Mike Channell interview: Outside Xbox’s petrol head talks to us about his love of motorsport

Since making the first Motorsport Manager, we’ve been lucky enough to attract some famous faces as fans of the series. So it seemed only natural to reach out to some of them to find out a bit more about what they love about motorsport in general.

Up first is Mike Channell from Outside Xbox. We caught up with him to find out what drew him to the world of motorsport, how he lived the dream and became a racing driver and to find out more about the racing games he loves.

Tell us who you are and what you do for a living.

My name’s Mike Channell, ludicrously, and I write, present and edit videos on a YouTube channel called Outside Xbox, which aims to be entertaining and funny about videogames. Our job is made much easier by the fact that games are, let’s be completely honest, quite often ridiculous.

You’re best known as one of the friendly faces on Outside Xbox, but you’re also known as a big petrol head. When did you become one and why?

I’ve definitely been interested in cars since before I can remember and had an enormous selection of toy cars when I was younger, a habit that I’m ashamed to say occasionally rears its head on eBay to this day. My interest in cars and motorsport in particular has always been intertwined with videogames though, with games introducing me to new cars and championships and motorsport on television causing me to seek out increasingly authentic sims.

You’ve lived out the dream of many people and actually taken part in competitive motorsport. How did it come about and what was it like?

The second part of that question’s easier to answer than the first: it was incredible. Honestly, it was everything I hoped for and more, both in terms of the racing itself and the sense of camaraderie that came along with it. My stated intention going into the season was just to have some good on-track battles, which is the thing no number of track days can replicate, and I enjoyed some fantastic wheel-to-wheel racing.

As for how it came about, the slightly depressing answer is that I saved a lot of money over a number of years and blew it all on buying a racing car. If anyone can lend me a fiver, that’d be great.

In all seriousness, I consider myself extremely fortunate having the luxury of enough disposable income to even consider spending it so frivolously and I’m thankful every day for the memories I’ve created over this past year.

At the same time, you’re also known to be a big fan of racing games too. Which titles got you into the genre back in the day?

My very earliest experiences of racing games was on the hoary old Atari ST. I used to love the Lotus Turbo Challenge games for arcade racing and I’ve fond memories of driving backwards around Monaco in Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix. In terms of motorsport management, I used to really enjoy Grand Prix Manager 2 back in the day, which came out around the time my interest in F1 was properly established.

When you’re getting behind the virtual wheel, what are the top three things you’re looking for from a great motor racing game?

In terms of driving games, handling is king. You can have all the cars and circuits in the world, but if the fundamental handling is off it’s just no fun to drive. That sounds like I’m being a simulation wonk, but it applies just as much to arcade games as well. The Sega arcade racers like Daytona USA, Sega Rally and Out Run 2, for example, all have brilliant arcade handling.

The next thing I look for is a sense of genuine passion in there, it’s easy to make a game about motorsport dry and by the numbers, but if the developers have passion it shines through. Gran Turismo, to choose the most obvious example, is a simulation, yes, but you can tell instantly that it’s a labour of love and has ‘soul’.

Finally, and this is purely personal preference, I love authenticity. Being a real life motorsport nerd, I love it when there are realistic cars or circuits included in a game, because I feel they bring me closer to the sport I love.

We’ve seen in recent years the rise of motor racing esports. What do you think of them?

I find the whole scene really interesting. I do feel like there are a lot of people throwing themselves at esports and there’ll probably be a bit of a bloodbath, but what emerges from that will be a solid form of entertainment for spectators and hopefully a viable career path for competitors. Purely selfishly, I love having some motor racing to watch at 9pm on a Wednesday evening when no sane person would be out on a real circuit.

I think also, as mentioned earlier, motorsport is extremely expensive to get into and esports allows driving talent a far lower barrier to entry. There are some great initiatives out there like McLaren Shadow and previously GT Academy that have proven that sim racers can prove themselves in games and then go on to real life motorsport careers.

We know that a lot of the fans of Motorsport Manager have thought about becoming Youtubers or Twitch streamers. Do you have any tips for any budding video stars on how to make it to the big time?

I suppose my biggest tip would be to try and think about the sort of things you’d like to watch. Don’t aim to replicate the biggest YouTubers or streamers out there, just create what entertains you and chances are there are other people out there who will enjoy them too. That and be persistent, it can be really tough in the early days when it feels like no-one is watching, but the only way to build an audience is to keep at it.

Finally, we know that you recently gave Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 a whirl and we need to ask this crucial question: which racing class do you prefer in game– Single Seater, GT or Endurance?

I have to say, I think the GTs are my favourite, even though they’re essentially the starter class in MMM3. I’ve developed a real appreciation of GT racing in recent years, following the Blancpain GT series through their excellent free livestreams and attending races like the Spa and Nurburgring 24 hours in person. Plus I love that GT cars look like angrier, more aggressive versions of road cars. They’re cars as drawn by a 12 year old and I absolutely love them, so yeah that’s my go-to in MMM3.

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