A Collection of Vaporware for your Viewing Pleasure

It’s a fact of life in the video game industry – things don’t always go in the manner which they were first intended. What may have seemed like a fantastic initial pitch might instead turn out to be a logistical nightmare when it comes to following through with the ordeal, thus leading to a situation where optimistic supporters of your upcoming release dating all the way back to the first reveal are suddenly asking an increasing array of blunt, abrasive questions. Known by the affectionate term of Vaporware to the greater gaming community, titles like Duke Nukem Forever attained widespread notoriety for their horrifically long time spent in development that ended up surpassing any critical discussion of the title itself – with gamers more focused on the story behind the software’s inability to launch as an example of what not to do in the industry. It’s like everyone’s watching a documentary unfold in real-time.

Yet due to the exponentially smaller community size, independent developers can get away with this behavior in the world of sim racing on a much more frequent basis. With significantly less potential customers to disappoint, as well as a cluster of websites covering these games aimed at the same group of hardcore enthusiasts rather than mass numbers of readers, any race car game that fails to materialize does not run the risk of alerting major gaming outlets that a developer doesn’t have their shit together – and thus fucking over the company’s reputation in the long run when they try to take on other projects; it all stays internalized, with the news articles eventually pushed into the archives.

So let’s dig them up.

Dirt Track Racing 2017

Though the recent frenzy surrounding iRacing adding a plethora of dirt oval racing content to the popular online simulator platform may sound like the developers had specifically taken aim at backwoods rednecks living in rural American trailer parks, the reality is that short track oval racing is an extremely popular discipline of auto racing on both sides of the pacific ocean, and Australians love their sprint car racing. Big Ant Studios, an Australian team who had worked on prior officially-licensed sprint car games for Sony’s PlayStation 2 – but had recently taken their talents to cricket titles – were hoping to revive Ratbag’s iconic Dirt Track Racing series of the early 2000’s with a crowdfunded dirt oval racing simulator. Elaborate plans for the simulator went live in early 2016, alongside an impressive video indicating preliminary work had already commenced on the game, so there wasn’t much of a need to be skeptical in regards to the project itself – the team were definitely capable of building what they were promising.

As this was all happening a few months before iRacing would eventually reveal their similar plans for dirt oval racing on April Fools’ day, there was admittedly a lot of excitement for what Big Ant were planning to deliver – with the help of the community, of course. Unfortunately, that excitement didn’t translate into a successful crowdfunding campaign. On March 1st, 2017, Big Ant were forced to announce that the $78,000 raised for Dirt Track Racing 2017 was only about a third of the initial funds needed for the base product to land on store shelves, and the game had been outright cancelled. Backers were given a complete refund of their donations – as per Kickstarter rules – and Dirt Track Racing 2017 will forever remain a two minute teaser trailer on YouTube.

Ironically, estimated sales figures from the release of iRacing’s dirt content project that if all 7,000 iRacers online during the day of release bought the complete array of cars and tracks available at launch (a price tag of $50 USD), they would have raised around $40,000 more than the $266,000 Big Ant were asking to make their dirt simulator into a reality. So it’s not a matter of dirt oval racing lacking a big enough audience to make a dedicated dirt game a worthwhile venture, it’s that sim racers are generally unwilling to take risks on products that don’t bare the iRacing logo. Though I can’t blame sim racers for being nervous about supporting a company whose claim to fame is cricket and PS2 sprint car outings, the alternative they’re forced to live with is a game featuring monthly subscription fees and per-content costs that may drive away the average fan before they’ve even tried signing up.

GT Legends 2

2016 appears to have been an especially bad year for vaporware sims, as alongside Big Ant’s failure to acquire enough funding for Dirt Track Racing, we were also graced with an announcement from none other than RaceDepartment that GT Legends would make a return under the command of ex-SimBin employee Simon Lundell and his new outlet, Tiny Feet Studios. We saw no screenshots, mock-ups, or renders of the project, which is generally par for the course when announcing a game – only a few select documents indicating the whole thing was basically an idea that existed in someone’s imaginationbut this did not stop RaceDepartment from publishing a high profile news article with Lundell’s blessing.

However, the official Facebook page for Tiny Feet Studios has not seen a single fragment of activity since the RaceDepartment article in February of 2016. Meanwhile, the homepage for Tiny Feet directs to a single splash screen that states “the legend will be back” – again with no footage, screenshots, or even assets to display. As far back as 2014, the brand can be seen looking for individuals with Unreal Engine 4 experience a move suspiciously in line with SimBin UK’s move to Unreal 4 with the upcoming GTR 3 but obviously nothing seems to have come of this in the meantime.

While I personally am under the impression Lundell and Tiny Feet used RaceDepartment as a third party marketing outlet to try and generate interest in a GT Legends reboot, hoping to secure a publisher based solely on the reactions of community members writing hyperbolic comments about throwing money at the PC monitor, a different reason that explains the title’s inability to materialize was offered in March of this year. RaceDepartment have written that development of GT Legends 2 was suspended due to Lundell coming down with an undisclosed illness. There is of course talk of “alternative solutions being sought”, but this doesn’t explain why social media activity ceased immediately after the initial announcement in early 2016, and nothing so much as a single screenshot or tidbit of information has surfaced over a year after the fact.

Unfortunately, with how shady certain aspects of the sim racing community can be, I can’t really take this story at face value. I’m not quite sure what game studio just sort of stops operating entirely when their boss gets sick. Not only that, the premise of someone affiliated with SimBin starting a brand new studio that plans to use Unreal Engine 4 as a racing simulator power plant, offering no proof that the title exists aside from a single RaceDepartment announcement, has now been repeated two years in a row. This all looks really strange, and there’s probably a story here, but it’s one of those things where we’ll have to wait it out for more details.

KartKraft

You knew this one was coming, and it’s a very difficult story to follow. Originally announced in 2006 (no, this is not a typo) under the title of KartSim, the name of the developer changed no less than three times – first we called them Maschine Simulations, then Primer Interactive, and eventually Black Delta – though CEO Zach Griffin remained a constant throughout the project’s lifespan. The premise for this one is pretty simple; a team of enthusiasts were going to sit down and build the ultimate karting simulator using Unreal 4 as a base, as most modern simulator engines just can’t accurately convey the characteristics of an ultra-lightweight race car without the whole thing feeling like a poor rFactor mod.

A fantastic preview trailer was released, sporting out-of-this-world visuals, such advanced depth in the customization & configuration aspect that would solidify KartKraft’s status as the be-all, end-all kart racing simulator, and just for shits and giggles, the game appeared to have some sort of first person element that let you walk around and explore the facility as you would at a real kart circuit. It looks undeniably awesome, but now comes the time to remind you this was all revealed to the general public six years ago, with the title campaigning for Steam’s Greenlight platform in the spring of 2014. By 2016, the name had changed, and the game’s official YouTube channel had advertised that a Steam Early Access launch was imminent, but then it just sort of… vaporized…

RaceDepartment ran a piece earlier this year entitled “What Ever Happened to KartKraft?” – and the comments which followed are extremely telling. Some users who imply they were under strict non-disclosure agreements note the game was enormously buggy and was in no state to be released to the general public, even on Steam’s Early Access platform – which allows unfinished titles to be sold at a heavily discounted price – while others state they loved it and blamed the bugs on those with poor PC’s. Now, all games in development have a varying array of bugs, but for KartKraft to receive such a divisive reception from its own testers, an entire decade after being announced, it’s probably not a good thing.

To add fuel to the fire, the simulator’s official Facebook page reveals a pretty essential piece of contradictory information if you’re willing to dig that far back. On June 30th of 2016, which also happens to be the last day any sort of official post was made to the Facebook page, Black Delta wrote to a Facebook user known as Nicolai that KartKraft would be released on Steam’s Early Access platform within a few weeks time. However, the following nine months saw the team respond to all future queries about KartKraft’s release with the same vague PR babble regurgitated over and over again about encouraging users to continuously check their social media page for updates, bringing us up to present day.

I’m unsure how a team can go from publicly stating they’re a few weeks off a Steam Early Access release, to being by their own description completely unaware of when the game will come out at all, and then giving this same answer for a period of almost an entire year. It’s like they’ve somehow gone backwards. This is not what happens in sim racing, and it’s certainly not what happens in indie gaming as a whole unless there’s a major mess occurring behind the scenes.

Vaporware will always exist in some fashion – it’s just part of software development – but KartKraft, GT Legends 2, and Dirt Track Racing are the three most recent examples of racing simulators that failed to materialize. Will at least two of the titles see the light of day? I wouldn’t count on it. Dirt Track Racing was officially killed by Big Ant Studios, we haven’t seen a single shred of evidence regarding GT Legends 2 existing aside from a power point presentation floating on somebody’s hard drive, and while KartKraft did have a rough release date established at one point in time, their social media activity abruptly stalled, and their PR guy has been copy/pasting the same generic response for almost a whole year – which has gone against previous posts indicating they were ready to pull the trigger and put the thing up for sale.

If our readers have any information on the three games listed above, we’d certainly like to know what happened to them.

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Josh Martin Closes Website, Issues Apology Amidst Allegations of Fraud

My, how things can change in a week. What was once deemed to be fake news by the man at the center of the story himself has now evolved into a full-on admission of guilt, with the sim racing community reportedly consuming record amounts of popcorn as the story has developed in an increasingly bizarre fashion with each passing day. Partaking in an impressive multi-year exercise in fraudulent activity, Scottish sim racer Josh Martin promoted himself to the outside world as a prominent eSports superstar in a quest to attain sponsorship from major sim hardware companies, public appearances at gaming conventions, multiple interviews with the British Broadcasting Corporation, and even claimed to have landed multiple drives with real life team owners due to his sim racing prowess – but upon conducting a proper background check, we here at PRC learned he was little more than an elaborate bullshit artist. Every single aspect of his eSports persona, including his official-looking website that implied he was on the path to being the next Jann Mardenborough or Lucas Ordonez, were extremely liberal interpretations of the truth, if not outright lies.

The world records were bogus accolades in which he was the only participant. Support from Caterham’s Formula One team was merely them responding politely to a piece of fan mail Josh had sent. The eSports championships he had claimed to win in abundance were instead private sessions of Formula One 2013 he’d won against his mates, and the car he’d announced he would be driving in several different news articles had instead been placed up for sale – the team owners dragged into unknowingly marketing a fraudster from a community they didn’t quite understand or care to learn about.

Though ProRace UK’s own Craig Harper took to the comments section of PRC last week to aggressively defend the team’s new eSports Ambassador, labeling those with genuine questions about Josh’s fraudulent-like backstory as “haters” and “trolls”, those same “haters” and “trolls” were proven to be correct in their analysis of the situation, as Josh Martin removed virtually everything off his personal website and issued a public apology for his behavior, which you can read in full by CLICKING HERE.

Refusing to drop the role-playing element of his fictionalized sim racing career, Martin’s piece reads as if it were a professional PR response, angering users on Reddit even further by appearing to provide “justification for willingly misleading people” rather than a genuine apology, at least according to a user under the name of 1Operator. The sim racer in question goes on to state “this does not sound to me like someone who is sorry for what they’ve done, but instead just sorry they got caught/exposed.” I agree with his analysis, as the careful wording of his apology, plus my own investigation into the story of Josh Martin’s fabricated sim racing career uncovered such widespread deception and dishonesty over a period of several years that were in some cases aided by his teammates and online friends, there is simply no way the guy woke up one day and had a sudden change of heart.

In fact, when Josh’s public apology had been linked to certain groups on Facebook, teammates of Josh’s arrived to attack other users and discredit the expose him again, even though Josh himself had already admitted the article’s we’d written about him were truthful, removed all content from his website, and issued some kind of public apology for his actions. This clearly displays that this magical adventure was not the work of a delusional sim racer completely detached from reality, but a group of sim racers working in tandem to benefit from fraudulent behavior.

As the story has spread like wildfire throughout the sim racing community, we have learned even more about Josh Martin’s antics, some of which remained private knowledge until today. A former league member claims Josh had promised them TV time on the European auto racing network MotorsTV that never materialized due to MotorsTV already having a contract in place to televise iRacing events (not to mention the Emails he used as “proof” being doctored), while another told a story of Martin offering paid private training and setup building sessions to drivers who were faster than him. A third, the man who designed Josh’s team logo, contacted me on Twitter to say that Josh merely took a conceptual design, promised “income and exposure” from his sponsors, and ran without paying him.

An anonymous reader of PRC has also discovered that the entry level BMW race car Josh had posed with in November of 2016 had been listed for sale as early as October of 2016, indicating that both Josh Martin and ProRace UK’s Craig Harper knew that contrary to the media frenzy and multiple BBC interviews discussing his transition to real racing, Josh would not be driving the car in 2017, but continued to publicize the endeavor anyway for a period of several months, intentionally misleading potential sponsors and sim racers interested in the story.

Though it is unlikely Josh acquired sponsors through his relentless self-promotion with ProRace UK, any sponsors who did financially contribute to Josh’s real-world racing career after being persuaded by the promotional campaign now have a pretty open and shut legal case. The classifieds page claims ProRace UK had been forced to sell the car due to a driver situation, and also reduced the price of the vehicle due to the HMRC bill. The articles about Josh hadn’t even been written yet, hell the promotional pictures might not have even been taken, and they already knew they weren’t going to be racing the car, but then they went ahead and embarked on a massive media tour anyway knowing it was a sham, dragging the sim racing community through the mud in the process.

Maybe the European auto racing climate is different than here in North America, but this is the kind of shit that gets you laughed out of an entire racing community over here.

Lastly, one of Josh’s female acquaintances – presumably his girlfriend, but I’m not quite sure – has arrived on PRC to defend Josh even though the same public apology we’ve linked to on Reddit has also been posted on his respective Facebook pages. Posting under the name of Alexis Summers, the Scottish girl can be seen aggressively lashing out at our articles exposing Josh as an elaborate sim racing fraud, a bizarre move considering he has already admitted the articles were factual and taken down his website in response. However, coupled with the behavior of his teammates displayed above, I am under the impression that the public apology was a cold, calculated move to appease the larger sim racing community, while in private a much different story has been told to his friends, family, and sim racing teammates – one which portrays him as the victim.

Though his website has been almost completely erased and a public apology issued on several different social media platforms, Martin is still scheduled to appear at a video game convention taking place this July in Aberdeen, operating under the name of 4TheGamers Game Con 2017. Given the drastic difference between Josh’s personal stance on the allegations of fraud among his family, friends, and sim racing teammates, versus his public wishes to disappear from the spotlight for a period of time and re-emerge as a “true talent”, it remains to be seen whether Josh will attend this convention as originally planned, or responsibly back out of the event himself.

One of the most bizarre, hilarious, and confusing stories ever to manifest in the world of sim racing, the saga of Josh Martin has been nothing short of a wild ride. Knowing what kind of people naturally flock to sim racing, it’s not a stretch to imagine some sim racers may be overly delusional in their accomplishments or see the hobby as an extension of a career they were unable to pursue away from the keyboard, but Josh Martin’s multi-year trip spent angering league after league and community member after community member while convincing international news agencies he was an eSports phenom is no doubt the stuff of legends. Crafting an intricate web of lies dating back to a time when Codemasters’ Formula One 2013 was a brand new, $60 product you could purchase from Wal-Mart or Best Buy, Martin’s inexplicable mix of delusion, deceit, dishonesty, and brainwashed followers will remain unmatched for years, if not decades.

Knowing how long he was able to remain undetected – those with genuine questions relentlessly attacked by his online teammates and various acquaintances who were no doubt instructed to provide false anecdotal evidence in support of his character – we may never know the full extent of the damage he has done to the sim racing community. Thankfully, we can at least say that period has now come to a conclusion.

Outer Space Donations

Holy shit, what fucking timeline are we in?

With no prior post history and little in the way of recording equipment, an rFactor 2 supporter by the screen name of Matador667 has appeared on the official Studio 397 forums, attempting to raise money from other devout rFactor 2 fans that would be put towards recording real audio samples from the historic Cosworth DFV engine that was a prominent staple of Grand Prix grids back in the 1970’s. Sporting a Geocities-like web page, the endeavor aims to pick up some of the slack that Studio 397 simply aren’t able to execute on their own by attaining real engines sounds for upcoming content – something Studio 397 aren’t able to do on their own given their already busy schedule morphing rFactor 2 into a relevant product.

It’s an admirable effort for community members to self-fund an aspect of development for their favorite game – a step beyond iRacing fanatics purchasing pizza for the staff members after key software updates – but in execution, Matador667’s project raises several red flags.

Broken English, vague details, and a donation button linking to the address of matador667@mail.com highlight wishful thinking from a non-English speaker at best and an outright scam at worst, though what is already looking extremely shady takes a turn for the bizarre on the official Studio 397 message board. Matador outright admits he has no idea what he’s doing, cannot tell sim racers on the rFactor 2 message board who will be managing the project, what equipment they will be using, who will be mixing the sound in the end, what car they will be using as source material, or the most important part of all – how much it will cost.

He does, however, continuously ask for donations. A lot.

Matador sends himself into hot water fairly quickly by becoming combative against anyone with a functioning brain whom dared to question him, as well as admits there has been no planning done on the project whatsoever, before claiming he has somehow raised exactly 21% of the money needed to progress to the next step.

Uh, guys… ?

With zero background information on the modder in question, and absolutely nothing on the table when it comes to a tangible plan to record the sounds, we are subjected to lengthy posts dubbing those asking basic, simple questions about the crowdfunded sound recording project to be “spies” from other games trying to sabotage rFactor 2.

It’s easy to get swept up in the madness of just one inexplicably bizarre message board story on the Studio 397 forums, but I feel this might be the time to talk about rFactor 2’s strange tendency to attract the vollpatients of the sim community into vigorously defending the software as if it were their first-born child. Slowly but surely, stories have come from all over the place in regards to rFactor 2 owners acting as a grassroots Scientology cult of sorts, believing to be in some kind of war with other sim racers who are actively working to bury rFactor 2. Messages such as the one below in my inbox appear quite frequently, with one anonymous user claiming he was unable to leave an honest Steam review about rFactor 2 without being brigaded by a rabid rFactor 2 supporter who worked tirelessly to dismiss the user’s opinions of the software.

This behavior, combined with Matador667’s tangent in which he explains you should donate to his objectively sketchy sound recording project to somehow fight back against the spies and saboteurs from other simulators, makes me genuinely question what subliminal messages Image Space Incorporated have inserted into their track side television monitors – this shit is absolutely whack. I shouldn’t have to say this, but in case you’re new, we might as well cover it anyway: Don’t give money to Matador667; his crowdfunded Cosworth engine recording project is most likely a scam, and it’s not cool when sim racers fuck with each other in a monetary fashion.

 

Currently Under Changes: The Perplexing Story of Josh Martin Continues *UPDATED*

Update: Martin’s personal web page has been wiped entirely, with only the text Site Under Maintenance displayed.

Only a few short days ago, we here at PRC introduced our readers to the curious case of eSports personality Josh Martin. Boasting seventeen world records in Assetto Corsa alone, as well as fifteen online championships and over five hundred individual race wins, the twenty year old Scottish chap had been aggressively marketing himself for a number of years as a virtual racing phenom who had landed the opportunity to campaign a real race car thanks to his eSports accolades – until we performed a thorough background check and discovered he had a lot of explaining to do. A disservice to top level sim racers such as Greger Huttu, Bono Huis, and Olli Pahkala – stand-up individuals whom act as ambassadors for sim racing to the rest of the eSports world & motorsports community – we revealed that Josh Martin’s online career, sponsorships, and even partnerships with legitimate race teams, had been built upon extremely liberal interpretations of the truth, stretching into fraud-like territory that certain entities may possibly be able to pursue legally, but we’ll leave that up to them.

The fifteen eSports titles were attained primarily via competing against mates from school in unsanctioned Codemasters’ Formula One 2013 leagues for the Xbox 360, a far cry from sanctioned, licensed eSports events such as the $10,000 iRacing championships sponsored by automotive brand PEAK Anti-Freeze, and the $1,000,000 Visa Vegas eRace that come to mind when one is to mention eSports competitions. Likewise, the seventeen world records Martin was using as proof of his raw speed in simulators were discovered to be just as invalid, as in several of the leaderboards that deemed him to be the world record holder for a given car on a particular track, he was the only participant whatsoever. And though it was difficult to find evidence of his five hundred victories, results from the Eurogamer Assetto Corsa Championship held this spring depict him to be a bust unlike any other – Martin’s self-proclaimed title as the #1 sim racer in Scotland (of which no ranking exists) does not match up with his on-track performance, in which he is seen to be four seconds off pace and was most recently disqualified from an event for reckless driving.

Since our expose on Martin’s misleading eSports statistics, as well as another sim racer taking time out of his day to beat all seventeen of Josh’s records quite easily, Martin has now drastically reconfigured his personal webpage to delete any mention of the bogus statistics in favor of red text that reads Currently Under Changes, though previously uploaded YouTube videos of his have allowed us to preserve the outright misleading information in some fashion.

So your next question is understandably to ask why this all matters, as the sad reality is that sim racing attracts many teenagers and man-children alike by allowing them to live out their failed childhood dreams of becoming a race car driver. It’s certainly not uncommon to run across people in the community who believe NASCAR scouts are paying attention to their iRacing results, or Formula One teams are interested in their offline F1 2016 career mode progress, so yet another sim racer taking their delusions of grandeur to the extreme and opening a website to portray themselves as a professional eSports personality with incredibly impressive statistics full of more holes than swiss cheese, should be par for the course in a sense.

The problem here, is that Martin is actively marketing himself to both media outlets and potential sponsors under these same false pretenses that most sim racers can easily see through, and in some cases, these entities are handing over money, time, and real cars in return for exposure they aren’t actually getting, because Martin isn’t who he says he is, and isn’t doing what he said he would.

A post in January of 2015 by Josh claims he has been offered an actual racing contract to drive in the United Kingdom’s highly popular Formula Ford series, with a smilar story appearing on the Codemasters community blog, and is a “big sim racer” who is sponsored by Thrustmaster to compete in eSports competitions.

There is no record of Josh competing in any prominent eSports competitions such as iRacing’s World Grand Prix Series, the iRacing NASCAR Peak Anti-Freeze Series, or the Formula E Visa Vegas eRace, the three biggest simulator competitions of our time. Josh’s personal website does not depict him driving the Formula Ford entry from Gwyn Richardson, but merely attending one of the races as a paddock guest, a fact reiterated by another publication. Furthermore, we have been supplied screenshots of a private message exchange in which Josh asks his acquaintances to fabricate emails that would increase the likelihood of Thrustmaster supplying him with sponsorship funds after they initially rejected his offer.

Despite the moderate coverage of Josh’s acquisition by Richardson Racing, including a television interview with STV, there is no record of Josh Martin piloting Gwyn Richardson’s Formula Ford. Martin himself made no effort to inform those following the story that the deal did not materialize, and continues to use choice shots of the Richardson car on his website to subtly imply to the untrained eye he had at one point driven it.

Two years later, in October of 2016, Martin resurfaced, returning to media outlets and sim racing message boards alike to proclaim he had signed with a hobbyist squad, ProRaceUK, to drive their BMW 3 series race car. The snazzy pre-season photographs and media frenzy culminated in an interview with two outlets, one on BBC Radio Scotland, and another on BBC Radio 5 Live, in which Josh again attempted to tell the same story of landing a professional racing gig through his eSports exploits – albeit with a tintop team instead of a Formula Ford operation. Failing to inquire why an earlier, identical deal had fallen through, media outlets ran the story anyway.

However, as the date of the first race approached, and sim racers were eager to see how eSports personality Josh Martin would fare on a legitimate track under competition speeds despite his misleading accolades, it was discovered that the same operation that had taken part in his aggressive self-promotion, were actually selling the car he had posed with on their public Facebook page, and despite a very thorough marketing push heavily implying Josh would be driving for them in 2017, did not even list him as the potential driver.

As someone whose schedule is loaded from May to October driving two very different race cars, I don’t know of a single team owner who would willingly take elaborate press photos with one specific car & driver combination, complete with the guy’s name and number plastered all over the bodywork, go through the trouble of promoting it on a pretty large scale to the point where the driver was being interviewed by the Goddamn BBC, only to get rid of the car weeks before the season was set to commence. This is very strange, and it is simply not what auto racing teams do on any level whatsoever.

After our original article on Josh Martin went viral, ProRaceUK’s own Craig Harper appeared in our comments section to both belittle and insult anyone who dared to question why the heavily promoted 2017 plans with Josh Martin failed to materialize in the exact same manner as the Formula Ford deal mentioned earlier. Harper’s meltdown spanned over three hundred comments, and you can read the entire chain by clicking here, but even when confronted with proof that Josh’s sim racing accolades the media had been so quick to run with were bogus embellishments mocked by legitimate eSports personalities, Harper claimed these comments were from angry, bitter individuals made out of jealousy, and he felt what had already been debunked as misleading, fraud-like eSports statistics from Josh were instead a “strong, marketable package.”

It’s easy to feel sorry for Mr. Harper at first; a real mechanic had simply been taken advantage of by a crafty twenty year old due to his understandable lack of knowledge when it comes to simulated race cars and the eSports kingdom, but after three hundred comments, the other side of the story was able to materialize. A Facebook video featuring Josh Martin & Craig Harper has surfaced, in which they gleefully boast about Josh’s now-debunked sim racing statistics before joking about Josh taking all of Craig’s money, and needing additional sponsors to field the car for the upcoming season.

It’s easy for some to dismiss this video as off-beat British Humor that may go over the heads of North American readers, but comments from Craig Harper appear to convey that all jokes aside, Josh’s 2017 drive that was promoted so heavily across the BBC and even sim racing websites, is indeed hindered by financial issues.

This is where I stop playing nice.

In the world of auto racing, you do not announce a very specific season plan via relentless promotional material unless it is 100% going to happen, and if it does fall through for one reason or another, you make that shit public right away to not mislead people, current sponsors, or potential sponsors. Financial issues never arise at the eleventh hour; there is no such thing as “oops, we went through all this trouble of spending money to prepare a car, and now that its done, can’t afford to race it” unless you are mind-boggling levels of retarded. What dumb motherfucker poses with a race car, hits up the BBC and several other media outlets to talk about his race car, and tells the sim racing community about his race car, when he knowingly won’t be able to afford driving the race car, and the team is actually in the process of selling the race car?

For example, when preparing to campaign the #2 Chevrolet SS for this upcoming season, our complete internal budget spreadsheet was completed prior to receiving the sponsorship money from Slightly Mad Studios. Our entire 2017 season, including but not limited to parts, travel, fuel, tires, potential damages, setup software, and other miscellaneous items we could purchase to ensure we could race the car for at least seven events, had been meticulously calculated to ensure the venture was both affordable with the funding we were provided with, and ready to be put into action on the day of the money changing hands. And after causing a miniature riot among some of our 650,000 readers with the season announcement, adding an entire Team PRC tab to our website that listed our tentative schedule, creating a Facebook page for the team, we certainly did not list the car on RacingJunk.com.

I refuse to believe that a team competing at locations such Silverstone International Raceway were so ill-prepared for the financial aspect of running a race team, and the financial problems crept up so quickly, they were unable to inform their sponsors, supporters, and the press who had covered them, that the endeavor would not be going ahead as initially advertised.

Martin’s personal web page still heavily implies he will be competing in the BMW Compact Cup, giving off the impression that the venture is still moving forward. Nowhere on his web page does he list a tangible schedule, nor that he was forced to miss the opening round of the championship and will instead be competing in a partial schedule, or that the car he posed with has been sold by the team he lists as a partner. ProRace UK’s Facebook page contains no announcements that explain the stark contrast between what the press articles say about Josh’s alleged racing career, versus what’s actually happening. I am confused as to why none of the parties would make an effort to clear up any discrepancies given how much media attention their story initially received. People are going to start asking questions at some point, why not just get it out of the way?

Sponsorship and financial issues which would keep a driver sidelined are not problems that arise the week before an event, they are learned of several months in advance – especially considering the 2017 racing season just began over in Europe and you have all the time in the world to figure shit out during the winter months and announce if things aren’t going according to plan. Therefore, it is to the best of my knowledge that Josh Martin and Craig Harper appear to have been aggressively self-promoting their endeavor while knowing full well Josh would probably not be racing in the first place due to a lack of sponsors. This makes the pair look dishonest, despicable, and is a black eye to our hobby in particular when a sim racer is at the center of it all, in part using dishonest, now-debunked accolades to get this far in the first place.

I do not place the blame on Craig, as typically it is the driver’s responsibility to bring sponsors to an operation. After investigating Josh’s previous sim racing exploits, in which he forges emails to bait sponsors into supporting him, and greatly misleads others with exaggerated eSports statistics that operate on technicalities and clever wording while embarrassing himself in legitimate events, I am under the belief he promised ProRace UK he could bring sponsors to the operation, but of course, wasn’t telling the truth, and nobody at the organization was well-versed in the world of sim racing to figure out they were dealing with a bullshit artist.

In 1996, an amateur soccer player by the name of Ali Dia prank called Southampton manager Graeme Souness, and disguising his voice as 1995’s World Player of the Year, recommended himself to the Southampton club before being outed as a fraud during his first and only appearance with the team. In 2017, a low-level sim racer by the name of Josh Martin fabricated an entire website dubbing him to be the #1 sim racer in Scotland despite no such global ranking system existing, and used these fabricated, misleading accomplishments to land a partnership with a real race team before being outed as a bust thanks to his tall tales failing to materialize because race cars cost money to operate, and a couple sim racers taking a serious look at his few publicized eSports results. Josh Martin is sim racing’s Ali Dia.

Since the story first went live over the weekend, all of Martin’s seventeen world records have been snatched by random sim racers in pursuit of a hearty giggle, while the home screen of Josh’s official webpage has been drastically altered in what many will no doubt see as an admission of guilt, though his Twitter page claims the article was fake news, and the tagline on his web page still lists him as a “professional racing driver.” Comments have been disabled on select videos seen on his primary YouTube channel, and while to his credit Josh has attempted to provide us with “proof” of the Caterham F1 team being genuinely interested in his eSports accomplishments…

…it’s hard to believe a the message was little more than a polite response to a superfan, as Mercedes AMG Petronas can be seen publicly joking about receiving such an email on their own Twitter feed – indicating the source of the lighthearted tweet may have been rooted in reality, and we’ve merely figured out the original inspiration.

The entire saga is as unfortunate as it is incredibly absurd. Though we only tend to highlight the bad apples here on PRC.net, the sim racing community is full of stand-out individuals who could act as phenomenal ambassadors for our hobby on a much larger scale, and it is incredibly disappointing to see someone giving sim racers an incredibly bad name to the world of auto racing by actively working to deceive the press, sponsors, and even real world motorsports personnel. It is frustrating to be made aware of such an individual wreaking havoc in two distinct communities, but now that the story is out there, hopefully steps can be made to rectify any behind-the-scenes destruction & deception.

Sim Racing’s Ali Dia

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.

Another shot has been uploaded just one week ago, displaying the car undergoing a “for sale wash”, implying the car has been sold.

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.