Joe BlowAbout Joe Blow

My name is Graham Wood (aka Joe Blow).

I became interested in racing games as soon as they arrived on the scene, as early as 1982.  Back then we wondered in amazement at the graphics in the arcade games, such as Pole Position by Namco. Then came the late 80’s, where I invested in an Amiga.  1st the Amiga 500, then the Amiga 1200.  I upgraded virtually everything I could on the 1200, to the point where there was cables and addons everywhere.  I ended up dismantling the Amiga 1200 to component level, then re-housing all the parts into a PC tower.  I made extension cables from the motherboard to the back of the PC case, made a custom Amiga to PC converter for the keyboard, housing the floppy disk drives into the PC case, added a CDrom drive, and a bigger hard drive.  I had a 50 MHz accelerator too, along with extra ram.

One particular game was called Stuntcar Racer, released in 1989, a crazy game where you raced around a narrow elevated track.  This had the facility to link up 2 Amiga’s via a null modem cable, then race head to head against each other.

1991: This is where I really became excited about sim racing, as Geoff Crammond’s F1 Grand Prix came available.  Although you couldn’t go head to head, there was an interesting multiplayer option where you could race against each other.  You would drive for so long, then the computer would take over, driving at what lap time you had averaged.  Then you would hand over the controller to your mate, a count down would commence to when he would start driving his car.  I made my own “sim rig”, consisting of a Mini Metro car seat, a 28″ TV, then a homemade steering wheel with the analogue parts I got from an old ball mouse. Also my own homemade foot pedals made from plywood, hinges and micro switches.  It worked!!

At the turn of the century, EA Sports released F1 2000.  That was it!  I thought it couldn’t get any better… then F1 2002 came out a couple of years later, with online multiplayer support.  Great memories!

Where does the name “Joe Blow” come from?

Well, back in ’91, a game was released for the Amiga called 4D Sports Boxing.  This was a boxing game where you fought your way through a whole list of boxers, gaining attributes along the way, until you finally fight the champion to complete the game.  You could go up the list by skipping up 3 at a time.  If you followed this pattern, you would eventually have to face a boxer by the name of “Smokin’ Joe Blow”.  No matter how good you was, how big or strong your boxer was, having all your attributes on full…. this little boxer would beat you every time!  I spent ages trying to beat him, but never could.

So when the internet came along, I needed a nickname…. hmmm… Smokin’ Joe Blow was born!  I’ve used that name, in various forms, ever since. SmOkiNjOe, SmOkiNjOeBLoW, Joe Blow…. all me. 🙂

Present Day Sim Racing

Joe Blow's Sim RigThrough various circumstances, I had a 10 year break from gaming altogether.  Then in 2015 I caught a glimpse of GTA 5.  I bought a cutting edge PC, with an Intel 7 5930k processor running at 4.3GHz, 32GB of DDR4 ram, an Nvidia 980Ti graphics card (since upgraded to an Aorus 1080Ti)… and of course bought and installed GTA 5.  I became a fairly adept helicopter pilot, where I was called upon by many online friends to pilot missions for them.  Also, I made quite a few addon car mods.  I made my own drifting mod, where the cars behaved and handled more realistically.  This got me hungry for a good racing game!

I started looking on Steam for the current racing sims… wondering how far technology had progressed in the sim racing world.  After looking at the reviews, Assetto Corsa seemed a good choice, so I bought it and fired it up on the PC.  After loading it up, I realised I needed a wheel and pedals to do this game justice.  4 days later, my Logitech G29 arrived on the doorstep.

In February 2017, I registered on SRS, where I started racing in different championships.  I tried the 90’s DTM’s, GT3, GT2, Lotus Exos, Lotus 98T, Group C… to name but a few.  I discovered my strength was in Formula cars, although I won a Group C endurance championship.  The championship I was most proud of winning was the Lotus 98T championship, where I dominated… in one of the races at Paul Ricard, I finished 46 seconds in front of 2nd place man, lapping half of the field.  I also enjoyed the Lotus Exos Series, where I had 2 x 2nd places in the championships… with several 1st places in the individual races.  I managed to get my driver rating up above 750 in quite a short time.

Then in December 2017, I started to become ill… losing weight, not eating, suffering back pain.  In January 2018 I was admitted to hospital after I lost the use of my legs, bladder and bowel.  I had double vision.  The doctors and consultants did test after test… MRI scans, CT scans, lumber puncture… After a few weeks they finally discovered my extremely rare condition.  It is called Neuromyelitis Optica.  One in every 100,000 people are effected by this.  It is an auto-immune disorder. This means the body’s immune system reacts abnormally and attacks the body’s healthy tissues, in my case my spine, brain stem and eye nerves.  I was treated with high dose steroids to stop the inflammation, along with other drugs.  I was in hospital until the end of March.  I’ve had to learn to walk again… currently I can walk up to 20 metres with a walking stick.

I still have severe pain in my legs, I cannot feel much sensation below my waist.  My feet are swollen.  I am still on high dose steroids, which have caused me to gain about an extra 3 stones in weight.  I still have double vision when I glance left, right, or up.  I can see not too bad if I look straight ahead or glance down.  I have a total of 10 different drugs I have to take at different times of the day.  2 of the drugs are pain killers… these have side-effects and leave me “spaced out” until lunch time every day.

I have had to stop work and have had to sell my car.  I’m in the process of claiming benefit to live on.

Joe Blow's Sim RigMy sim rig is upstairs in the spare room.  It sat there gathering dust for 6 months.  I eventually fired it up and sat and watched some of my old replays from Assetto Corsa, Project Cars 2, Raceroom, etc.  I tried to have a go at a race against the AI… but I couldn’t feel where my feet were and they kept slipping off the pedals… plus my coordination was all over the place.  The triple screens played havoc with my eyes too.  So I gave up for a while.

While I was in hospital, I spent most of my time watching Youtube videos…. mainly on Jardier and The Extra Mile.  I watched in awe of these great sim racers… I think they kept me sane during that time.  So since returning home, I carried on watching my favourite Youtubers…. and every so often I would go upstairs and try out my sim rig.

I’ve come up with an idea, where I strap my feet to the pedals.  It seems to work well, although I have lost my finer details of accelerating and braking… especially trail braking and bleeding off the brakes as you lose speed to avoid lock-ups. But I’ve compensated for it somewhat, in adjusting the ingame sound settings, so the skid and scrub sounds are more prominent.  That tells me when to ease off the brakes, along with the force feedback of course.

It’s now mid July 2018.  I’ve taken part in a few online races… a couple with Jardier’s community, a couple on SRS, and a race with The Extra Mile’s subs.  I managed a 4th place in the TT cup race on SRS!  So it is slowly coming back.

We never know what the future holds for us… but we can learn to adapt to whatever life deals out to us.

Thanks for stopping by to read my story. 🙂

Read more >> Neuromyelitis Optica – My Story