Jaroslav ‘Jardier’ Honzik, one of the most influential racing Esports sensations, tells us how sim racing helped him overcome his struggles and his thoughts on its rising popularity.
Jardier recently competed in the 2023 Alpine Esports Series, and we had the opportunity to talk about the world of sim racing with him.
A veteran of the YouTube sim racing scene, Honzik was a forerunner in the genre of displaying virtual racing exploits online. With nigh-on 20 years of experience in this field, he has witnessed sim racing’s exponential growth from a niche hobby to a worldwide profession with billions of viewers, incredibly high stakes and a gateway into professional racing in real life. There really isn’t a better person to ask about the importance of sim racing than Jardier.
Jardier’s take on sim racing popularity
“I think covid obviously helped with the popularity of sim racing a bit, but generally, sim racing has grown a lot in the past 15 years and especially in the past 4/5 years thanks to social media, interest from celebrities and interest from real racing drivers,” Jardier reflected.
Sim racing really took the limelight when the world stood still at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. With no real racing to watch, racing fans all over the world took to their devices to watch, arguably, the next best thing. With the F1 Virtual Grand Prix featuring the likes of Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen taking part in iRacing and streaming his races to millions, interest in motoring Esports rose significantly.
The stakes are higher than ever in racing Esports, with prizes reaching into the millions of dollars and more and more rising stars taking part in competition. Jardier expressed his views to us on the ever-increasing sentiment to succeed in sim racing.
He said: “It’s very nice to see as I’ve been involved in sim racing since the very beginning and it’s amazing to see every year the scene getting bigger and bigger and I really envy younger kids who are like 18 who are doing sim racing at an Esports level and hopefully they have the possibility to make it to the next level.”
How sim racing helped Jardier through tough times
By “next level”, Jardier is no doubt referring to the possibility for Esports drivers to make the transition to real life motorsports.
We have already seen Cem Bolukbasi go from F1 Esports to Formula 2, and Igor Fraga make the jump from the same series to F3. For Jardier it was very much the opposite direction. He started in motorsports before switching to sim racing.
Honzik rose rapidly through the ranks, eventually culminating in a Championship Title in the 2006 BMW 1 Challenge as a teenager. But his racing fairy tale would come to an abrupt end soon after, as his father’s business was stolen by their co-workers and the money dried up to continue racing.
“I have been very fortunate when I was a young kid but then it really sharply ended,” Jardier reflected. “I had to stop when I was 18. It was really something I could not understand, because I was so young you don’t understand: ‘Why don’t we have sponsors, why don’t we have money, we want championships and everything, why can’t we drive’, you know?
“So it really put me down for many years I was very low and then I had to overcome it, and get over it, and it was really, really difficult,” he admitted.
Nevertheless, Jardier never forgot his racing roots, and credits sim racing with helping him get through the struggle.
He said: “That’s something I love about sim racing – you can do it so easily like you just get the gear and you can drive and it really doesn’t matter, you can do whatever you want and it never lets you down so that’s why I’ve been sim racing for 15/16 years.
“Obviously, I do wish to be racing and I’m not young anymore, and not getting any younger, and so I would really, really, really love to be racing in real life and it’s a shame for me, personally. I’m not saying I’m super talented, I’m not saying I’d be world champion but just the thrill of the racing is something I just want to do.
“If tomorrow I was racing in real life I’d still be sim racing as much as possible because that’s what I like, you know I’m a gamer and sim racer.”