind corner drew close, Smolensky,  now visibly anxious, went on to step on the brakes considerably later than the Brit- who meanwhile had begun to realize his quicker than normal braking hadn’t put him in the best of lines into turn One. The hard braking had now kicked out Smolensky’s rear end as a result – causing Job, who’d decided to correct his line by flicking his wheel to the right at just the same second, to barge into Smolensky’s side and force to run wide off the track. This first incident would not only go on to haunt Smolensky for the remainder of round – as Engine Oil Direct’s Swirydovicz and GT Omega’s Steliyan Chepilevsky soared past him through the S-turns with Stem Sim Racing’s Ben Palmer hot on his heels – but would also set into motion a series of events that would have drivers brutally and callously elbowing the competition to get past each other at every opportune corner.

Right enough, just as Palmer and Smolensky rushed towards Turn Eleven on lap one – the first hairpin of the track – with Smolensky once again taking the outside line, Palmer moved to swat him out of the way in one violent move that cost Smolensky another couple of positions. Fortunately, PRO Driver skill intact, Smolensky would go onto maintain this position of his with the consistency of an underdog – hovering between 6th and 7th place as he would fight off Chepilevsky’s team mates Michael Schellbach and Daniel Hunt, albeit unsuccessfully, for the next 9 laps before finishing in 7th altogether. ‘What happened with Job was my mistake. However from what I could tell, it was Dive bombing on Palmer’s part.’, Smolensky explained at the end of the race. ‘Some would consider this to be normal but it’s not. It’s ugly and in no way proves their skills’.

Palmer on the other hand, despite being too far down the scoreboard to make it to the Showdown drove like a bat out of hell, dominating 5th place for the next 7 laps – as if to compensate for his team’s leading Pro Drivers’ Showdown contender, David Baker’s Back-Of-Grid start. While Baker would go on to overcome 20 positions over the course of 10 laps, finishing in 16th place altogether – Palmer, passionate as his drive was, would go on to drop several places all at once towards the final two laps of the race, forcing him to grab an 8th place finish behind Smolensky – the top 10 for Stem Sim Racing nevertheless.

While the broadcasters and I pondered upon possible tyre or fuel situations that could have been responsible for the end of the Stem Sim Racer’s marathon, Palmer, a racing driver in real life, later confided that by the end of the race he had been only one ‘incident’ point away from being disqualified causing him to ‘merely finish and lose a few places.’

At the back of the pack, Apex Racing TV’s Richard Gore would go on to overcome the entire AM field after a daring three-way battle against Peter Newman Media’s Pete Newman and Simon Fields over laps 2 and 3 to finish in position 16- while Stem Sim’s Paul Smith, despite dropping down to 6 places and finishing in 22nd, would still go on to dominate the rest of the AM drivers with his Engine Oil Direct competitor John Roberts not too far behind in 29th. New Homes’ Laura Bond and Steve Richardson however, both New Homes Digital AM competitors wrapped up the round in 24th and 31st respectively with – fortunately for Bond- Scott Malcolm still away from the top 5 AM standings with a 36thplace finish.

Over the course of the 10 Lap race, nudges, knocks, erratic driving and an assortment of rash behavior would continue to become commonplace. Lap two had nearly brought along with it a horrific crash between Peter Newman Media’s Steven Burke and Engine Oil Direct’s Andrew Whitehead, as the former moved to rejoin the pack rather callously after having being violently punted off to the side by GT Omega’s Yulian Genovski. Privateer Andrew Brown however, was less fortunate on Lap Three – having being pushed into a spin at Turn 16 by fellow privateer Mike Mason in 25th. Yet surprisingly enough, the much more disciplined and persistent Brown would go ahead to overtake Mason by Lap 6 and cement himself for a 23rd position finish ahead of Laura Brown.

The brunt of such negligent driving however, was most borne by the New Homes Digital drivers Jamie Fluke and Jamie Rushworth in 10th and 11th place respectively. As the duo blazed towards Turn 12 on Lap 6, Official IRacing NASCAR champion and BSRTC privateer Ray Alfalla closed down on the pair and proceeded to take the turn from the inside. While Fluke, seemingly aware of the move Alfalla was pulling, made way for the Privateer – Rushworth was less perceptive and proceeded to turn in before Alfalla, knocking him against his side in the process before bouncing back, tapping Fluke on the rear and sending his team mate into a spin.

As a dizzy Fluke gathered his bearings and moved back on track, he did so without much regard for oncoming traffic – nearly ruining Apex Racing TV’s Lee Thompson’s race in the process. While Rushworth did indeed finish in 10th ahead of Alfalla and secure his Showdown position, New Homes Digital had very well lost their chance of a dual top 10 finish. ‘To be honest I’m in a team with a couple of morons’, member Kip Stephens quipped later as I wandered into the team room post the race.

Taken aback, as I sought to find out what was going on with the New Homes team, Jamie caught up with me to explain, ‘I felt I was holding Jamie Fluke up mid-race. And so I tried to let him past to see if he could catch the guys in front. It turns out I was running a lower downforce setup than him and caught him more in the straight than I expected. Alfalla got alongside me as I slowed to keep Fluke ahead of me and we bumped in the braking zone, which sent me a bit out of control and into the back of Fluke. Oops.’

As Whitehead would later go onto say the next day, ‘Watching the broadcast back this morning is such a disappointment when you see drivers in a league of this caliber throwing the cars around like idiots and making desperate dives for glory. In Race one – I had the incident with Burke as he rejoined erratically in turn one. There was no way he could have rejoined the way he did without making significant contact. Such poor driving is really not acceptable at this level’

All of this occurred unbeknown to the pack in front – as Apex’s Job seemed to extend his lead over Engine’s Swirydovicz by over 2 seconds in the final two laps. The slowdown that Swirydovicz claimed was the result of him not being at one with his Optima and it’s tyre wear, let Andreas Katz soar past him soon enough to finish in second place behind Job. With the rest of the top six Showdown contenders along finishing pretty much well within positions idle enough to guarantee their Showdown eligibility, the same couldn’t have been said about Daniel Hunt, Lee Thompson, Pete Newman and Kip Stephens who with 7th, 11th, 15th and 30th place finishes respectively, were each looking dangerously close to dropping out of the top 10 Season Drivers’ standings – especially with Peter Newman’s Simon Field now less than 50 points behind Newman.

Round 84 of 85 – Up In The Air.

With Thompson, Newman and Stephens’ Showdown spots now on shaky ground and the reversal of the grid via the BSRTC’s ‘Wheel of Fortune’ pre-race came even bigger news – Peter Newman Media’s Daniel Craft would now commence the race in Position Eight – amplifying his chances of bagging a third win for the season. This, coupled with the fact that team mate Simon Field would be beginning the race in 6th place ahead of Newman, Thompson and Stephens-  meant that Field’s rise to the top 10 season’s drivers’ standings, followed by Craft clinching the Wildcard along with Andreas Katz was now much more than a prediction made by Jeroen. All eyes then – would be on Craft.

The reverse grid had also seemingly brought Laura Bond her chance of redemption, as it put her in second place – 32 places ahead of Laser Tools’ Scott Malcom who threatened to knock her out of the AM Showdown. Meanwhile, Stem Sim’s Paul Smith and Apex’s Richard Gore – leading AM Showdown contenders currently 2nd and 3rd in line for the AM Showdown had found themselves in 4th and 9th place respectively. Was this to be the AM Showdown before the AM Showdown?

The race commenced in glorious fashion – with Privateer Mike Mason leading the pack ahead of Laura Bond, followed by privateer Andrew Brown, previously on the receiving end of Mason’s aggression in Round 83, and Paul Smith of Stem Sim Racing who, after a brilliant launch of the line had proceeded to run four-wide along with and the others towards Turn One. As the quartet fought it out at the S-Turns – Bond ended up running wide over the curb at Turn 6 of the S’s, slowing down towards the left of the track to give back the time while letting traffic by, before running wide yet again over Turn 7 altogether; a move that would cost Laura that much needed podium finish and have her finish the round in 15th.

‘What can I say, she’s got a drinking problem’, team mate and fellow AM Showdown competitor Steve Richardson would state later as I wandered into the team room yet again. ‘Allegedly.’ Perplexed as I was, I was quite beginning to like New Homes. Mason, Brown, Smith, Field, Craft and Engine Oil Direct’s Daniel Blake in 6th  meanwhile bludgeoned on over the course of the next few laps  with the fate of Thompson, Stephens and Newman  – currently in 29th, 12th and 10th in the race respectively- lying very much on Craft and Field’s standings.

If the racing in Round 83 was regarded by its viewers as uncivilized – Round 84 was a barbaric mess, judging by lap two alone. It began with Laser Tools’ Robert Graham driving straight on into Stem Sim’s Robert Plumley as the latter dived into Turn One from the outside, sending him in a near 360 degree spin – a move Graham later attributed to the lack of peripheral vision on a one monitor racing setup.  Ahead at the S- Turns Craft, now in 4th, was sent into a massive power slide by team mate Field behind him – near costing the former his second-to-last shot at the showdown. Having skillfully held the Optima in place, Craft – as if brimming with the adrenaline that had just coursed through him- raced down towards the hairpin at turn 11, overtook Paul Smith from the inside before skillfully flying past the privateers in front of him over the back-stretch to Turn 12.

As this occurred, Peter Newman – in 8th place behind Gt Omega’s Julian Genovski and desperate to stay within the top 10 Seasons’ drivers – mercilessly rammed into the back of Engine’s Dan Blake in position 6 as they turned into Turn 11. Blake, unaware of the damage the left side of his suspension has suffered, raced towards the inside of Newman at Turn 12, spun him around back-to-front in a twisted reversal of fate before leaving him to be obliterated by the traffic that was now pouring into the hairpin. Soon enough, Andreas Katz now in position 20 and oblivious to what lay around the hairpin- rammed into the side of Newman, sending him over the fence while flipping his own Optima in the process. While Katz’ Showdown remained relatively unaffected, Newman’s chances would turn drastically slim with the 32nd place finish that resulted from the crash.

As predicted, the resulting altercation wasn’t pleasant. Newman, despite having been the first to bump into Blake, stormed into Engine Oil Direct’s room on the mumble server. ‘Genovski moved under breaking when I went for the overtake so I just had to try and change trajectory – this led me to the marbles’, he described in an honest chat with me later. ‘As soon as I got on them I had no braking and went into Dan. I looked to let him past but Genovski was going to overtake him  – Given that it was a small error and that I assumed Dan hadn’t lost much, I thought I’d apologise after rather than get stuck behind Genovski again. He’s unpredictable, which is not ideal when all I wanted was a solid points scoring race. However, Dan saw it differently and at the next corner turned Judge, Jury and Executioner, ending my race in what I felt to be a disgraceful manner. Personally my incident was a mistake while I’m pretty sure Dan went into the corner with the intention of hitting me. He did such a good job he spun me on the racing line only for Katz to hit me to the moon.’

Naturally, his barging onto the Engine Oil’s mumble server room wasn’t taken lightly, causing member John Roberts to hunt him away so that the rest could race. Blake however stated later the crash was unintentional, ‘ After the push by Newman, I hadn’t even realized I had suspension and steering damage until I got around to Turn 12. As I pulled to the inside – Newman, Genovski and I were three wide –  causing me to have nowhere to go mid corner and unfortunately hit Pete.

If anything good had come out of the airborne fiasco however, it was that Apex’s Lee Thompson had quite subtly managed to jump from position 10 to 6. As Craft now led the pack, Field had managed to claim Paul Smith’s position in 4th – before swiftly moving into Privateer Brown’s in 3rd place for the kill. To his utter dismay, as he raced past Brown towards Turn 19 – Brown, with little heed for the car that had well crept into his inside, spun Field into the run-off area to their right before drudging on behind Craft and Mason ahead of him.

From there on, the crashes, spins and dirty driving continued towards a high that was abnormal of the BSRTC, while the duel between Craft and Smith dominated what had more or less turned into a mess behind them. As the duo exchanged places several times in the laps between 6 and 9 – Sebastian Job, a name that was almost forgotten in the ruckus, emerged through the crowd in hot pursuit of both Craft and Paul. The race however ended before he could ease his way to the top, with Paul Smith finally emerging as winner of an outstanding duel that served to put him at the top of the AM Drivers’ standings – ahead of AM championship contender, John Roberts, who finished in 29th.

An ecstatic Smith later exclaimed, ‘Winning race 2 of COTA was amazing! Being able to beat multiple race winner Dan Craft was great. I’d really taken care of my tyres during the race, allowing for me to push for the lead later on. Overtaking Mike Mason was my proudest moment, as I lined him up all the way through the S turns and made the move through the left hander before the long back straight. It’s been a long time since my only other win at Bathurst in season 8.’  Kip Stephens on the other hand, who had earlier vowed to push Stem Sim Racing out of the Showdown would simply state that Paul’s win was nothing but luck.

With that, the AM Drivers’ Showdown standings had finally reached closure. While those of Steve Richardson, who finished in 35th, and Richard Gore, who finished in 17th, remain unchanged despite the latter having to struggle with network issues through the course of the race – Laura Bond’s fortune continued to stay in her favor – as Scott Malcolm faced an inevitable disqualification by lap 10 due to an abundance of race incidents. Now, with over a 180 points between them – Malcolm would in no way be able to make it to the Showdown after his seven month run causing Steven Burke then, to turn Wildcard.

Round 85 of 85 – Wreckers.

Jeroen’s prediction as stated in the prologue to this article read as follows – the real tension would reside around positions 7 – 10 as New Homes Digital’s Kip Stephens, Apex Racing’s Lee Thompson and Peter Newman’s Pete Newman would fight to maintain their positions within the top 10. GT Omega’s Daniel Hunt meanwhile, despite being in 9th could rest assured that a drop out of the top 10 would still ensure a Wildcard entry given his 5 seasonal wins.

Stephens, Lee and Newman of 2,1 and 2 seasons’ wins respectively however were the most threatened, for if either of them were to drop out of the top 10 and Peter Newman’s Daniel Craft in position 21, currently with 2 seasons’ wins to his name, were to win another race – Craft would beat them to the Wildcard that would lay vacant as a result of Field moving up the scoreboard. Field moving into the top 10 was more highly likely, given his proximity to Pete Newman in position 10.

In Round 84, Kip Stephens had placed 25th, Lee Thompson has finished in position 6 and Newman, after being airborne and forced to return to the pits for a quick fix – had turned up 56th. With but 25 points keeping him away from Simon Field now, surely he would drop out of the top 10 within the next race – not only allowing Field to slip into his place, but also granting Daniel Craft one last chance at the Showdown? Wrong – for what all those permutations, scenario considerations and perhaps even the broadcasters hadn’t taken into account as they cheered for Craft to take his next win, was that Daniel Hunt, previously in position 9 of the Seasons’ Drivers’ standings, would lose connection to round 84 and drop out of the race altogether.

This then, meant that Hunt would now grab the second Showdown wildcard alongside Andreas Katz – given that he had had a whopping 5 wins in comparison to Daniel Craft. Oblivious to nearly an entire pack of 40 then- the standings for the Pro Drivers’ Showdown had already been sealed well before Round 85 had commenced.

It did so nevertheless, with all the energy that a final round should and with all the belligerent driving the 29th race of the season at COTA would come to be known for. The starting grid saw the likes of Kip Stephens, John Roberts, Steve Richardson, Robert Plumley, David Baker, Andrew Whitehead, Jake Blackhall, Steve Walker, Steve Hefford, Richard Gore, Aleksander Smolensky and Wojceich Swirydovicz – an assortment of major Pro and AM drivers, nearly all of which would have at stake their Showdown dispositions were it not for their fate having been sealed in the round prior.

A few minutes into the first lap and Stephens had already set himself apart from the pack with a lead that was chased by Roberts, Richardson, Baker and Plumley. Barely past the start of the S’ however, Roberts suffered a loss of control, causing him to swerve into the run-off area to the right and come to a  halt – before cutting across the entire area to join the traffic that passed and suffering a 19 second penalty in the process. He would then go on to suffer heavy damage and retire to the pits for repair before being subjected to a disqualification altogether after a collision with Team Carnage’s Robert Fagg. To add to this, a frustrated Fagg would ensure he made clear his annoyance within the Engine Oil Direct Mumble chat room that he happened to be tuned in to at the time.

‘What did I do? ‘, Roberts recalled later nonchalantly. ‘I resisted the urge to press the transmit button, counted to ten and headed off to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and grab a homemade flapjack… before keeping an eye on the rest of the team for the remainder of the race. Had I said anything it would have been frustration in the heat of the moment, similar to Rob. There is no point discussing it while others are racing, it’s a distraction to the other members of the team and could block an important message.

In a similar blow to his race, Daniel Craft – in position 19 at the end of the S turns on the first lap – moved, rather blindly into Sebastian Job’s path behind him, causing him to have his Optima hurled against the track barriers before finally being subjected to intense repair work that would force him to the back of the pack for the remainder of the race. If the race indeed had to hold within it Craft’s Wildcard fate, Job would very well have been a major contributor to the end of the Peter Newman’s shot at the Showdown.

As I caught up with him post-race to discuss the third round, Job reflected rather coolly, ‘Yes, I’m definitely over aggressive sometimes, and I also over trust other drivers. I didn’t know about the wildcard situation, and I don’t think it would be good if I did know. If I did, maybe I would take different approaches to races that would affect one driver more than another, which isn’t very fair on the other. Of course, I did know that my teammate Lee was fighting for a spot, but he was fairly safe. Not knowing who was competing was probably a good thing, as otherwise I feel my decisions would change and then influence who got into the showdown.’

The rest of the pack meanwhile, moved on with Stephens, Baker, Plumley, Gore and Swirydovicz in charge. Quite predictably though by the dawn of the second lap, what should very well have been the most compelling display of motorsport of the entire race had turned into a gutter war. Leo Bodnar’s Steve Hefford and Engine’s Andrew Whitehead in 8th and 9th place respectively, headed down the back-stretch to turn 12, door-to-door, each trying to force the other off the tarmac. Soon enough, they were joined by Ben Palmer and Aleksander Smolensky on either side while Whitehead’s team mate Jeroen Keizer moved closer to Hefford from the rear.

As Hefford eased away for a moment, Keizer quickly tipped his rear – not only managing to send Hefford into the barrier along with Smolensky, but also managing to send himself ridiculously high up in the air. While Smolensky and Keizer would go on to find themselves in positions 21st and 27th respectively after a round of repairs post that– Hefford would later find himself disqualified as a result of his incident points. When asked if this in some way was an act of retaliation on Keizer’s part for what Hefford had been to Whitehead, Keizer reinstated, ‘I wasn’t bothering myself with what was going on with them at all. I think none of us knew it was 5 wide at the time. At least I thought it was 4 wide so didn’t realize Hefford was that close to me. That’s basically it – add some instability in the car and me looking a bit to the left and you get an incident!’

In the same lap – Stephens, under pressure from Baker and Plumley of Stem Sim Racing was forced into the in-field after being punted by Plumley, causing him to suffer a massive penalty that would have him drop down all the way to 16th and turn instead into the one to be ‘taken down’. ‘They played dirty and got me a slowdown, that’s how Stem Sim Racing rolls’, Kip would later claim. The frustration only seemed to catch up with him on Lap 7 as he– now in 14th behind teammate Steve Richardson who raced alongside GT Omega’s Daniel Hunt and ahead of Hunt’s teammate Pete Newman – raced towards the inside of turn 11, bumping into Hunt’s rear in the process and sending the GT Omega driver into his own team mate’s side. ‘Steve got in my way. I don’t care about team mates.’

As Pete Newman breezed past the fracas, Stephens moved alongside him – forcing him to the left  and off the backstretch in a game of chicken that seemed out of place within the BSRTC Pro Series, before Newman finally gave up and decided to ease off the New Homes Digital driver’s course. Stephens would then go on to exclaim arrogantly, ‘Newman is on Team Peter Newman, the biggest wreckers on the track. I don’t ever give them space!’, soon after being disconnected from the race. Newman on the other hand responded to the post-race prodding by calling Stephens a ‘wrecker’ in return before suggesting that it was rather convenient for the New Homes Digital Driver to driver to use an unstable internet connection as an excuse for rage-quitting the race.

The race would go on to see up to 6 different disqualifications – including that of Sebastian Job in position 7th who could be seen driving rather aggressively, even going so far as to push Andrew Whitehead out of his way at the S Turns on Lap 3 as he proceeded along his usual ascent to the podium – before eventually drawing to an end with Wojceich Swirydovicz snatching pole away from Baker, with Gore over 12 seconds away coming in third. Simon Field would then follow, cementing himself in position 10 of the Pro Drivers’ championship with Jamie Rushworth and Andreas Katz not too far behind positions in 6th and 7th respectively.

The Final Few.

And just like that, 7 months, 81 rounds and over a 1000 grueling laps of high-octane, low and high filled sim-motorsport had finally boiled down to this –

18 drivers, each of which have persisted against all odds to make it to the final push for the title and the $10,000 prize pot- Each of which are in a class of their own. At this point the race could be anyone’s, but how far would rivalries go? How far would they go in putting everything on the line and even then – would they make it through to the other side? Either way, it remains to be seen if Engine Oil Direct’s Andrew Whitehead’s words were to stay true; that The week at the Circuit Of The Americas was, hopefully, merely a blip in the driving standards the British Sim Racing has come to be known for. As the teams prepare for the final teams’ race at Donington Park later this week, I’m off. Off to Jeroen’s Laboratory to find out what the mathematical seer has in sight for the weeks ahead. Good bye brains, see you soon.

This race will also be aired on MOTORSTV on the 10th of November as per the schedule here. Meanwhile, Higher Eclectic Ground will not only be covering the next race at Donington Park, set to be streamed live on ApexRacing TV’s Youtube channel at 8 P.M GMT – but will also be making an announcement with regards to its collaboration with the British Sim Racers and Higher Eclectic’s indie and art community. To make sure you do not miss out on anything, do head down to our Facebook page where all the activity lies and ensure you’re signed up. Moreover, those interested in racing with the BSRTC community or simply hanging out with them by the pitlanes, can do so by signing up to their closed group on Facebook. 

 

From The UK&I To European Television – The Rise & Rise Of The British Sim Racers.

BSRTC PRO Series, Features

Prelude

October 1st 2015, 8 P.M GMT: 10 Laps, Suzuka Circuit, Japan. Green.

As the reverberating cacophony of 48 back-firing Kia Optimas died down to give way to the near musical symphony of 370 brake horse powered, 4 cylindered engines launching off the line – all eyes turned to the pole. As the Apex Racing TV liveried Optima #78 struggled with what seemed like a mediocre start, its immediate competitors in the Engine Oil Direct liveried Optima #80 and GT Omega liveried Optima #15 in second and third place respectively lurched dangerously close. The pressure seemed to overbear as #78, now past Turn One seemed to fishtail just a slight bit on its entry into Turn Two. Yet poise and position was maintained, as it raced its way through the S-Turns on to the Degner Curve with #80 not too far away.

Meanwhile the back of the pack brought chaos to the first of the S’s, as some lost grip and control to face the other way while others meandered past the road kill. Focus then shifted to the middle of the pack, where the #666 Peter Newman Media car struggled to lurch past the #1 Team Leo Bodnar Optima at the hairpin, inches away from nudging it into a full 360 degree spin in the gravel – It didn’t happen. As one of the commentators jumped into a quick review of #666’s last outing at Suzuka, the peace was interrupted. Apex Racing TV #78 at pole had run wide into the notorious spoon curve, before swiftly regaining composure for the straight that lay ahead. With #80 and #15 hot on its tail, Lap one was still #78’s – still Sebastian Job’s.

And so began the game of chicken. The test of who would yield to other, as Job and the #80 Engine Oil Direct Optima, driven by Wojceich Swiridovicz in second place, set into a glorious battle of mental endurance. From the eyes of the overhead camera that followed them around, it seemed as if both were controlled by a singular higher entity – unnaturally in sync with each other from apex to apex. Meanwhile, GT Omega’s #15 driven by Steliyan Chepilevski followed them around – seemingly playing it smart, waiting for the beasts ahead of him to take each other out and clear the way for him.

Amidst all this, positions 7th and 8th were riddled with quite another dogfight over Lap Three – that between Germans Michael Schellbach of Omega GT and Andreas Katz of Team Leo Bodnar. Schellbach prevailed, drawing past Katz at the S Turns to create a lead albeit temporarily – as the Spoon curve drew closer so did Katz, managing to overtake his German peer just prior to the end of the back stretch. He would hold the lead, yes, we thought – before the 130R came to prove us wrong with a blow. Katz overshot the turn into the 130R, causing him to run rather wide off track. As he swung his wheel back to get back on track, Schellbach was already there – causing his front bumper to nudge the back of Katz’s with enough force to send the latter into a spin, hit the tire barrier and be hurled up into the air. Katz’s race had ended.

Not without a sense of foreboding however -The cameras had now moved back to the machines that led the pack towards the end of Lap Four, perfectly aligned alongside each other as they dived into the 130R. As if struck by the same spell as Katz, Swiridovicz overshot the exit, managing to get back in line just in the nick of time. He was safe, but only just -The timing cards now showed Chepilevsky to be the fastest that round, despite being in third.

Lap Five. The cameras switched from mid-pack to rear, putting on display the unequivocal driving panache that was on display by what remained of a vastly competitive field. Passion echoed at every corner as drivers, each now in their own zones, raced relentlessly to move up to the next spot that lay ahead of them. Yet there remained a sense of discipline to it all, and quite often a respect for each other’s space and disposition – it was art in motion. Suddenly, the camera switched to onboard Chepilevsky’s Optima, revealing just how close he was to the beasts in front of him. As he drew dangerously close to Swiridovicz post 130R only to be left slightly behind at the Casio triangle, one couldn’t help but wonder when his moment of glory would come.

Fast forward to Lap Seven. Job, Swiridovicz and Chepilevsky now appear to have clearly divided the race into two – what with the rest of the pack to be nowhere in sight. Yet Job appeared unlike his prior self, the gap between Swiridovicz and he now significantly miniscule as the latter gambled over overtakes that nearly cost him the race. As the two raced towards the 130R, the cameras dived into Swiridovicz’s cockpit – capturing him draw alongside the British driver and take the corner in near parallel, before hurling down towards the Casio Triangle on the inside. In an extraordinary display of driving finesse -Job pulled ahead, leaving Swiridovicz to nudge at his rear as they lurched towards the straight. The commentators had just about driven themselves hoarse.

As the line brought on Lap Eight, Swiridovicz pulled alongside the Brit yet again – this time however, nudging him a tiny bit and almost forcing them both to the tire barriers that lay on opposite sides. Job relented. As the two rubbed past turns one and two causing each other to meander dangerously, Chepilevsky cut into the frame out of nowhere, tapped Swiridovicz’s rear and forced him brutally into the barrier on the right – putting an end to the man’s glorious seven lap run that most certainly could  have ended with a win. The man staggered, paused a while to regain his strength and cut into the passing traffic to resume the race in 12th. Chepilevsky’s time had come.

As the two now rushed onto the back stretch with Chepilevsky now playing a role Swiridovicz had so brilliantly done over the Eight laps prior, another ragged edge battle for third place ensued between Laser Tools’ Aleksandar Smolensky and Peter Newman Media’s Daniel Craft. Craft pulled alongside Smolensky for the outside line into Turn One on Lap Nine, only to be held back by Smolensky’s seemingly impeccable line of defense that seemed to carry over well into the S-Turns despite Craft’s sharp nudges. Craft however, emerged the winner of the duel – as he skillfully cut past his opponent and don third position for the entirety of the final lap.

Meanwhile, would Chepilevsky pull through? Would he take the win? Before anyone had the answer, the chequered flag came through, signaling the end of what indeed was a race of phenomenal motorsport proportions – one that could have continued well into the night and that in fact did, in the form of two more rounds over the next hour and a half. A race, believe it or not, only a select few from the impassioned IRacing fiefdom could conceive.

Falling Out at The UK&I

Ever since its inception in 2008, the subscription based simulation service, IRacing, has often been lauded as the racing simulation service of the generation. Accurately modelled race tracks, vehicles, tyre and physics boast virtual experiences that several real-life motorsport icons have come to swear by. In a world where renowned racing franchises release stylized simulators across gaming systems every year for fear of their offerings going stale, IRacing has persisted – Garnering an audience of over 60,000 in the years that have been, while steadily growing that number daily. Why? Why would gamers and racing enthusiasts shell out hundreds of dollars per annum on a service that, many would argue, lacks in more ways than one in comparison to existing racing-sim franchises? A growing, evolving online Community.

A community so  intricately organized, dedicated and driven to delivering the optimum virtual racing experience that could only be cited as the ‘next best thing to real-world racing’. While modern racing franchises pack their online servers with mundane extensions of single-player experiences and the immature – IRacing is a world apart. Official 12 week long online racing series with £10,000 and more in prizes, combined with unofficial, equally competitive member initiated leagues and championships ensure a matured, disciplined virtual automotive experience that has stood unrivalled in the test of time. Sponsorships and TV broadcasts are commonplace as are bitter rivalries and fierce competition. As a result, the gamer-to-professional legends are countless, making way only for tales of professional racers who’ve found their calling on IRacing.

That doesn’t mean there’s no place for the casual enthusiast looking to withdraw from a hapless 9 to 5 existence. Geographically disparate clubs ensure that everyone, everywhere is competing with the world, regardless of skill or motorsport discipline – either by jumping into impromptu races with other community members or signing up to one of the many casual yet adrenaline packed weekly races organized by club members themselves. Packed with series that range from Ovals to Formula 2000’s and catering to those from the United Kingdom and Ireland, the UK&I is one such club that has lived through the years.

For members Kip Stephens and Steve Richardson, IRacing was virtual haven. In the years prior to 2013, late nights meant jumping into daily Oval races for hours on end till their eyes glowed scarlet while weekends meant losing their limbs to driving altogether. It was beyond fun. Yet as many others that existed within the club, a strong desire was being harbored – that of being a part of a structured, virtual Touring Car Championship that would open up avenues for both professionals and rookies alike. In the four years since its launch, IRacing was yet to add Touring cars to its roster; while Touring car leagues existed with full grids, they’d involve machines that at best provided pretentious experiences. Moreover, gatherings as such would be crude and disorganized, descending into chaos at the flick of a switch. A full-fledged Touring Car Championship of the quality IRacing had nurtured over the years then, remained but a dream.

With the spring of 2013 came an announcement– The Kia Optima GX Racecar, a touring car staple, was coming to IRacing soon. To Stephens, Richardson and several other UK&I British Touring Car enthusiasts, their chance of indulging in pure bred “British” Touring Car fun was finally here. Soon enough, members Richard Goodwin and Gary Feakins took stage, announcing the commencement of the ‘Kia World Challenge’ – a two races per week Touring Car series inspired by the Pirelli World Challenge. And successful it was, with dozens showing up for as many races as they could. The duo of Stephens and Richardson however believed the community deserved more – Setting up multiple unofficial practice races in the weeks that would precede a World Challenge Race with the intention of granting racers even greater Touring car track time.

While Stephens and Richardson believed they only further encouraged touring car racing without affecting the ongoing series, the practice races had begun to upset Goodwin and Feakins. ‘Me and Gary were both annoyed by the fact BSR then started to run a Kia series at the same time (or just before, I can’t recall) using the same tracks and setups. It all seemed a little pointless and felt like it was undermining all the hard work we had done to get it going ‘, claimed Goodwin when asked about it years later. The frustration continued to build up, resulting in near-violent arguments and abusive accusations between the two parties over the mumble server Richardson had set up, and to which Stephens, Feakins, Goodwin and the rest of the Kia Challengers belonged to. Egos took the place of good sport and soon, the Kia Challenge threatened to turn into the very Touring Car leagues they had once looked down upon.

Realizing this, Goodwin and Feakins quit the mumble server and took their series with them- ‘Neither me or Gary wanted the perceived “drama” or friction.’ Years later, Stephens reflected, ‘This idea of the practice races apparently upset Gary and he saw it as a threat, rather than as something designed to encourage people to race more. He had gone onto vent this with much abuse and profanities on the mumble server on two occasions which, at the time, was very amusing for myself and Steve. Yet when Gary decided to leave, his final words that stood to tell us how we’d never be able to run or manage anything close to a racing series in our lives, amusingly motivated us to create the best racing league IRacing had ever seen’. Unbeknownst to both of them, history was in the making.

Season One – The Beginning

In the years since, Goodwin and Feakins continued to innovate – having founded Pitlanes.com , a portal to not only the latest in sim-racing news but also a variety of events for the UK&I community (when not on r-Factor 2) namely, the acclaimed Pitlanes series that runs races every Sunday with different vehicles each season and also the UKI Drivers Championship to name a few. A much wiser Goodwin now states ‘What happened with Richardson and the others was a long time ago. What they’ve grown in to now is excellent and any miss-placed feelings are way behind me…..it’s only a game and I think what they do is great. Just initially, I wasn’t very happy about it.’ As for Pitlanes he explains, ‘Whatever we do with pitlanes.com is to try and fill a gap, provide races the community want for the community. It’s meant to be fun after all. ‘

A nonchalant Stephens meanwhile moved on, putting together an eclectic ensemble of touring car enthusiasts along with Richardson. The plan was simple – an organized, disciplined and competitive series in Kia Optimas, that would follow the official IRacing season schedule of 12 weeks to provide 11 races of high octane touring car fun. Each race would span three rounds and be preceded by a 30 minute qualifier that would determine grid placings. Friends, club members and others were invited from the UK&I forums, before finally hosting its first race at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit on the 5th of May, 2013. Response at best was lukewarm – 12 racers competing for fun at most in the absence of any prize money. While it was nowhere near in scale of the vision Stephens and Richardson had shared, it proceeded as planned before coming to a peaceful end on the 4th of July 2013. The British Sim Racers Touring Car Championship then, was already a step ahead of the make-believe touring car championships that had preceded the Kia Optima’s release.

Season Two – Expansion, Teams and the BSRTV

If the next season however- the start of which was scheduled for August 1st 2013 – was to truly be unique and grander, sweeping additions were necessary. And so, in the days that ensued after the first, the duo of Stephens and Richardson would set out on a community-wide recruitment binge. Official IRacing championship races were attended and those that displayed sufficient talent & drive would be handpicked and convinced to race in Season Two of the BSRTC – regardless of nationality, club affiliation or experience. While world of mouth acted as the catalyst, official British Touring Car Championship liveries were brought in – facilitating the formation of teams within the BSRTC for increased competition.

On the 1st of August, 2013 – the first race of BSRTC’s second season opened to a grid of 30 drivers and 12 teams, more than twice as large as that of Season One. Meanwhile, a young Chris Cohen – BTCC enthusiast and online radio presenter had entered the fray. Despite having dabbled in a few of the races that season and prior, Cohen’s true calling lay in commentating- a fact that Stephens and Richardson were fully aware of as they brainstormed on how it could be used to the BSRTC’s advantage. Cohen complied and so on the 15th of August, two weeks post the season’s launch – the BSRTC’s 7th to 9th Rounds at the Okayama Race Circuit were for the first time in its history, recorded with live commentary and uploaded to the newly created BSRTV.net portal. Remaining rounds would follow suit with the last two garnering an average of 700 plus viewers – The BSRTC then, was here to stay.

In retrospect, Steliyan Chepilevsky, who had jumped into the final race of the second season for the first time – having participated solely in IRacing’s official Global Challenge prior – ponders,

Soon after my first ever session at the Global Challenge that was crazy in every way, a friend of mine had “had” called up to tell me about the folks down at BSRTC and how much fun they were. I didn’t really think things would get better than the global Challenge and refused to give it a try altogether. Funny enough, Global Challenge’s second session turned into an utter bore, forcing me to take up my friend’s offer and find out what the fuss was all about.

Awkward as it might have seemed, I jumped straight into the championship’s final race. Which really, was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. After that one race, it seemed like I’d found a family. It was special – the BSRTC league was my virtual racing dream come true. I’ve been with them ever since – happiness, madness, sorrow, I’ve been through everything during the races. I’m very thankful for all the care they’ve shown me and the others over the years – and the experiences that’s come along with it.’

Seasons Three-Eight : The Road To Television

The leap from Season Two to Three however, was far from spectacular. Sure, Cohen opened the Season Three broadcast to nearly 1,000 viewers – 500 more than the number that visited the Season Two Finale. Shortly after though, the numbers began to dip. Several new drivers had entered the series with more than the same amount of drivers visibly absent – resulting in a grid of only 20 as compared to the previous’ 30. This continued well into Season Four, with live broadcast viewers reaching an all-time low.

Difficult times are part of the series’, Stephens brooded when asked about it over a year later. ‘If there is a rules issue or driver penalty appeal, discord can spread fast, leaving your hands full with dozens of opposing opinions and plenty of turmoil. But we run this for the enjoyment of the racing not as a business. And so, the decision that is the best for the series and the fairest will always be the one that is taken no matter what the consequences maybe. People would also leave to race other cars -The one season we had a quarter of the grid change. Yet we always made sure we filled the grid for Round 1 as this is the core of what creates such exciting races.’

Despite the low however, things continued to stay on the track to order. BSRTV’s portal was brimming with regular news, the live broadcasts had fancier banners and the entire BSRTC had set up base on a private Facebook group after a mildly amusing, yet deemed inappropriate image posted by Stephens had resulted in his being banned from the IRacing forums indefinitely. Here, members of the BSRTC could be seen organizing impromptu races and practice sessions, sharing their lap times and car setups – a homely, disciplined community was now in greater effect. By the end of November, a host of alternate challenges and cups had cropped up – The Spec Racer Ford and Volkswagen Jetta Junior Challenge seasons served as ‘Support Races’, aimed at providing newcomers to the community a feel for the Touring Car championship while the GT Sprint Cup along with two seasons of the Carrera Cup team championship would run well into April 2014 with live broadcasts and $100 in IRacing credits to be won. Monotony then, was well broken.

As Season Five drew closer however, Cohen, Richardson and Stephens began to realize that if BSRTC was to break out of the mould that had begun to form and reach out wider, a spark of reinvention was necessary. The BSRTC was the first of its kind touring car championship to practically go the distance – yet if a wider a circle of IRacers had to be reached and appealed to, an incentive would be imperative. And so for the first time in its history, the BSRTC had set an £15 Entry Fee for every participating driver in its fifth season. The Reason? To facilitate a $1000 prize money fund that was to be divided amongst the top 4 teams and drivers’ champion, along with a physical trophy that would be delivered personally. A stylish new introductory video was rendered to symbolize the BSRTC finally breaking out of its mould before going live with great panache on the Season’s opener at the Silverstone Historic GP on the 1st of May, 2014, 4 days prior to the BSRTC’s 1 year anniversary.

By the end of the season on the 16th of July however, there was grim news – Real life had come in Chris Cohen’s way and he would no longer be able to handle live broadcasts or commentaries any. Alternatives were suggested and workarounds were tried, yet the fact remained that Cohen simply did not have the time and energy to run BSRTV any longer. Stephens, Richardson and the rest of the BSRTC turned pensive. One of the BSRTC’s biggest draws had been its outstanding true-to-life broadcasts and to run without it would be to undo all that had been created.

Meanwhile, word was fast spreading about Alex Simpson and Andrew Woodhouse – lead commentators of the Sim-Racing broadcast team ApexRacingTV, known to have conducted a fair amount of professional broadcasts at a variety of IRacing events and more. Having got wind of a charity event that the ApexRacingTV team were organizing one weekend, Stephens and Richardson went on to attend with the aim of possibly getting in touch with Alex Simpson. Unbeknownst to all, the result would be an unrivalled partnership of broadcasting finesse – consisting of Woodhouse and a young sports commentating enthusiast Adam Bath, while Alex Simpson would run his magic on the cameras – that would go on to become synonymous with the BSRTC in the years that followed. The deal also entailed that broadcasts would continue to be uploaded and attributed to the BSRTV.

Strangely enough, while the £1000 prize fund of the previous season had been significantly instrumental in luring IRacers from the community over, Seasons 6 to 8 would go on to omit the prize fund – charging entrants instead a £10 fee that would cover the Trophy and £500 of the broadcasting deal. When asked about it a year later Stephen would say, ‘We only did it once the £1k because it would have been unimaginative to do the same thing again and again. We decided to return to it only once we had a bigger fund to draw attention.’

Prize money or not, in the months that preceded Season Nine, the BSRTC would only go on to cement itself as IRacing’s most professionally competitive Touring Car championship, attracting not only virtual legends but the best of the best real-life achievers as well. Two time IRacing’s official NASCAR $10,000 championship winner Ray Alfafa and his Slip Angle Motorsport team mate Bryan Blackford are known to frequently haunt the BSRTC races; Official BTCC Team BMR member and 2015 UK Clio Cup Champion Ashley Sutton is a series regular while once Inside Sim Racing and current Simpit legend Shaun Cole swears by BSRTC’s adrenaline offering, ‘ When first invited by the British Sim Racers to join them in their series that put drivers against each other in the Kia Optima of iRacing,  I have to admit was a bit intimidated.  The group knew each other well and runs together weekly, making me an outsider.  However with the help of a friend, Kip Stephens, I got comfortable and decided to start running.

The Kia is a mid to low level street car turned into a touring race car of sorts.  Because of the lack of horsepower, the front wheel drive, and the massive hole in the wind created by the car it is hard to get away from other drivers.  When you combined that with a grid size upwards of 50 cars it starts to resemble a swarm.  The racing in the BSRTC is rather intense and contact is inevitable.  During the races I have been bumped, I have been pushed, I have been bruised and I have done a bit of that to everyone around me as well.  I often feel as though I am in the middle of a Mixed Martial Arts fight being punched until submission.  Perhaps before the race instead of telling us to start out engines, the racers command should be to protect yourself at all times.

The end result has been some of the most fun and cut throat racing I have ever been a part of.  With 50 cars on the grid you would expect a huge difference in talent, but in reality the grid is very tight and the times are relatively close with me usually somewhere near the back.  What started out as a test running with a new league, has become one of my favorite races of the week.  I know in advance that it will be different than most races I attend.  A chance to give a little chrome horn, or to hold that middle line 3 wide going through corners.  It is racing at its best.’

Season Nine – Motorstv and European Recognition

Launched in 2000, the motorsport broadcasting channel MOTORSTV has only grown into a British racing enthusiast’s household name – bringing world-class events such as the World Rally Championship, the FIA World Endurance Championship, United SportsCar Championship, V8 Supercars, British Formula and much more, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to homes across 41 different countries worldwid. As the barrier between professional sim-racing and real world championships grew thin in recent times, MotorsTV gradually began to take note of the virtual realm – having covered and mentioned IRacing events and drivers in the past and even partnering up with FIA- recognized virtual sim-racing and motorsport body TORA – The Online Racing Association.

From late last year to early this, word had begun to spread within the IRacing forums of Motorstv’s newfound sim-racing interest before being picked up by one Jay Wright, Team Leo Bodnar member at the BSRTC. A Business Development professional, Wright could barely contain himself as he rushed to Stephens and the others with the proposition of speaking to the TV about the possibility of a BSRTV-MotorsTV partnership. Stephens complied and rightfully so – the British Sim Racers Touring Car Championship was undergoing a revolution of phenomenal proportions.

As Season Eight was past its halfway point in January earlier this year, an unexpected announcement went up on the then two month old Britishsimracers.com blog. Written by long-running BSRTC member Jamie Rushworth, it read –

“Hi , we are looking at taking the series to another level – We would increase the Championship to 30 / 36 rounds and run our own season , the UK tracks we have would mirror the real world event for that week where possible, 5 at the moment.

The Prize fund we would like to have to get the Championship to the very top level in IRacing and attract more coverage would be $10,000 .The provisional payouts would be

  • 1k to the champion
  • 4k to the Team champions
  • 2k to the Team in 2nd
  • 1k to the Team in 3rd
  • 500 to the rookie champ
  • 300 to the driver with the lowest incidents

Also , Prizes to be confirmed / which will be drawn live for drivers not in the cash positions. To achieve this Drivers would contribute £5 per race meeting.

I have spoken to over 30 members so far and all are interested in racing which is positive feedback, could you let me know if you would be interested in racing in the Championship”

How they not be? On February 25th then, the BSRTC announced the ‘end of an era’ – paving the way for a milestone in its 2 year journey and a renaming of its treasured championship to the ‘The BSRTC Pro Series’. The real work, had now begun.

After reaching out to the 40-50 drivers that had then been racing in the series, the entry fee of £5 was fixed. The 35 race, 102 round schedule was then set in such a way that BSRTC races would coincide if not take place prior to those of the official BTCC season that was to take place, ensuring racers were given the optimum action and duration on track which would in turn help them better understand the official BTCC action that would follow. The organizing team that was once confined to the trio of Stephens, Richardson and Cohen had now grown to a whopping 20 – Fee collections, scoring system maintenance, sponsor schemes upkeep, rule amendments, website updates, driver outreach, stewarding, catering to unhappy drivers – the list was endless to ensure the most professional experience provided ever.

The field was split to ensure everyone competed in championships as per their experience and skill – The actual PRO championship, A Team Championship and the AM driver’s championship for amateurs, each with their piece of the $10,000 reward. A series of five week ‘Showdown Races’ were established to end the season with, wherein only the top 10 drivers (determined by number podium finishes) along with 2 other wild card entries would contend for the Championship title on behalf of their teams – ensuring the winner couldn’t be determined till the very end.  Yet perhaps the BSRTC Pro’s greatest act of genius was it’s all new ‘Sponsorship Structure’ – Whether it was a youngster advertising his upcoming venture or an existing business tycoon, anyone would be permitted to have their name associated with the BSRTC Pro live broadcasts by contributing to the prize fund. The BSRTC Pro had turned into a brand.

And so on March 12th, 2015, the BSRTC Pro , not one to leave style behind, kicked off its first ever Media Day, with 12 laps around Autodrome Monza, a full grid of 50 and Alex Simpson, Adam Bath and Andrew Woodhouse on the mics and cameras, as an introduction to the tale it was about to inscribe in history. A week later on March 19th, 8 P.M GMT  then – Season Nine of the BSRTC Pro kicked off to a phenomenal start at Philips Island amidst a live audience of nearly 700, just as it had back in Season Three, only grander. ‘This first week of the BSRTC Pro Series was everything we could have hoped for: amazing battles, big crashes and close finishes. The week has set the bar for the season extremely high, but I am sure that the next 3 rounds at Road America will live up to expectations and hopefully even exceed them!’ – wrote Jamie Rushworth in a BritishSimRacers.com race report soon after.

He was right, not just Road America but every one of the next 16 Races of three rounds each would go on to outdo the previous’ adrenaline packed racing action, outreach and broadcasting finesse – until of course the cherry arrived. Jay Wright was back with news – a deal had been struck that would have MotorsTV air to its growing audience base of nearly 9.2 million UK homes, every one of the remaining 19 races of the BSRTC Pro. With the once lowly Touring Car Championship of 12 drivers now metamorphosed into a proud IRacing phenomena, history had very clearly been made.

The Higher Eclectic Ground Connection

As plans were being made to broadcast the first of the remaining 19 races, beginning with Laguna Seca on the 18th of August, Higher Eclectic Ground was being formed. As it wandered the indie video game and art communities in search of indie talent that would benefit from its platform of promotion and support – I happened to get in touch with long time sim-racing friend and founding BSRTC member Tristan Boddice Ratsnacker. Tristan and I had in the past, not only dabbled in a few fun Gran Turismo  races and leagues together but had also teamed up for a Project CARS special on Creative Director Andy Tudor and the WMD community at large on behalf of gaming news outlet earlier in the year.

As we spoke about any potential sim-racing projects of his we could help foster and grow on Higher Eclectic Ground, he interrupted me saying, ‘ I’m not much of a creator, but I do know of something gaming related you might be interested in. There’s currently an online touring car series running that has made it onto Motors TV – $10,000 prize pool. I could put you in touch with those that run it, and direct you to the media that people share from it.’ Up until then, being a console sim-racer alone, I must admit BSRTC was not a name I’d heard. Yet still, the plan was to interact with the community present within it and reach out to those who harbored one-of-a-kind sim racing setups and other sim-racing creativity that could do with exposure.

Before I knew it, I was being thrown into the private BSRTC group on Facebook with a cloth over my eyes and introduced to Kip Stephens, Laura Bond, Steve Richardson, Scunner Cambell and Jamie Rushworth with Tristan acting as the conduit. Over the next few days, we spoke of potential collaborations and more before both parties agreed to sleep on things as my prior work and Higher Eclectic’s vision would be evaluated and judged. The sleep however lasted an entire month, what with Kip being banned from Facebook yet again and me being neck deep in the promotions and support of the multi-faceted indie game developers and artists that had begun to find their way to the Ground – oblivious to the BSRTC’s growing national exposure.

By the end of September I was back in conversation with the original five , Kip of course having created an alternate Facebook account of sorts. As we spoke yet again, with renewed vigor, of potential promotion possibilities, Kip enquired, ‘How about jumping into Race 29’s broadcast at Suzuka this weekend on the 1st of October? You could get a feel for the series and perhaps write about it if you feel like.’ I complied, unaware that what I was setting out on would not only spark the deepest fires of interest with myself and Higher Eclectic as a whole but would also have me dedicate days on end to studying BSRTC’s intricate rise and community growth henceforth.

What readers were exposed to then in the prelude of this mini-biography, was the first of the three rounds at Suzuka on the 1st of October as perceived by myself. I was awestruck, sticking around for not only the next couple of rounds from that race, but those of the races that would succeed it at Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit and Mount Panorama in the two weeks that followed. When the community wasn’t racing I’d live with an eye on its Facebook group – watching members discuss and opine on the previous day’s races; argue, albeit decently, with the stewards that would declare driver penalties prior to race day; announce impromptu practice sessions, share setups and on-board laps with each other irrespective of team, while occasionally bringing up quirks from real-world motorsport. It seemed to me like everyone was at home.

As I set about documenting the community’s rise in the days since October 1st, I was put in touch with quite a few prominent BSRTC Pro devotees and drivers – Alex Simpson, Adam Bath and Andrew Woodhouse who are currently airing the series every Thursday at 8 P.M GMT as ApexRacingTV since the MotorsTV contract, BSRTC Pro old timers Steliyan Chepilevsky and Aday Coba , Season Nine Rivals Wjociech Swiridovich, currently number One in the championship and Sebastian Job, the second person in BSRTC history to win all three rounds of a seasonal race. Much as everyone seemed to be at everyone’s throats in the heat of racing, rivalries were left on track as we spoke about giving up countless hours practicing over mugs of coffee, conversations with other BSRTC members prior to races and the thick of racing itself, that they only lauded as ‘the most intense they’ve ever experienced without time to rest’.

‘It takes time to build’, disclosed Kip as I shared my thoughts with him. ‘You need to talk to the drivers, and listen a little bit – People will only keep racing seriously if it’s an event. What has kept it going into the ninth season is that we make sure it provides everyone with racing that is as near to a real life race day that we can create on a sim, with all the tensions between drivers and teams, the after race fall outs, comedy crashes and some great racing, which you can then sit back, watch afterwards and reflect on all the drama madness. Sometimes you need to remind yourself you’re racing because it is mostly enjoyable, but getting taken out on lap one after a week of testing is definitely character building and everyone has been there.’

Do you ever fear it will all go stale?’ , I enquired. ‘This is what drives a series on -’, he responded, ‘Looking at what it could be and trying to make it happen. If you stand still it becomes stagnant and uninspiring. It would be easy and a lot less hassle to do the same thing each season but not a challenge, I’m getting bored just thinking about it being like that. As long as the people involved have the motivation we will keep building. As for the future? Once it gets accepted into mainstream gaming, I envision for people to be able to get personal sponsors. That would help it gather momentum with the possibility of serious prizes which gaming has already. This however, needs everyone moving in the same direction which is probably the biggest challenge with internet communities in more specialized games such as this. It takes a lot of time and skill to be fastest even in a sim and people especially gamers and motorsport fans can appreciate that, and they are a big market for companies. If we are successful in getting the sponsors involved that we are talking to, we will run a prize fund of 20,000 or possible 30,000 dollars next season’

One thing’s certain – the BSRTC has only just begun. It has moved through time and lows where other thriving communities have failed in the past – achieving a status in online gaming circles in barely two years that others work through decades for. Tales that cross the realm of gaming to the thing we call the real world are commonplace – IRacing being one such tale in itself. Yet to get out from under the shadow of a long-running legend and make an unprecedented mark for itself on a continental level – the BSRTC’s vision of making a mark for itself in mainstream gaming, might just be a lot closer than it imagines.

Higher Eclectic Ground will now be working closely with the BSRTC to promote races, events, creativity and every other happenings to the independent and mainstream video game and art communities worldwide. To make sure you do not miss out on anything, do head down to our Facebook page where all the activity lies and ensure you’re signed up. Moreover, those interested in racing with the BSRTC community or simply hanging out with them by the pitlanes, can do so by signing up to their closed group on Facebook. 

In Conversation With DJ Spruke

Features

 A full-length LP electronic album by Spruke with a brand-new distribution paradigm that is unprecedented in digital music: every copy of the album is unique to that owner, re-recorded in full with new parts, new sounds, and a voiceover performance done by the user’s choice of performer of any gender, language, and cultural identity.

 As Bill Boulden, alias DJ Spruke of Bump In The Night electro-house podcast fame, typed up the introduction to ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’s Kickstarter campaign, little was he aware of the magnitude of the impact those words would have on the creative backers that haunt the crowd-funding platform and beyond. A goal of $2,000 was set, providing various classes of contributors with a variety of privileges including picking their own voice artists, cover art and even guiding the actual recording of their albums. In the event that this new ‘distribution paradigm’ be a success, stretch – goals (Kickstarter lingo that specifies goodies or additional goals the creator might pursue should the original goal set by them be crossed) were set up to $10,000, before it was decided to retreat for the day.

In exactly 24 hours, the project’s goal of $2000 was funded by 74%. In another 48 hours, 200%. This incredible surge of activity on their platform led Kickstarter to feature the album on its newsletter – Happening – a week later, which in turn brought about another wave of contributors that would cause the campaign to reach the $10,000 mark in less than a fortnight. All stretch-goals were now accomplished and Bill was raking in cover artists and voice actors by the dozen.

Somewhere along the way Higher Eclectic Ground entered the fray. The artistic ingenuity of it all had us enraptured, coaxing us to take ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ to parts of the world that were yet to stumble upon such a paradigm. As we worked alongside Bill to achieve the same by taking exclusive renders of several tracks from the album to the indie video game and art community across social media, our understanding of ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’s genius grew stronger – An understanding that reached its peak when we listened to the album in its entirety and documented our thoughts within our article ‘We Died Alone In Space Too’, a couple of weeks back.

To regard ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ as another ‘Electronic’ album then would be to belittle its artistic significance. It is a journey of the senses more than anything – one that every artistic and self-conscious being should venture on, irrespective of their love for music or lack of it.

The Kickstarter campaign ended with a whopping $25,000 from 663 backers in its account on the 26th of September. As Bill, now fueled with the intention of producing and shipping up to 310 unique albums, geared up to retreat to his sound-mixing space lair for the next few months, Higher Eclectic Ground managed to catch up with him for one final tête–à–tête on the 2nd of October  – hoping to discuss the creative genius’ musical journey thus far and its aftermath.

1.  Congratulations are in order Bill! Has it really sunk in yet?

I think so. I’m working like it has, anyway. At about 2 hours per album and 310 albums, I’ve got 600 hours of work ahead of me- or over a quarter of an American working year, to put that in perspective. I know that to hit my February promised delivery date I’m going to have to work nights and weekends nonstop, so I began hitting the decks immediately upon it closing (or actually, a few days earlier). So yeah, let’s see… at the time I’m writing this, about 10 days after closing, I’ve output 526 tracks. I have to output 3,720 tracks in all to make 310 12-track albums though. 

 But yeah, I’d say it’s kicked in. The fact that I’ve exported 526 distinct tracks so far has really driven that home, I feel the weight of this work, what with me doing it all day. Thankfully it’s largely unsupervised… I can work at my day job, do PR, or play some Hearthstone or another simple video game while the renders go. I just listen, listening to them do their things, and between each render tweak one knob or another to keep the track evolving.

2.  And there’s Bump In The Night Too! In regards to which – and prior album releases of course – how much has the Kickstarter campaign changed things for you as an artist in terms of coverage and reach?

Sales numbers aren’t back from iTunes, but I don’t really expect to see a bump in sales, I didn’t spend much effort trying to cross-pollinate it with old releases. Bump In The Night saw a nice spike of KS backers who would listen to a #BITN to hear the exclusive previews, it was the only place to hear Refract!

3. Which reminds me – on last Monday’s (28th Sept.) ‘Bump In The Night’ episode, I happened to catch a mention of how you didn’t want to talk about ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ anymore until you were done with recording every one of the 300+ albums.

Given the amount of individual attention and end-user involvement each album’s render demands, has it ever felt like perhaps the whole new distribution paradigm was a curse in its self – especially with having to go through 3720 unique renderings?

Oh, the only reason I didn’t care to keep talking about it on Bump In The Night is that at this point, the people who’ve signed up for one are going to get one, and I’m not taking any further orders. I just don’t want to create feel-bads. 

At this point the people on the list are well on their way to having their copies made, so they’re taken care of, but if you never signed up, then there’s nothing else I can sell you- I’m not printing any more of these right now- so talking it about it more would really just seem like rub-ins. Besides, a lot of my #BITN listeners back me on the Patreon, they’ve got that whole side, so they know they’re supporting me in all my efforts.  I don’t feel like any of this is a curse, no. It’s the problem I asked to have.

4. Yet do you manage to pull time for yourself? Does personal space suffer much with the surge in work load?

Nah, not really. I don’t have as much as one as you’d think. I live with my wife and she’s still around the home, we both are. I guess I have to spend a little more time locked in my studio. But it’s already the room I work from and Bump from and game from, so the difference is minor. I guess I can’t really watch TV out in the common area with her, which is a bummer… that’s just too much downtime that could be spent doing renders. Anything else though, I’ll still make time for game night or some sport or a hike.

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5.  And even then, you’ve continued to maintain a close relationship with all of your contributors from the very start.
Based on your interactions with them – What in your opinion can the raving success of the campaign be attributed to? The musical journey itself, the fact that people get to avail of something that is unique to them, or both?

It’s hard to pin it down, for a question like this. It really required all the pieces to work together. The delivery method doesn’t work nearly as well for a different musical idea, and the musical idea is not that remarkably different from some great soundtracks already out there without the striking delivery method.

It’s really hard to isolate the factors.

6. ‘Without The Striking Delivery Method’, you said.
Has it ever occurred to you that the paradigm might be overshadowing the music itself? That it could be rather simple for people to overlook and appreciate the significance of ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ as a piece of art like you intend for them to?

I don’t think anybody’s going to miss the significance of the album as an album. I mean, nobody’s really even heard it yet, there’s a few people piecing together all the preview copies to create something like a full album, but don’t discount before it’s even had a chance. 

When people actually GET their copies, individuality aside, I think they’re really going to like them for working music, atmospheric music, chamber music, meditation music, anything. And for the 300 other backers who just signed up for canon copies- I mean, they won’t individualized ones, they’re here just to entirely appreciate the work like it was a typical album, albeit one that they get to participate a ton in the creation of.

7.  Indeed. Speaking of the album’s creation – when one backtracks to the interview with ‘The Public’, wherein you’d mentioned how the album was a product of you intending to create a musical trip of the senses and providing individuals with musical copies that they could call their own; A question arises –  Why space? What did you read, watch or perceive that led you to base such an ambitious vision of yours in extra planetary territory?

Space in particular felt like a good place to explore the other component I mentioned in that Public interview- the need to make something one could lose consciousness too. There aren’t that many ways to die slowly over the course of an hour that aren’t just gruesome or horrifying; this method of dying, though, lent itself to that really well to that set of needs, especially because it’s kind of beautiful, you have a lot of ways to make peace with it.

8.      And so in abidance by that vision, not an earth-based musical instrument is to be heard throughout the course of the album – Synthesizer reverberations and digital tones emulate what it would supposedly feel like to pass by celestial bodies trapped within the confines of a beeping spacesuit.
Where did this understanding and recreation of extra planetary vibes come from? Did it involve extensive reading and study, or was it all created on an artistic whim?

More artistic whim, although keep in mind, with a degree in music composition and a lot of classical music already to my name, one could argue I’ve just front-loaded the studying and reading. You learn a lot in university about how to represent abstract ideas musically. It’s like all the entire classical era has going for it, since expressing ideas lyrically outside of O Jesu or the occasional My Lady Art So Fair was pretty taboo.

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9.  Ha! While we are on the subject of the album’s composition – All of ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’s protagonist’s narrations are but messages they convey to a significant other through the void, yes?
 Our Creative Head of indie game projects, Salman Iza wonders why you would choose that conveyance of messages to someone else as the basis of the album’s narrative aspect.

These passages were co-written with the help of the remarkable Natasha Lewis Harrington, and all I can say about it is that we both brought a lot to the table in terms of what a person might realistically feel in these circumstances (after panic passed, anyway).

10.       And if we might be so bold to ask – is that narrative and the Astronaut’s struggle a reflection of experiences past perhaps?

I respect that you’re asking this question, but this is one of those places where it ruins all the fun if I tell you 🙂

11.      Fair enough! Now as we draw towards closure on the subject of its composition – how did you go about finalizing what the 10 tracks of the album would be about, before their synthesis and recording?
What did their synthesis and recording sessions entail – Did you have a tune in mind to begin with or was it all impromptu?

This might be the first album I ever wrote where not a single song had a predetermined tune in my head before I started. Most tracks, I started by thinking about the restriction I was going to be worth it, and working from there. I don’t want to say particularly what the genesis point for each track was, but for a few of them, I’ve explained it already- Tides, for instance, I talked about that one in an update and why it sounds the way it sounds. 

Absolute Zero, too, everything in Absolute Zero is the way it is for a reason, but it isn’t because I sat down with a tune in mind; I sat down with a list of things I wasn’t allowed to do and then asked myself “how am I possibly going to accomplish this goal, when I can’t do any of X. Y, and Z?” and then solve it like a puzzle from there.

12.       They do say one can only trace the dots by looking back, yes? I think only when those reading this actually get a chance to sail through the entire album in one go, will they truly appreciate how that puzzle was solved.

Now, I in particular, am a fan of how backers that contributed towards a personal copy gain full rights over it under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. I’ve also noticed how a few indie game developers have even proposed using ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ in their own creations – Once the canonical copies are released, what do you envision for their usage in other artistic media? Do you think it would hamper the magic of your own creation or boost that of others in any way?

I am not prepared yet to speculate on where all this leads. In a Zen kinda way, I find that the more I expect a certain course of events from the future, the less I appreciate what I get, so I’d rather not make predictions about where the canon copies lead. I definitely am not worried about anything diminishing the magic of any other copy, though.

13.  One of the teams of indie developers that exist within our community – SpaceVR – are working on sending a 3D 360 degree camera to the Cupola module of the International Space Station, capture footage of various extra planetary phenomena and make that footage available to Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard enabled devices. I can’t help but imagine the possibilities a pairing up of Virtual Reality space footage and ‘Music To Die Alone In Space To’ could lead.

Yeah, I have had a few backers mention their interest in syncing other things to this music and all can say is I am very excited about the possibilities.

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14.  All said and done Bill, when can we expect it to see the album on the Internet marketplace? I am aware that personal and canonical copies will be going out come November.

Probably about ten days after the backers get them. I want there to be a nice little period where the backers are enjoying something nice that nobody else is getting to hear yet, you know? But waiting that much longer is starting to ask for a leak or a torrent, and I do want to sell the canon copies, so I’ve got to put them up for sale not too long after or I can’t sell them.

15. Sooner the better for us too. Lastly, I know it’s a bit absurd to ask at this point of time but what are your plans as a musician besides rendering the 300+ albums and the podcast over the remainder of the year? Also, do you have anything else shaping up in your mind for after Music To Die Alone In Space To is launched next year?

Based on the success of Music To Die Alone In Space To, it’s unlikely that this adventure in handmade, unique music ends here, although I’ll probably want quite the refractory period after these 300 albums. I also wouldn’t mind a conventional album before then, either. It’ll have been three years since Lies Synthpop Told Me at that point, and I really do have a lot to say. Since that album, I got sober, got married, and “got kind”, I mean I changed a lot of things. 

 LSPTM was written to be a lot of my bitterness’s and depression’s last hurrah of sorts, I mean it’s the album that really turns on all the self-loathing and self-destructiveness that “Factor Friction” and “Laura By Spruke” and “Let’s Throw A Party” just bathed in, in so many ways. That album was about turning away from all that and looking forward, but it ends on a note that lacks confidence- with “All My Dreams Are Nightmares” you don’t really get to know if maybe things do get better, if a person really can be happy- but I really want to come back and make an album that’s a lot gentler, checks back in with me, like, “hey I want to write some songs about maybe not everything is not terrible not all of the time”. You know? 

Anyway, so that’s what’s up for me as a songwriter. As far as Bump In The Night goes, I just got to stick with it. I think it’s enough of a habit at this point that I don’t think it’s going to change much if at all. I’ve got to put my creative energies into Music To Die Alone In Space To, so I would expect Bump to kind of stay business as usual for a little while. I’m going to keep up with it, same commitment to a fresh hour of no repeats music every week, but I don’t think it’s fair for me to innovate on it or give it any makeovers before these albums are in my backers’ hands.

16.  Godspeed Bill, it’s been an absolute pleasure. This might very well be the last time we hear from you for quite a while now and so in parting, is there anything would like to send out to the hundreds of indie gamers and artists we reach out to daily?

Thanks for having me! Hmm. I have a ton to say to indie artists, I don’t know how to limit it to one thing. I guess I would tell them that enthusiasm is everything. Make sure you believe in what you’re doing, because everybody can tell. Looking back on this project, I think enthusiasm was my greatest asset… and with 3,720 tracks to export ahead of me, I think it will continue to be… or at least it had better be 🙂

In the days over which the interview took place, Bill initiated a massive poll from the 28th of September that served to provide his benefactors with the ability to vote for their choice of desired gender + language + combination which would in turn guide him in hiring respective voice actors for the album. The poll has resulted in an already stupendous roster (Mikey Neumann from Borderlands,  Laura Bailey of StreetFighter & DragonBallZ, Brina Palencia from The Walking Dead ) being filled with the likes of Chris Sabat ( Vegeta and Piccolo in DragonBallZ), Laura Shigihara (Composer of Plants Vs Zombies) and more.

And that’s without taking into account the fascinating ensemble of illustrators and designers he’s managed to put together for the additional six cover arts that will go into the album. Here’s a recent piece by Chris ‘Rally’ Benimati, photographer and illustrator behind the popular Japanese Web Manga – Vultures.

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Fascinating isn’t it? Oh and yes, while the album we listened to had ten tracks in total – Bill has since then gone onto add two more tracks, the themes for which were decided by his loyal supporters. For now, he’s back within his studio – creating track after track, each with unique flavor and passion as if they’re his first. Higher Eclectic Ground meanwhile, will continue working with him, following his progress from the sidelines , bringing you anything and everything worth knowing on this or any other musical journey he might have planned in the days ahead.

He is after all, our indie community’s pride. To catch samples of previous tracks, learn of his journey so far and even stay tuned to his future – stop by his Higher Eclectic Space only on the Ground.

Announcing The Maguss Wand Fan Art Competition

News

What is the Maguss Wand?

It’s been over a month since the Maguss Wand has been part of the Higher Eclectic Ground community.  Built of durable plastic and finished with a traditional wooden texture, the Maguss Wand lets users step outside with their friends and engage in duels by casting spells, defending themselves and gradually growing into legendary wizards. Yes, spells. Rather than have magic at play however, these ‘spells’ are cast by performing their corresponding motions which are then picked up by ‘receivers’ worn by each user participating in the duel. The received signal is then routed to the Maguss servers by the user’s smartphones, where they are evaluated and sent back as battle scores.

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Over the course of last month, the Higher Eclectic Team has worked closely with that of Maguss’ – through their acclaimed Kickstarter campaign, events , expos and now through the course of the wand’s development over the course of next year – bringing with us the latest previews and snippets and helping Maguss grow in the process. Our community’s loved them.

  

The Competition

And so till October 31st, 11:59 P.M GMT – Maguss Wand, in association with Higher Eclectic Ground, is holding a social media wide fan art competition as a token of appreciation for the community’s continued support. Using any and all Maguss Wand visual material present on the team’s Higher Eclectic album along with those present on Maguss’ website – fans, admirers and supporters are invited to send in their most creative art creations that best showcase the Maguss Wands in action.

These art creations may involve –

  1. Sketches and Drawings,

  2. Illustrations and digital Paintings,

  3. Prints, Stickers, Tattoos and any related art form,

  4. Pixel Art,

  5. Vector Art,

  6. Unique GIF’s based on your own created artwork

  7. Video Creations or,

  8. 3D Modelling Creations.

  

Creations can depict anything from wizards making use of their Maguss Wands, spectacular duels or – let’s leave a little to the imagination shall we?  At the end of the one month period, the Maguss team will be picking the top three creative submissions and awarding them with the Maguss merchandise as follows –

1st Place – Rare Collector’s Replica, Your Own Spell And Maguss’ VIP Mailing List.

 

  • A 34 cm long, 5mm-2cm wide replica of the Maguss Wand (App and Receiver not included) as seen in the image above. While the actual wands themselves are still being tweaked and developed to perfection far from their state of production, consider this replica a rare collector’s item that you can brag to the internet about once the Maguss Wand hits shelves worldwide.
  • The opportunity to create, register and name a spell of your own for the Maguss Wand, that will eventually be made available to Maguss owners worldwide once production begins. It is worth noting that this privilege was only available to those who had previously contributed up to $1,000 to Maguss’ Kickstarter campaign.
  • An inclusion into Maguss’s VIP mailing list that will have the team personally send you development updates, exclusive snippets and a lot more via E-mail, allowing you to provide suggestions and opinions on Maguss’ growth.

 

2nd Place – Maguss T-shirts, Naming Spells and Maguss’ VIP Mailing List.

 

 

  • An official Maguss T-shirt as worn and distributed by the team at this year’s IstroCon in Slovakia. Wear it, flaunt it.
  • From the 2nd to the 7th of this month, Maguss is putting up graphic art of each of the six spells that the Maguss Wand is current capable of, inviting fans from all over the world to suggest a name for each of them. Now while each spell is likely to receive hundreds of suggestions, the art competition’s second place holder will be given the opportunity to pick the best community suggested name for at least one of the six spells.
  • An inclusion into Maguss’s VIP mailing list that will have the team personally send you development updates, exclusive snippets and a lot more via E-mail, allowing you to provide suggestions and opinions on Maguss’ growth.

 

3rd Place – Custom Sized Poster, Maguss’ VIP Mailing List.

 

 

 

  • A custom-sized poster for you to put up on your wall and show your friends, family, pets and neighbours some Maguss love. ‘Custom-sized’ being in reference to the fact that you can pick the size of your poster as per your fancy.
  • An inclusion into Maguss’s VIP mailing list that will have the team personally send you development updates, exclusive snippets and a lot more via E-mail, allowing you to provide suggestions and opinions on Maguss’ growth

 

Other Participants – Artwork Featured As Maguss Promo Material

 

Depending on how spectacular the other creations are, the Maguss team will end up using quite a few if not all submitted art entries as promotional material. And so, even if you don\’t make it to the first three places – you and your work will still be a part of Maguss’ journey as they continue to appear in local and international magazines, videos and a lot more in the near future. A good chance to give your talent some exposure, wouldn’t you say?

How To Participate?

All submissions must be sent to [email protected] only with –

  • A name of the creation.

  • A Thorough description of what the creation tries to symbolise, explain and its significance.

  • Inspirations, thought process and how you went about creating it.

 The Higher Eclectic team will be maintaining an album strictly for the competition on its Facebook page, which will stay updated with user submissions as they come in.  So do ensure all entries are substantially detailed.

Any submissions made by posting directly on Higher Eclectic Ground’s or Maguss Wand’s social media profiles will be ignored. Furthermore, to avoid missing out on any updates, announcements or submissions it is advised to join the Higher Eclectic Bulletin to stay updated at all times.

If you have any queries please feel free to leave a comment below or mail us on the aforementioned address.