Driving Seat Blog #9

Porsche 935 from various years

In this week’s blog, we get some sideways action, listen to Some of the best commentary in sim-racing, and find out what our community thinks is the coolest Porsche 935 …

Some Sideways Action

This week’s sideways action supreme heroism comes courtesy of “FT Game” over on YouTube where he powers a Ferrari LaFerrari around a very wet Nürburgring using a manual sequential box (because hero mode engaged!) and one hand to power through the slides.

Impressive stuff!

Some Porsche 935 Action

We asked our community—that’s you—on Facebook to vote for your favourite Porsche 935, and the results are in.

The Porsche 935/77 squeaked a win over the Porsche 935/78 (aka Moby Dick), with the 2019 Porsche 935 finishing in third.

Seems the Golden Oldies are never forgotten …

Porsche 935 from various years

Some Voice Action

Jessica Ball

Jessica Ball is one of the most recognizable voices in all of sim racing: Hailing from the UK, she’s a 26-year-old commentator for many of the world’s biggest sim racing leagues (at night) and an IT specialist (by day).

SMS’s Community Manager, Fernando Moutinho, managed to catch up with Jess for a quick one-to-one to find out about life as a commentator, radio broadcasting, and whether sim racing has become a more inclusive place for diverse voices like hers. (Spoiler alert—not quite yet …)

Fernando 

So where did your interest in motorsports start? 

Jess 

I saw my mum and dad watching a Damon Hill documentary called “Fight for Victory”—this was back when we still had videocassettes, remember those?!—in ’97 or so, and that got me hooked. I got properly into the sport in 2001, though, when Jenson Button hit the big time. He was and still is my favourite driver.

Fernando 

How did the commentating gig get started?  

Jess 

Well, I started playing Formula 1 games around 2017, and I was already doing online radio on the side at the time so I thought—wouldn’t it be great if I could combine these three passions in my life—motorsport, broadcasting, and games?

I read that the Apex Online Racing League was looking for commentators for their Formula 1 esports, this was back in 2018, and I sent them a pre-recording of my commentary for the DIRT4 Rallycross Championships. The head of commentary at AOR, Chris Buxton, must have liked what he heard, because he got me a gig on the Xbox side on the back of that. 

Then in about June 2018, I saw that they were looking for Project CARS commentators, so I expressed my interest in that, did a bit of Xbox there, and did a bit of PS4 at the back end of last year on Project CARS 2, which was one of my favourite seasons.

From there, it all kind of just kicked-off into various sims and series.

Fernando 

So you mentioned you did a bit of radio commentating? 

Jess 

Online radio, yeah, I did a bit of presenting for hospital radio. I also did some online radio for a station that doesn’t exist anymore—a regular weekly show. I didn’t even know commentary in esports existed then! 

Fernando 

Is there a season you specifically remember in AOR?

Jess 

My favourite season must be Season 16. Even though I got a lot of hate from some people saying I wasn’t good enough (this was only my second season as a commentator), the racing was just absolutely fantastic. I was commenting on the F2 tier, and it was just amazing getting to meet so many cool drivers. Some of those people in that tier are doing official F1 esports now, so it’s just amazing to see how far they’ve come.

From the Project CARS side, my favourite season must be the last season we did for the PS4 because the racing was intense, and you got to know the drivers a bit more as well. That was really fun. It’s important to have enthusiasm if you want to be a good commentator, and great game content really helps with that. 

Fernando 

So you mentioned you got a little bit of hate … do you want to talk about that at all?

Jess 

Yeah, well, there’s been that hate since I started, really. You know, “Why is this lady commentating? Why does she sound like kid?” or whatever. But I’ve learned to ignore it. Don’t worry about the people that just say, “Oh, you’re rubbish” or “You’re terrible”, just forget about them. Focus instead on the people who want to find ways for you to improve. Their feedback is what you listen to because you know they want you to succeed.

That’s how I’ve improved. Chris Buxton, for example, has helped me so much over the years. He was the one who brought me to AOR, and he’s given me loads of tips and advice. Like, for instance, I used to talk really really really fast in my commentary, but he pointed that out to me, and now I don’t do that as much anymore. I’ve learnt so much from him, and I’m starting to give feedback to other commentators now as well, and I think they appreciate that too. 

That’s really my top tip for anyone who gets that kind of illogical hate, and not just in commentary, but in sim racing or any type of motorsport—just ignore the haters: focus on the people who want to help you get better.

Fernando

Do you reckon that all this hate and criticism was because of your skill level? Or because you’re a woman? 

Jess 

That’s a tough one. I think people weren’t used to a young woman commentating for an esports league. They traditionally see a man commentating for a league, but things are changing, you see a lot of women doing this now, and it’s become normalized with Natalie {Pinkham} on SKY Sports and Rosanna {Tennant} who lead the Pit Lane channel on F1TV as well.

We’re starting to see more women in commentating coming through the ranks and that’s great to see. And Jenny Gow—I have to say, I was watching Extreme E this morning, and she did a fantastic job commentating with the GOAT of Rallycross. Really awesome!

Fernando 

How can we make the space safer women to join it? 

Jess 

I think you start by introducing young women into STEM subjects and motorsport from an early age. Start to see people coming up the ranks the way Extreme E do—have one male and one female driver. That kind of thing helps everyone move forward, men and women. And it’s not just motorsport or racing or commentary. Also engineering, being part of a team. There’s so many woman who go unnoticed—more coverage of what women do in the motorsport industry, and showing an awareness that women can get involved in lots of other stuff as well, is vital. If there’s something that you’re passionate about, get out and do it, don’t concern yourself with the stereotypes, just do it. Don’t be forced to do something you don’t want to do. 

Fernando 

It takes a certain level of stamina and energy and knowledge to be successful at commentary? 

Jess 

Yeah, you need to have the time to prepare. You don’t just show up for broadcast. There’re many hours and many days before the before the stream where you have to find out about the drivers, find out about their skill sets, what their difficulties are, and maybe the setups of the car as well, because that will draw people into the broadcast. Speaking to the drivers is crucial because they know what they are experiencing and that can help you inform the viewers. Increase your knowledge in a racing game as well, that’s the other critical skill.

Jessica Ball

Fernando 

So in your opinion, what do you think it takes to be a great commentator? 

Jess 

Good knowledge of the series in general because if you don’t have a clue what the series is about, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Good preparation. You’ve got to know the strategy, know the drivers, the racetrack, technological terms and so on. And then you must have enthusiasm, and definitely a good chemistry with your co-commentators. That’s something that you learn as you work together, but it’s hard if there’s no chemistry right off the bat.

Fernando 

Do you still get nervous? 

Jess 

I always get nervous when I commentate for a new league for the first time. It’s always daunting, you’re like, “Oh, how am I going to do this with a new bunch of people?” I did a new league back at the end of February and I was so nervous, I was shaking the first few sentences. I was just talking gobbledegook. It’s okay to be nervous though, everyone goes through that, even the veteran commentators.

Fernando 

Where do you see yourself going with this?

Jess 

I’d love to do this full time. Do it as a career because sim racing and real-life commentary in general is a lot of fun. Hopefully I’ll get to a situation where I earn enough money to do that, but we’ll have to wait and see.

You can find Jessica Ball on

@JessGames95 Twitter | Twitch | YouTube
If you give her a follow on Twitter, you’ll find out where she’s commentating next…

And that’s a wrap for this week. Come hang out with the rest of the community on our Discord server and be sure to keep an eye out for the latest Project CARS 3 news by following us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the Project CARS website.