02 Jan 17

Jack Nicholls: “I’ve come full circle”

For the past two seasons, Jack Nicholls has been the voice of Formula E, providing the live TV commentary for the world feed as well as hosting shows such as Chat-E.

On Saturday, he’ll get behind the mic once more as the 20 Formula E stars do battle with 10 of the best sim racers in the world for a share of the one-million-dollar prize fund that’s made the Visa Vegas eRace the richest sim race in history.

The size of the prize drew in sim racers from across the virtual world, meaning that experts from iRacing, Gran Turismo as well as rFactor are going head-to-head rather than concentrating on their title of choice.

While this is the first of its kind in terms of mixing the best of the real-world electric racers with their virtual counterparts, it’s an area Nicholls has a deep understanding of and respect for.

“I’ve been playing since I was a kid on Grand Prix 2,” he says. “In about 2008 – after playing rFactor for a couple of years offline – I discovered that you could play online with people. And I found a league and I entered, which was Formula Sim Racing, and I was like ‘On my God, this is amazing!’

“I joined a team called AeroF1. There was a section on the forum called ‘Looking for drivers’ and they were looking for someone in the amateur division. For my first race, I qualified about 15th, but I’d made the grid – there were something like 30 drivers – so that was really pleasing. I did alright in some of the other races, I think I missed a couple, but then the Monaco race was just after the Easter holidays. So during the holidays, I had nothing to do all day but test and I stuck it on pole, but I spun twice and finished second. But I’d discovered that it was awesome. I think the races started at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon, so your whole day would build around it. I won a race at the end of that year in Brazil – my only ever win.”

Once a part of the community, Nicholls asked for the opportunity to commentate on some of the races, which he started doing in mid 2008. He used these to create a showreel, which he then sent to Channel 4 F1 commentator Ben Edwards, who replied with some encouragement and words of advice.

“He replied very promptly with a stock answer, and he said some nice things, said I had a good voice for it and to get in touch with your local circuits, so that’s what I did. And that’s how I got in touch with Ian Sowman and Ian invited me along to a 750MC meeting. My first commentary was on FFord 1600 race at Mallory Park in July 2009, and it was won by Martin Galpin, who’s now a simulator engineer for Red Bull. And then through Ian I started doing the Mazda MX5 TV commentary and away we go.”

During his time racing and commentating on those rFactor races, among two of the shining lights were Italian David Greco and a very young Dutch teenager called Bono Huis. Both of whom qualified through Cloud Sport’s Road to Vegas Challenge to be a part of the Visa Vegas eRace.

“I’ve just voiced the Road to Vegas highlights for the qualifying rounds and it’s bizarre, because you can find video of me commentating on these guys playing rFactor in highlights clips and now there I am eight years later commentating on them again…

“I’m a big believer in sim racing, it is real skill and driving. If you’re amazing at COD I don’t think you can just go into the army, so that’s why I’m always impressed with GT Academy, where they take the best computer gamers and actually put them in racing cars.”

The Visa Vegas eRace takes place on Saturday, January 7. The race starts at 4pm local time. Full details of where it can be viewed will be released shortly, but a link to the live streaming of the event will be posted on the official FIA Formula E Championship website www.fiaformulae.com