On the surface, Josh Martin’s rise to eSports prominence – and eventually a shot in a real car – is a story for the sim racing landscape that’s nothing short of meteoric; a preview of sorts as to the role sim racing might play in the motorsports landscape not too far from present day. After becoming infatuated with Kunos Simulazioni’s Assetto Corsa racing simulator as a teenager, the Scottish lad – who according to news clippings does not own a passenger car for day to day transportation – progressed through the Assetto Corsa world rankings in such an absurdly quick fashion, major auto racing teams took a profound interest in the twenty-year-old’s virtual career, with Martin’s online exploits helping him to secure vital sponsorship that eventually landed him the job title of “professional race car driver” at twenty years old. With fifteen championships, seventeen world records, and over five hundred wins to his name, Martin’s online prowess is the stuff of legends – feats even more impressive when you consider this has all been accomplished in just the three years since Assetto Corsa’s release.
His personal website lists an abundance of high profile sponsors, his publicized sim racing statistics are simply mind-boggling, many news articles list him as an up-and-coming phenom recruited from an unlikely environment, and the kid indeed seemed to get a real world ride out of his virtual accomplishments – with ProRaceUK preparing a formal press event to announce Josh’s transition into a real car, the ultimate goal for any sim racer wishing to turn their dreams into reality. Move over Greger Huttu, there’s a new kid on the block, and his name is Josh Martin.
But what if I told you the feel-good sim racing success story – the story of a nerdy sim racer going out and getting it done to legitimize the hobby as a valid training tool – was the exact opposite; a sham that will make individuals involved in the motorsports world wince at the mere mention of sim racers?
At first glance, Josh Martin’s personal web page appears to resemble that of many fellow amateur racing drivers who are slowly making their way up the motor racing ladder. Sections dedicated to biographies, supporting sponsors, and photos of both Martin’s real life exploits, as well as his simulation endeavors, have all been carefully crafted to convey an air of professionalism – in some cases surpassing the often ragged, unfinished mess of amateur North American auto racing teams. To the untrained eye, he is a budding Jann Mardenborough or Lucas Ordonez – a young driver walking the planet as living proof that video games are a legitimate path to a professional racing gig, he just hasn’t landed the sweet GT3 ride as the aforementioned drivers, but most would have the impression that he’s on the way there.
Martin’s Press & Media section also weaves an extremely compelling tale to potential advertisers and rival team owners as well. A marketing machine away from the race track, Martin’s face has been spread around several different media outlets big and small as the world’s first virtual driver turned pro, with links to a bundle of articles depicting him to be a phenom that has been scouted by a variety of professional teams, and his rise to international fame is said to begin in a hobbyist BMW class – which by all accounts is a reasonable entrance into the world of auto racing for a sim racer who doesn’t even own his own car, and that in turn makes the story all the more believable. He’s not getting a shot at Formula One, he’s being thrown into an entry level car to partake in a sort of driver development program.
Listing nine different sponsors on his dedicated sponsor page, Martin is said to have backing from both Thrustmaster and Aird Motors – a local Subaru dealership – indicating there are a lot of people in this for the long haul, hoping to one-up the highly popular, Nissan-backed Gran Turismo Academy process by basically funding the whole goddamn thing themselves, and praying their investment in Josh will pay off in the long run. Up to this point, it seems like a pretty admirable story – an independent spin-off of GT Academy, where all sorts of little companies, individuals, and businesses have placed their faith into one prominent sim racer to “make history”, as his own website suggests.
But this is where the party stops.
Basic fact checking and inconsistencies with reality on Josh’s own website indicate many, many people, have failed to ask this guy rudimentary questions that would raise obvious red flags about the entire operation, and therefore prevent their names from being dragged through the mud in such a profoundly absurd manner – whether it be as sponsors, business partners, or third party journalists reporting on the story. It appears Josh is not a massively talented eSports superstar on the path to a professional auto racing career as his website suggests, but merely another delusional sim racer with far too much time on his hands, and far too many enablers around him to put a stop to it.
Inconsistencies and downright wishful thinking begin on Martin’s eSports page, in which he claims that Thrustmaster had sponsored him after his incredible performance in a private Codemasters Formula One series online championship just for Northern Scottish Players, despite these games not traditionally holding broadcasted tournaments of any sort, his own YouTube videos from those races reeling in less than a hundred views – and thus exponentially lessening the chance of brands like Thrustmaster hearing of him to begin with. Martin then claims this sponsorship, the authenticity of which is already doubtful (though I’m not opposed to be proven wrong on this front), allowed him to develop a “working relationship” with both Sauber and Force India – two mid-pack Formula One teams who are far more interested in phenomenal real life GP3 and GP2 drivers than a guy playing Assetto Corsa or a Codemasters F1 game.
Martin then makes a massive error by mentioning that the Caterham F1 team had been scouting his online performance at the time of being signed by ProRaceUK. Formula One fans will note that the Caterham Formula One entity only existed for three seasons – 2012 to 2014 – missing the final three events of the 2014 Formula One calendar altogether. I find it hard to believe that an F1 team we haven’t seen on the grid in three years and whose assets were liquidated is actively monitoring the driver development of a random sim racer, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.
We now move into discussing Martin’s online racing prowess, as his promotional material (above) claims he is in possession of seventeen world records on Assetto Corsa – no small feat for any sim racer, considering the application used to track world hot lap records is traditionally downloaded by a small fraction of the userbase intent on competing against the very best, as opposed to casual Assetto Corsa players. However, upon closer inspection, all of Josh’s seventeen world records are absurd car/track combinations that are completely meaningless from a competitive standpoint – he is intentionally taking the game’s open wheel race cars to drift tracks, drag strips, and layouts not typically used by Formula One machinery, such as the GT3 layout of the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit, which essentially means many of these “world records” are anything but, as in some cases he is the only person to register a time on that combination to begin with.
When tasked with a normal leaderboard challenge, Josh struggles to crack the top one hundred – a lowly 104th place at Spa-Francorchamps in the Ferrari F138, and 39th at Imola in the Formula Abarth, directly contradict his claims of being one of the top sim racers in the world.
Now personally, I cannot track down all of Josh’s league results to confirm the authenticity of his five hundred race wins and fifteen league championships given that his leaderboard records have been called into question, but what I have discovered is that he is listed as a driver in Eurogamer’s Assetto Corsa Championship, which is put on with help from Sparco, nVidia, and Thrustmaster. Those results are available, and they paint a picture drastically different from Josh’s personal website – despite being paired on a team with race winner Hany Al-Sabti, Josh is statistically the worst driver in the championship, qualifying some four seconds off pace for each round, and even being disqualified for reckless driving at the Montreal event.
The more you dig, an increasing amount of discrepancies slowly float to the surface. News articles of Josh Martin being invited to drive a Formula Ford for the 2015 season are proudly displayed on the Codemasters community blog, yet in other articles, this Formula Ford gig is referred to as merely a pit pass, with a team owner inviting him out to the track as a special paddock guest.
Across his personal website, there are many shots of Martin in a paddock area that depict him to be an amateur racing driver, wearing undergarments and a racing suit loaded with sponsors, but upon closer inspection, they appear to be part of a $170 USD karting suit designed after the Caterham F1 team. While some might see this as giving a bit of weight to Caterham allegedly monitoring Josh’s eSports “career”, these karting shots were uploaded to Facebook in 2016 – two years after Caterham’s departure from Formula One, and this is also a suit that anybody can go out and buy on eBay. Most photos of Josh in the paddock appear to come from one 24-hour karting event put on for teams of university students.
Info supplied to us by a third party has revealed that while some of his sponsorships are indeed legitimate, they have been seemingly attained under false pretenses; in this example, a group of sim racers can be seen discussing a way to fabricate emails that would convey to Thrustmaster – who was initially unwilling to spend money on sponsoring Martin – that Josh was a highly sought-after eSports personality being pursued by a rival company.
But the biggest contradiction of them all comes from ProRaceUK’s own Instagram page. At the top of this article, I displayed a picture and links to several articles talking about Martin supposedly signing to drive an entry level BMW touring car as part of a driver development program with ProRaceUK – which again, sounds reasonable on paper, and was actually covered by a fair amount of media outlets – enough to give the story some credibility. However, ProRaceUK have uploaded a photo two weeks ago of Josh’s car – with his name still on the window – advertised as being for sale.
The BMW Compact Cup that Martin was advertised to be competing in does not hold their first event until April 9th, 2017, though these photos indicate the car he was alleged to drive under the ProRaceUK banner was sold from the team to a private individual sometime in March – meaning the media frenzy appears to have been all for nothing, as it was for the Formula Ford arrangement a few years earlier. It seems the meteoric rise of Josh Martin from bedroom Assetto Corsa fanatic to professional racing driver – one which actually managed to dupe quite a few news outlets into running the story – has been built on the back of a delusional sim racer far too intelligent for anyone in contact with him to figure out that none of it was real to begin with.
First of all, there is no such thing as an international Assetto Corsa ranking system, meaning Josh’s title of #1 sim racer in Scotland is completely made up based on a hotlapping app that only a fraction of the community uses, but I cannot fault news outlets for not picking up on that. Second, Josh’s seventeen world records are largely the result of him cherry-picking tracks that have never been driven on before with a specific car, meaning he isn’t a world record holder in a traditional sense, he’s just the very first dude to ever race that track with that car, and it’s often nonsensical layouts, such as a Ferrari Formula One entry on a circuit intended for drift competitions, making his lap times beyond meaningless. Third, while I can’t find extensive history of his online racing exploits, for a sim racer with over fifteen online championships, his performance in the Eurogamer Assetto Corsa Championship – a collection of the best sim racers Europe has to offer – is astonishingly poor and directly contradicts his alleged credentials. These are all portions of Martin’s story that nobody aside from a fellow sim racing autist would ever be able to piece together.
Fourth, I find his statements about being scouted by the Caterham F1 team to be ludicrous, as that particular Formula One entity ceased operation before the conclusion of the 2014 season & liquidated their assets in February of 2015, whereas Martin has implied the team was paying attention to his journey up until he was signed by ProRaceUK in late 2016. Fifth, the team he was said to have signed with in October of 2016 can be seen selling the exact vehicle he posed with as of one week ago on Instagram, and in a similar fashion, nothing appears to have materialized with the Formula Ford arrangement he announced many years ago – using the exact same story line of a sim racer transitioning into reality after being noticed for climbing a non-existent world ranking leaderboard. Oops.
The whole thing is absolutely mind blowing; how nobody asked very specific questions and allowed this level of delusion to progress to this point is beyond words, and once again, we all look like retards lost in childish fantasies to the real life motorsports community.