Matt Orr (AKA Empty Box) has been sim racing since the golden days of Papyrus with the NASCAR Racing series and the infamous NASCAR Racing 2003 Season. He has been on iRacing since 2009. Besides his YouTube videos, Matt spends his time in many iRacing series such as GT3, Prototype & GT Challenge, and any time the virtual NASCAR series heads to a virtual road course. I had the honor of asking Matt a few questions about his sim racing career:
How did you hear about iRacing?
To tell the truth? As a NASCAR Racing 2003 player at the time, iRacing / FIRST made themselves more than known. There was no way to not know about it, it was unavoidable with the way it came about. It went from the excitement of knowing that in some capacity Papyrus still sort of existed and that heritage would continue on, to lawsuits. It created a rift that I think is still there to this day in some degree.
Did you enjoy iRacing compared to previous sims you raced when you first joined?
iRacing was different, to say the least, it made me feel like a small little newbie who had never raced online again. The Safety Rating at the time felt like something so very serious, when in reality it was no different than what I was already doing – otherwise known as “don’t wreck and crash.” That was fun, that was the exciting part, it mattered, in theory.
What [In your mind] is the best thing about iRacing?
The online structure, no question about it. I play a lot of other sims, and all of them require you to join a league to get a consistently good race, which has never suited me. iRacing have created a system that works relatively well that I see as the standard. I don’t have an issues with leagues, but when people act as if it’s acceptable to have to join a league to get a consistently decent race I have to look at it and wonder why I should really even both.
If you can change/add one thing about iRacing, what would it be?
Scheduling wise, it’s a case of having fixed and open series, and having to make a schedule compromise between longer and shorter races and making nobody happy. I think we need to consolidate drivers back into open series, while having certain days run short races and the others run longer races. I know this will be unpopular with fixed series racers – and mind you I do most of my oval driving in fixed series – but I think the sim as a whole would be better off if we got as many drivers into one slot as we can to make the whole system shine. The iRating system works well enough to get you a solid field, GT3 for example has huge participation, and the races – while not always the cleanest – are very often very close, tough races that really make sim racing fun.
I’d love to see short and long distance races happening on separate days of the week in the same series – same weather, same tracks, same everything except race distance. I’d like for people to run short races to get their confidence up and take on a longer distance race they may enjoy even more than short races!
Do you race anything outside the sim world?
No. It’s something that like many of us sits in the back of my mind, but I just don’t think it’s “practical” for me at this time. I’m more into road racing, and the nearest road course is a fair distance away which isn’t cheap, not to mention things like maintenance, fees, things like that. I plan on it some time, but right now in my life it just doesn’t work out. I’m a too practical stick in the mud type of person, I’ll admit.
Who is your favorite racing driver of all time?
No question, Mario Andretti. I’d have to think a very long time about another driver who did so well in such a wide variety of cars, which is something I really admire. How many Daytona 500 and Indy 500 winners have been Formula 1 World Champions? Then looking at the depth of his career, even just at Indy – from days where front engine roadsters were still a “thing” at the speedway, when the word “downforce” was some sort of black magic thing only a select few even knew about to the days of 230 plus MPH land missiles with ground effects and more than 800 HP.
Most of all though, I admire the ability to drive anything and everything. It certainly can’t happen in today’s world and certainly wasn’t unique at the time, I’d say he’s my favorite for his success across such time span, plus he’s the last World Champion this country will ever have. Let it be known I say that slightly in jest, slightly serious.
If I had to pick a modern driver, I’d pick Juan Pablo Montoya for much the same reasons. He’s certainly my favorite out there racing today, for much the same reasons. Not to mention I grew up watching those Target Reynard Champ Cars on TV, even had a toy R/C Version! Glad to have JPM back in Indycar, that’s for sure!
If you could go back in time to one real-world race, what would it be?
This is easily the toughest question asked. After careful deliberation, the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix.
Anyone who has played Grand Prix Legends can probably figure out why. The absolute pinnacle of pre-wing grand prix machinery with a drivers list that now reads as a hall of fame roster. Perhaps the most dangerous circuit on the calendar with the huge speeds old Spa had. The variety in engines and the noises – the sound must have really been something. Then for Dan Gurney to win in that Eagle, the car I’d consider the most beautiful open wheel car ever – for the first, only and last time an American car with an American driver will win a Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Not to mention how different of an experience it would be to what we have today. It would be something.
Did you ever imagine your YouTube channel would become as popular as it is today?
Not even close. I still don’t know how or why it’s gone as it has. “I didn’t choose it, it chose me” is the way I view it, for some reason I guess I was the “lucky” guy. I had done FPS commentaries before, and that was a bigger market, but I guess it just worked out that at the time there weren’t many people commentating sim racing while driving, but rather there was more of a focus on TV Style broadcasts.
What is your all-time greatest sim-racing memory?
This will sound like one of those “the one that got away” fish stories, but here we go.
There was this one time at one point where I had the fastest lap on GTR2 Rank for the Murcielago R-GT at an addon Le Mans track, with a time that was actually faster than Greger Huttu’s time at the time. Sounds silly, but I won’t forget that any time soon. If you’ve followed sim racing for a while you know Greger is often the first guy mentioned as “who is the fastest sim racer” and for me to turn a time even close to comparable at one of my favorite tracks after way too much time and effort for a hot lap was cool. For all I know, he probably did three laps there, but it was still cool for me regardless. The one and only time I’ve ever been within the same postal code as one of his lap times. Haha.
Let the record show there is no way Greger would lose to me in any sort of race, unless he has to use reverse gear the whole time. I think I could hold him off then!
What is the most rewarding thing about sim racing?
The adrenaline rush you get sitting in the comfort of your own home. Hearing “3 wide, you’re in the middle!” doing 230 MPH into Turn 1 at Indy with a car on your outside, nailing that apex and setting up the pass for the next corner – it’s excitement, it’s intensity. In more casual style games if you wreck you wreck and it’s not a big deal, but in sim racing it just feels like it’s more… real? serious? It’s tough to describe, but it just leaves a satisfaction and rush there.