A former Perth schoolboy and Dundee University graduate is “living the dream” in the world of gaming.
Josh Martin has become one of the UK’s top exponents of Esports while forging a career in the industry.
The motorsport enthusiast has come a long way since first playing F1 2002 on his Playstation as a teenager.
Josh has two sponsorship deals and competes in big motorsport gaming events throughout the year, taking him to Italy, France, Germany and across the UK.
He has also launched a gaming recruitment firm and is the commercial head of a company that organises Esports competitions throughout the world.
At 25, the keen gamer is the definition of “living the dream”. He says: “I am so fortunate to be doing something I love.”
‘I didn’t have the money so I got into gaming’
Inverness-born Josh had a passion for motorsports from a young age.
He watched in awe at the likes of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel tearing around F1 circuits.
“I wanted to replicate that but I didn’t have the money so I got into gaming,” he says.
‘I wrote emails requesting support’
In the early days Josh raced within open lobbies, which are online rooms accessible to everyone where you can compete in races and communicate with other players.
With an eye on the future he wrote emails to gaming accessories specialist Thrustmaster requesting support.
“I was simply playing on a controller at the time and because I couldn’t afford the wheel and pedals I wrote emails requesting support as I could see the longevity of Esports,” he recalls.
Sure enough, in January 2014, when he was still a schoolboy, Josh signed a sponsorship deal with the French firm and received £1,000 worth of racing equipment including a racing wheel and pedals. He remains an ambassador for Thrustmaster.
Josh excelled in F1GC league I, covering Europe and North America, and also played in the Codemasters Community Championship.
‘It’s very easy to become a recluse’
Josh’s time-consuming passion could have restricted his social life but his next destination – Dundee University, where he studied a psychology degree – ensured his hobby had the opposite effect.
“It’s very easy to become a recluse and lose the social elements,” says Josh.
“I was lucky enough to go to Dundee where I joined the Motorsports Society and with the Esports there was a group interest.
“It actually enhanced my social life.
“Many of my closest friends now who I often travel to visit were people I met through motorsport and Esports at university – despite the fact we stem from different parts of the world and were actually doing different degree programmes.
“Dundee is so diverse in terms of students and being around people with a similar interest in Esports reinforced that it’s something I want to pursue.”
During his time at university Josh registered some significant achievements:
Stop Drop Gaming Ginetta GT4 – champion.
Core Racing Porsche GT3 Cup – Team champions with Northern Lights Racing.
Core Racing Formula 1 2016 – champion
Sim Racing System Ginetta GT4 SuperCup – P3
Sim Racing System 2018 Ginetta GT4 SuperCup – champion.
‘It is not just about competing’
On graduation Josh joined The Events House, initially as an Esports producer, tasked with planning and delivering Esports events and then as a key account manager.
In 2020 he moved to online racing community The SimGrid, where he is currently head of commercial under the guidance of Blancpain GT Champion and Ferrari GT Customer Driver David Perel.
In June this year Josh showed his entrepreneurial side, setting up employment agency SimStaff.
Josh’s work has taken him to the US and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. He now lives in the Cheshire town of Crewe.
“The best takeaway is that there are careers in Esports and it is not just about competing,” he says.
“Ultimately, players can only compete if the tournaments are held by someone, if the broadcast is produced by someone or if the games themselves are created by teams.
“Without one element you can’t have anything else and this is where the intricacy and diversity of roles comes into play.
“There are people employed to create rulebooks, do commentary, create graphics… there are all sorts of careers.”
‘I actually have less time to race’
There is an irony at play though.
“With working in Esports full-time I actually have less time to race than before,” says Josh, not that you would know.
He competes in as many as five competitions per year. These are usually extended events with one lasting as long as 10 weeks over a series of weekly races.
His gaming success has continued, attracting another sponsor, Playseat, who provides him with a cockpit.
Results since university:
SRO E-Sport GT Series Paul Ricard – finalist
SRO E-Sport GT Series Monza – finalist
SimGrid World Cup Season 1 – Top 10
SRO Motorsport Group Official Charity Event – appearance
Ferrari Hublot Esports Series – grand finalist
RD GT Championship (Beta Series) – champion
In recent years many big-name car manufacturers have invested in their own Esports teams and created their own leagues.
Josh says his proudest moment to date was representing Bentley Team Parker Racing in the 2020 SRO Esports competition.
“This was a huge achievement,” he says. “Bentley is a huge motorsport brand that is known by people who don’t understand Esports.”
This year he is a main series driver in the Ferrari Esports Series and is currently 13th in group A.
‘Hard to track’
One of the quirks of Esports is that there are no world rankings or a formalised global championship or league structure to measure success.
“In football the team at the top come the end of the season is the champion, but in motorsport – and Esports, generally – the diversity in disciplines and titles make it hard to track,” explains Josh.
“In oval racing for example, you can be really competitive but then Formula style racing is entirely different.
“Generally speaking, it’s your ability to compete in numerous events across different racing games that sets the standard for who’s competitive.
“I’m certainly not the best of the best, but I’ve got a track record of being able to compete at the highest level and have built a strong media presence off the back of it.”
‘It’s similar to chess’
What may also be a source of surprise is that the sim cars at the top end of Esports emulate the real thing.
So when Josh has been ‘driving’ a Ferrari it has been a replica of the original. Real-world drivers use the sim versions for practice.
When Josh competed in the Sim Grid World Cup by Thrustmaster, 24 Hours of Spa he was in a team of four. “We drove for two hours and then went in the pit lane before another driver took over.
“The teams who were better prepared are able to factor sleep into their schedule.
“There is a physical and mental demand involved.
“People who don’t follow the sport miss out on the mental battles that take place.
“It’s similar to chess in that there are a lot of tactics involved.”
‘Everyone in Dundee has a vested interest’
One person who does appreciate his endeavours is his father David, who lives in Muir of Ord.
As a fellow fan of motor racing, Josh can show him what he has been up to via YouTube.
“It’s a good thing for us to talk about,” Josh says.
Josh will be returning to Dundee for the Scottish Esports League Season 4 (SEL4) grand finals on November 18 to 21.
He will use the four-day showpiece event at Dundee Contemporary Arts as a networking opportunity.
With a dedicated 4,000-capacity Esports arena planned to open at the Waterfront in 2024, Dundee is at the forefront of a growing industry.
“There’s so much research going on in the city and everyone in Dundee has a vested interest to see the place grow, which is why it’s such a good city,” says Josh.
“When I was in Dundee everyone was really proud of where they came from and its tradition in gaming and enthusiasm for Esports.”