With the world still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of sim-racing has increased tenfold. The Checkered Flag sat down with a commentator who’s covered both real-world racing and sim-racing, Chris McCarthy, to hear his thoughts on the current era of Esports, his experience covering the DiRT World Series, and the advantages and challenges of being a Motorsport commentator.
The DiRT World Series took place from the end of 2019 until January 2020, with the final being held live on stage at the Autosport show in the NEC in Birmingham. Chris was part of the broadcast team alongside Catie Munnings and Andrew Coley for the event so I asked; What was the experience of covering the DWS like?
“Working with Catie and Andrew was a fantastic experience for me. My knowledge of
Rally was limited going into the World Series so it was good to know I was going to
be in safe hands.
Commentating with Andrew on Rallycross was a surreal experience given his role as the WRX commentator. It was an honour to work with him and I learnt a lot in the process. Working with Catie on Rally was great fun, she has so much knowledge of the sport and that helped myself and the viewers understand how the drivers were tackling the stages. It made my job a lot easier and made the broadcast a lot more enjoyable to watch I’m sure.“
Those who watch Formula Renault Eurocup and EuroFormula open may have heard Chris’ voice on the broadcasts once or twice. Recently, of course, he moved into covering the LeMans Esports series and the DiRT World Series. The question of whether parallels can be drawn between real world motorsport and Esports is always a topic of debate. I asked Chris is opinion from a broadcasters point of view.
“There is a big difference commentating on Esports and real-life Motorsport in my opinion. When you commentate on something like the Formula Renault Eurocup you will turn up to the circuit get yourself prepared and when it’s time, you head up and jump in the commentary box ready to go. In Esports, it is more of a show and that is because you can turn it into one“
“At Esports events, you will often be on camera and have a live audience. With this you need to do your best to keep the viewers entertained during intervals or technical problems.There is a lot of preparation that goes into a broadcast with rehearsals often taking place before you go live. Being on stage is a completely different experience to being in the commentary box and it can
add more pressure“
“But the adrenaline rush after you have finished a broadcast for a
big Esports gig is very unique and is why, for me, they are the most enjoyable to
The rise of competitive Esports has been huge in recent months thanks to the current pandemic. Pro drivers are now taking to the virtual track alongside full-time simracers. The question has always been raised whether Esports drivers can make into real-world motorsport and be competitive. I asked Chris whether Esports drivers could make it to the top one day.
It’s a hard question to answer.I’ll use Igor Fraga as an example. I remember first commentating on him at the Gran Turismo World Tour Americas Regional Final back in 2018. His professionalism and confidence was that of a professional racing driver and from that point I could always see him having a chance. I truly believe he will go all the way to the top and I
think as the years go by, and the money in Esports grows, more like him will be
The popularity of sim-racing has reached new heights in recent months but like many trends, keeping the public interested is always a challenge. Chris gave his thoughts on the matter;
“Ultimately when things resume back to normal, people who are not so connected online may not see Esports being shown on platforms such as Sky Sports F1. It will also mean a number of professionals will no longer have the time to compete as much. Although I don’t think it will be fully sustained, I think it has been proven it can be more popular than real life Motorsport and that will almost certainly see similar events taking place, but on a less frequent basis”.
With so many new faces getting behind the wheel on the virtual track, I asked Chris whether he’s considered joining in.
“I have always loved racing games and since commentating on the Gran Turismo World Tour back in 2018 I have always played it, but have never got myself a rig. Once I have the space available it is something I will do as visits to Simply Race with the Alpha Live team in recent months have made me feel like I am back out on track again.“
Within the world of sim racing, there are of course the drivers but there are of course budding commentators and broadcasters who give up their time to provide coverage for viewers, free-of-charge. The eventual aim,for a lot of them, is to make their way into real-world broadcasting. Chris had some encouraging words and some tips for them;
“My first bit of advice to any commentator out there looking to get into the industry is don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. You can’t get to the top of this industry all on your own so commentators will always be happy to help you out if they can.
Also, whilst we are in this lockdown, why not practice commentating on some real-life Motorsport clips on YouTube? Pick a series you don’t follow and commentate on the season to get used to it and maybe send out the clips to some commentators for their advice and feedback. Who knows, someone may see it and think you’re ideal for a job they know that’s going”.
Chris went on to talk about what he loves and finds difficult about his job;
“I think the most enjoyable thing about working as a commentator and presenter is the opportunities you get to travel the World. I never would have seen myself out in places like Tokyo, Las Vegas, Monaco and at events like the Nurburgring and Le Mans 24 Hour. Getting paid to do it at the same time reminds me how lucky I have been in my career so far“.
“Of course, looking at comments on YouTube and social media can open you up to creating a downside. I think asking for feedback on a regular basis is important to helping you improve, but it is something you should get from people you respect and trust”.
Finally, with us all being under lockdown measures, I asked Chris what he’s been doing to pass the time during these long days.
I have been doing my best to keep commentating by offering my services to as many Esports championships as possible, including charitable events. Thankfully I have been able to do enough to keep busy, but I have also been practicing commentating on other sports. One of my main goals is to commentate on something like the Winter Olympics. I plan to use this time to develop skills in other sports to hopefully open up some more opportunities in the future.
If you would like to keep up to date with Chris’ commentary, make sure to follow him on Twitter: @ChrisMcCarthy32.