We spoke to sim racer Tobin Leigh following his first two months as a junior team manager for industry behemoth, Veloce Esports.
Photo credit: Tobin Leigh / F1 2020
2020 has been a rollercoaster year for British sim racing talent Tobin Leigh. He has done everything from competing in sim racing events alongside 2009 Formula 1 champion Jenson Button, to coordinating events with McLaren F1 star Lando Norris.
SUPER excited to announce that I will be driving with a top line-up including @JensonButton for @Rocket_Msport (powered by @ZanshoSimsport) this weekend for the PPR 12 Hours of Silverstone on @AC_assettocorsa!!— Tobin Leigh (@TobinLeigh55) June 25, 2020
Below is a clip from practice (feat. the man himself)👀 pic.twitter.com/8w9LBiKgnA
Leigh first made a name for himself as one of the leading drivers on Forza Motorsport 7. He regularly earned big prize money from both the ForzaRC Invitational Series and the Le Mans Esports Series.
From driver to manager
This year, Leigh diversified – while also completing his University degree in business management. He earned a first-class degree and secured a role with Veloce Esports on their management team in October. Veloce runs both Alfa Romeo and McLaren’s F1 Esports teams as well as numerous other real-world and virtual projects. Leigh commented that his racing makes him a better manager:
Fundamentally, my driving experience has given me a level of empathy with drivers. It’s quite hard to get if you haven’t been there and done that yourself. Even if you have all the best knowledge of how to manage a team of people, when you’re managing a team of esports drivers, there’s so many niche things that you have to look out for and understand.
Leigh’s prior sim racing experience helps him to connect with the drivers that he’s managing. A certain level of mutual respect and understanding exists that perhaps cannot be present between a driver and a manager with no first-hand sim racing experience. Managing a sim racing team is no easy feat, and although Leigh labels working in esports as “just awesome”, the demands are high.
I feel like the most surprising part is the actual workload that you have. Working in esports, even if it’s supposed to be a 9-5 job, for example, it just won’t be. The industry is so fast moving that if you want to be successful, you have to be willing, to basically, putting all of the time you have in the day, on every single day of the week, to achieving in esports. There’s such a big opportunity at the minute in esports that it’s anyone’s to gain. Who acts first and who is the most proactive about anything that happens, is going to be very successful.
Improving McLaren’s F1 Esports fortunes
The 20-year-old also admitted that having the chance to work with huge stars such as Norris and Button is “always a bit nuts.” Veloce has links across the motorsports and sim racing spectrum, and has recently launched an Extreme E outfit, with 2019 W Series champion Jamie Chadwick as one of its drivers. You can find out more about her in our in-depth article.
Among Leigh’s current responsibilities is helping to manage McLaren’s Shadow Project and its F1 Esports team. The squad had a difficult start to the 2020 F1 Esports Pro Series, but it bounced back during the penultimate event of the season when Dani Moreno finished second at Silverstone and the team climbed to P6 in the teams’ championship.
Ultimately, as we came into the season, all three of our drivers had a combined experience level in F1 Esports of nothing. We were always going to be on the back foot this season because experience is everything when you’re competing at this level. We had a fairly difficult start, but our drivers did really well to adapt as well as they did. Dani Moreno, especially, has proven with his P2 at Silverstone, that he’s seriously a star.
Advice for others following the same path
As sim racing continues to expand, so too does the number of people aspiring to work in the industry. Becoming a top sim racer is the obvious ambition for many, but others target a role in managing one of the sim racing giants. Leigh offered his advice for those thinking of pursuing a career in esports team management:
The number one thing you can do is keep involving yourself in the community and immersing yourself in the world of esports. If you can, get involved and drive yourself, get a feel for exactly what it’s like. The more of the weird and unique characteristics of this sport that you can get a grasp of, the better and stronger you’ll be when leading a team. It’s all about putting in the work, and just trying to utilise the networks that you might have. Just do your best basically that’s all you can do and see if it works out.
As for the future, Leigh teased that Veloce is working on a number of “super exciting” projects. Considering its recent track record, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited for what’s to come from the organization and the latest addition to its management stable.
Follow Tobin on social media: Twitter.
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