“When I play Forza, I always set out to learn something.” It was the line which stood out to me most when speaking to competitive virtual racer Daniel ‘ForceOne’ Nyman regarding his achievements on the Forza Motorsport franchise. It’s something I had never thought about before, but when you think about, it makes sense. His teammate Tobin ‘Racerz’ Leigh also mentioned it, saying “99% of Forza eSports is in your head. Conquer your mind and you’ll get quick in no time.”
Both ForceOne and Racerz compete as part of F4H Motorsport – one of the most prestigious, recognized, and accomplished teams in the Forza Motorsport esports community. They’ve been around now for more than a decade and have seen many drivers come and go in their time. ForceOne and Racerz are two of the best players in Forza, and both are also two of the youngest drivers as well. In fact, they’re still in school and must balance their practise time on Forza Motorsport, their studies, and of course, their social life.
It’s not an easy challenge to balance all of that, but it’s something both ForceOne and Racerz have accomplished as their skill level continues to grow on Forza Motorsport whilst advancing in their education and studies. These are two of the best drivers you’ll find in the competitive racing community on Forza, and they have the accomplishments and skill record to show it.
“It was a lot of hard work and practice that paid off,” Tobin says. “I first started racing competitively when I was just 14 years old in an F1 league and it was here that I acquired a ton of experience of racing under competitive conditions. I learned how to race cleanly with other people, how to qualify, how to deal with pressure – all key skills I use today in my Forza eSports.”
“Two years later, when I was 16, I made the transition over to league racing in Forza. I had to learn how to race on a pad, as my previous experience was all on a wheel, but luckily almost all of my knowledge I’d picked up from Formula 1 was transferrable to Forza.”
To improve and push himself even further in Forza, Tobin entered organized league races with other drivers that were better than him. “This caused me to ‘dig deep’ and find those critical tenths that separate one driver from the rest of the field. I just kept at it and found myself getting gradually faster and faster,” he added.
“I think as drivers, Tobin and I have been very diligent in setting goals and making it our job to reach them,” Daniel explains, noting that’s he’s fortunate to have the ability to learn things quickly and retain a lot of skills in a very short period of time. However, he’s also put a lot of hard work into his progression which had led him to where he is today. Like Tobin, Daniel ensures to race with drivers who he knows are better than him. This was one of his main goals when he first started league racing, and you’ll never see Daniel show up in a league race because he thinks it’ll be an “easy win.”
“Whether it’s the TCC at ORL, the British GT at TORA, or any of the dozens of other series I’ve raced in the last two years, I’ve always put myself against the best of the best from eS+C, JSR, BAM and more,” he said. “While I may not have as many wins as other people, and I may not have been as dominant, I have gained invaluable knowledge by pushing myself to compete against the proven players on this game.”
As Tobin continued to practise on Forza Motorsport 6 to improve his skills, he says he was “completely unknown” within the community. He didn’t see this as an issue, however, as he simply saw racing as a hobby without any pressure at all. However, this all changed for him when he entered Super GT’s ‘Community Battle vs. aTTaX Johnson.’
Super GT is one of Tobin’s fellow teammates in F4H Motorsport and a popular content creator on Forza, and this was his chance to prove himself in front of some of the most established drivers on the game. This also meant Tobin felt a lot of pressure – worried he’d accidently wreck another driver and be exposed in front of the massive audience both Super GT and Johnson were livestreaming to.
“I felt stupidly out of depth,” Tobin recalls. However, among the group of drivers was ForceOne. This was the first time Tobin had ever spoken to or raced him. “In the community battle, I really surprised myself and was the highest scoring player on Super GT’s team,” he continues. “It was the ideal first impression to make to the other drivers and the audiences’ watching, as literally no-one had seen my name until that point.”
At this point, Tobin was still young, but had the experience he needed from previous racing. He had met and earned the respect of some of the fastest drivers on Forza Motorsport – and he was in a very strong position. It was this that led him into joining F4H Motorsport, with his fellow teammate ForceOne recommending his inclusion onto the team a few months after the community battle.
Whilst both Daniel and Tobin are relatively new to the racing esports scene on Forza, they’re passion for cars and motorsport stretches back to their early teenage and even childhood years. Tobin has been into cars for as long as he can remember, whilst racing has been part of Daniel’s life since he was around 6 or 7 years old.
“The first race that I can remember watching was the Rolex 24 at Daytona; I was completely in love with the cars, the noise, the track, and the intensity of the racing action,” he recalls to me. “I grew up riding ATV’s around my property and, naturally, I progressed to karts at the age of 10.”
Daniel admits has was “pretty awful” at kart racing when he first started, but like in Forza, he quickly learned and became a very competitive driver in his region in a short period of time. One of his proudest moment he mentions came in 2013 where he drove from last to 8th during his first time ever racing in the rain – one of the toughest conditions in motorsport, and in Forza. This was during the WKA Nationals in Daytona, which was Daniel’s first ever national kart race.
“Without sounding cocky or conceited, I feel like I’ve always had a touch for motorsports, and achievements like that definitely show this fact,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Tobin has been a car fan for his entire life, but his interests in racing and motorsport begun when he was about 12 or 13 when he became friends with another driver who’s also now in the Forza scene. “Angus, or ‘Quattro’ as he’s known in the community. He drove karts back then, but he’s now competing in a GT4 Ginetta full time – it was his involvement with the sport that got me into racing itself,” Tobin mentions.
This also inspired Tobin to race, but unfortunately, he lacked the funds to get into it, so he was forced to look for an alternative. That alternative is exactly what he does today – esports. Tobin is now 17 years old and has been competing in the racing esports scene for 3 years.
As mentioned by Tobin, in the world of motorsports, financial backing is a large influence in who gets to compete. “The entry level costs for motorsports are so extraordinary, the large majority of kids my age will probably never be able to hit the track in a competitive environment,” Daniel noted.
It’s clear that cars and motorsport have both been a passion for Daniel and Tobin, so seeing what they’ve achieved already – and what they will continue to accomplish – almost feels like a natural progression of their careers.
“Honestly, I felt robbed in the Season 3 finals,” Tobin said, when I asked about his performance in Season 3 of the Forza Racing
Championship – Microsoft’s premier racing esports series played on the Forza Motorsport franchise. His response surprised me, but he wasn’t alone in feeling that way. Daniel also wasn’t impressed with his results either, saying if he could describe it all in one word, it would be “disappointing.”
Both drivers made it to the Season 3 finals played at the 24
Hours of Le Mans last June, where the winning drivers got to stand on the same podium as the actual real-world drivers who reigned victorious. Daniel had finished in 12th place, whilst Tobin placed just under him in 13th. When you consider where they placed, it’s still a phenomenal and excellent result, and one many players on Forza Motorsport could only dream of, but it wasn’t enough.
“I benefitted from bits of luck here and there to make it as far as I did in the first place, but I was in the top half of the semi’s comfortably until the last race around Le Mans where I got caught up in an incident through no fault of my own, getting damage and losing a massive chunk of time,” Tobin recalls. “I finished just one spot out of the grand finals (13th), but my initial reaction was disappointment to know I had gotten so close, yet I fell just short of making the grand finals.”
Regardless of where he finished, Tobin still felt he tried his “absolute hardest” in the finale. It was a difficult circumstance for the driver, because he couldn’t dedicate all his time to practising for the event on Forza Motorsport. Tobin had to balance his time between exam revision and practise for the ForzaRC – and will be doing the same for this year’s season as well.
Due to this, his qualification result at Le Mans was weaker than it should have been – and he ended up starting at the back in his first live qualification race. This meant Tobin had to fight through the field to secure a top four spot for the semi-finals, and this is something he’s “incredibly proud” to have achieved.
“I was surprised to have made it! Just 4 months before in season 2 of the FRC, I wasn’t good enough to get into the ‘elite’ category (top 32 drivers) when ESL’s format was still being used,” Tobin adds. “However, I tried my best to put this surprise to one side and try to nail my races as best as possible to maximise my results in Le Mans.”
Meanwhile, Daniel didn’t feel as happy with his result. Sure, they were both disappointed about where they finished overall, but making it to the Le Mans final is something they’re incredibly proud of. It’s also something Daniel hasn’t been able to forget about.
“While making it to that Grand Finals was amazing – and I really am proud of that – I can’t help but think that I had the potential to finish higher than the lowly 12th place I ended up,” he says. “Circumstantially, there were a lot of factors out of my control that lead to this result, but at the end of the day I needed to do better,” he stressed to me.
“The result of season 3 has been on my mind every time I have raced since last June, and it’s the main motivation I have going into the new season.”
That new season being the Forza Racing Championship 2018 season. It’ll see drivers compete for the first time on Forza
Motorsport 7 – Microsoft’s latest entry into its critically-acclaimed and best-selling racing franchise on Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs. The ForzaRC 2018
season features two series of racing events each with offline play-offs before culminating in one global finale in London, UK this October, dubbed the ‘Forza Racing World Championship.’
However, before qualification begins in April, Microsoft and Gfinity will host 19
of the best drivers in the world of Forza Motorsport on March 24th for the 2018
ForzaRC Pre-Season Invitational Presented by IMSA in Seattle, Washington – the home of Turn 10 Studios. Both Daniel and Tobin have been invited to the event, which continues to show their level of skill, respect, and professionalism within the Forza esports scene.
“I think as a team we are aiming to win this invitational,” Tobin exclaims. “ForceOne and my other team-mate Venom have been electric on this game and we’re all going to try to capitalize on that.”
As mentioned by Tobin, the duo will be joined by F4H Venom as a fellow teammate on the track in Seattle. Whilst Tobin has high expectations for the invitational, he did admit that the first half of the 2018 season will be difficult for him – and because of this, he won’t be competing in the first series of the 2018 ForzaRC season, but he’ll be back for series 2 to compete for his place in the Forza Racing World Championship finals this October.
“For me personally, the first half of this 2018 season is going to be incredibly difficult. I have my final A-Level exams which get me into university clashing with series 1, so I’ve been left with no choice but to sit out of that series final,” he explains. “In series 2 though, if possible I’m absolutely going to try to qualify for the world finals that way.”
Meanwhile, Daniel wants to be one of the names people “respect and fear on the track,” similar to how players look at drivers such as RoadRunner, Virus, and Rossi. “The climate of Forza has changed in so many ways since the last ForzaRC, and it’s really hard to place a singular goal for where I want to be this season,” he explains. “Regardless of where I finish at the invitational or in season 4, I just want to see some improvement from my lackluster driving last season.”
You’d almost imagine Tobin and Daniel are best friends in Forza. They have a similar skill level, they’ve been teammates since last year, and they regular play and practise with each other. However, they’re also each other’s biggest rivals in Forza. “Tobin and I have one of the most complex relationships in Forza,” is how Daniel describes it to me.
“Over the last year that we’ve been teammates, we have been so successful in feeding off each other’s skill and knowledge in order to improve,” he explains. “But on the track, I don’t think it’s any secret that we hate losing to each other more than anybody else in the community.”
Both F4H drivers have a healthy racing relationship, but it’s one that’s incredibly competitive. “You only need to watch a few laps of last year's season opener of the ORL Touring Car Championship to see this,” Daniel mentions. They’re similar in so many ways, including factors such as age, driving styles, general ability, and overall pace. “As a result, we inevitably end up in close proximity to each other in any event we compete in,” he added.
Tobin also feels the same way about Daniel, saying “ForceOne is undoubtedly my closest rival in Forza also.” It’s the rivalry between them that pushes Tobin to achieve as much as he does, and as we’ve established already, they’re “stupidly well matched” as Tobin put it.
There’s also evidence which backs this up as well, as in Season 3 of the Forza Racing Championship, there were over 30,000 competitors who entered – but Tobin and Daniel were only separated by just one position. Daniel finished in 12th, whilst Tobin finished 13th, which undoubtedly makes them two of the most well-matched players in Forza when you also consider their age, driving styles, and overall pace. It’s extremely remarkable, and it’s something you don’t typically see in Forza.
“I also feel we work incredibly well as team mates. Over the years, I’ve had a fair few teammates, but I have never worked as well with anyone as I do with ForceOne,” Tobin adds. “We’ve had some properly good strategic races over the past year which leave me in awe of how we co-ordinated as well as we did.”
Racing esports has expanded into several different games and franchises, including Forza Motorsport, Formula 1, Project CARS, DiRT, Gran Turismo Sport, and of course PC simulators like iRacing. It’s clear this scene is growing rapidly with the interest we’ve seen from both publishers and real-world motorsport names like McLaren and Porsche.
A lot has happened in the past three years, and Tobin feels it’s becoming a larger industry overall – and if Turn 10 work hard and listen to their competitive fanbase, they could be leading this sector with the Forza Racing Championship.
“If Turn 10 play their cards correctly, I can see Forza eSports rivalling other eSports and real-life motorsport in the future,” Tobin explains. “Work just must be done to engage viewers a bit more and make it more exciting as a spectator. As a driver, it’s great – but I don’t think Forza eSports are 100% efficient at displaying the excitement felt by the drivers over to the spectators on the streams.”
Forza Motorsport 7 recently added its own dedicated
‘Spectate’ mode, which Turn 10 says has been “rethought and redeveloped from the ground up” for the latest entry in Microsoft’s flagship racing franchise. It has also been updated with Ticker
and Telemetry features, which allows viewers and casters to keep up-to-date with the action as it unfolds. Whilst the technical backend has been vastly improved from the Spectator mode found in Forza Motorsport 6 – there’s still work to be done to engage viewers, as Tobin mentions, and the level of excitement and overall adrenaline-rush felt by drivers in the ForzaRC needs to be conveyed better to the viewer watching at home.
Daniel also believes the potential for Forza esports to grow into something much bigger than it is today is there, especially considering the financial backing from Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios, as well as their partners like IMSA and Porsche. “Forza esports has a bit of ground to cover in my opinion, but like anything, the potential is there,” he explained. “I don’t think I’m being daft when I say that the game needs work – everyone knows this. But when you consider the success of the Formula 1 esports series, as well as the strategic partners and financial backing from Microsoft/Turn 10, anything is possible.”
“All it takes is one partner to elevate the ForzaRC to the next level, in the same way esports like the RLCS and FIFA have taken off in recent years,” he added. “For decades, motorsports have struggled to attract a younger audience; sim racing has the ability to connect with these young potential fans. I think it’s hard to say that racing esports is the next big thing, but I’m cautiously optimistic about its possible growth.”
Whilst Daniel has his cautions about the future of racing esports, Tobin remains optimistic. “Over the past year, we’ve had more opportunities than ever as a community, such as McLaren’s
World’s Fastest Gamer competition,” he said. “It’s becoming a larger industry, and Racing eSports and its real-life counterpart are clearly becoming more involved with each other.”
“Racing eSports is growing at an incredible rate, yet I don’t believe most people realize it,” Tobin added.
Of course, there’s also critics of racing esports who feel it doesn’t equate to the physicality of real-world motorsport, but neither Daniel nor Tobin see this as an issue. In fact, Daniel believes both are great in their own right, but that it’s “disingenuous to say that racing esports have less value than real-world motorsports.” Being in the unique position of having raced at a highly competitive level in both the real-world and virtual, he was able to offer an insightful look into the mental difficulty and competitiveness of racing on the virtual track – and how it’s on another level when compared to real life.
“With virtual motorsports, you lose the challenges of the physical side of racing, but the mental difficulty and competitive aspect of sim racing is on another level compared to real life,” he explains. “In the real world, it’s considered a “close race” if the top 10-15 drivers are within a second; on Forza, the top guys in the ForzaRC may be split by two or three tenths from first to last.”
“The thing to remember with this is that there will always be haters,” Tobin says, adding that “I’d just tell those that don’t respect racing eSports to take a step back and just watch the industry grow. It’s still in its infancy, so it has the potential to be a completely different ballgame in a relatively short amount of time.”
“For me, the greatest part of sim racing is that you simply can’t buy your speed,” Daniel continues. “Drivers like Rudy Van Buren and Jan Mardenborough didn’t get where they are because of their parents’ wallet – they earned it. I think we’re reaching an age where the first stepping stone of the motorsports ladder starts in a kitchen chair in front of a computer screen. It’s truly exciting to see what undiscovered talent will come out of this new form of racing.”
I also asked the duo if they had any advice for aspiring esports racers and their answers were fascinating. The lines from Daniel and Tobin which opened this story are most applicable here than anywhere else, and it shows in their skill and performance on the track. It’s all about your mentality – that’s the biggest barrier to being fast in Forza esports or any racing game for that matter.
“Keep at it, pace will come with time,” Tobin says. “Find people that are better than you and learn from them. Practice often and practice in a smart way – take note of what others are doing and try to recreate it yourself. Don’t be lazy and presume that “you can’t do that” or that “I’m just not quick enough”.”
“To piggyback of my own success, I think that the best way to make it in anything is by surrounding yourself with people who are better than you,” Daniel adds. “In Forza, you aren’t going to learn if you hang out in multiplayer lobbies collecting easy wins.”
“You have to be diligent, set goals, and truly challenge yourself if you want to grow as a driver.”
The next 12 months are crucial for the young F4H duo. Not only does Tobin have his A-Level exams to focus on so he can get into university, but 2018 is also shaping up to be the biggest and most important year yet in the Forza Racing Championship. The 2018 season structure of events is the most ambitious and exciting we’ve seen to-date in ForzaRC, but it’ll also require the most commitment of any season yet.
With seven weeks of racing and hot-lap action in each series, followed by the offline events, there’s a lot of time, commitment, and of course, skill that’ll be needed to accumulate enough Forza Points from each event to make it to the Forza Racing World Championship in London this October.
However, for Tobin, there’s also something else he wants to achieve – and that’s to boost his presence outside of the track.
“Over the next 12 months I’m just aiming to continue as I am: a good result in this year’s ForzaRC would be invaluable, but I’m also going to aim to boost my presence off the track somehow,” he explains to me.
“I feel like there isn’t enough recognition for the people behind the gamertags, and this is an issue for Forza eSports in general, as it’s hard for audiences to relate to and support us drivers.”
Tobin also told me he would be working to ensure he stays relevant within the Forza esports community whilst he’s studying and preparing for his exams. Whilst that means skipping the first series of ForzaRC action this year, you can expect him to be showing up in series 2 of the 2018 season in full-force.
As for Daniel, he has one important goal for the next year – and that’s to make it to the Forza Racing World Championship in London.
“My number one goal comes in London this fall,” he says. “Anything short of the finals this season is a massive disappointment. I think the pace is there, and I’m as confident as ever, so all there’s left to do is put my head down and get the job done.”
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.