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story by chris berg • illustrations courtesy iracing

Today’s Racing Simulations Teach Real-Life Driving Skills to Veteran Hotshoes and Novice Gamers Alike–but Is Virtual Racing a Motorsport in Its Own Right?

The lines between virtual reality and actual reality are getting blurrier by the day, and the world of auto racing offers a fascinating look at this phenomenon. And we aren’t just talking about the increasingly lifelike graphics and game physics in today’s racing simulators.

The paychecks of professional-level virtual racers are also beginning to resemble some of their real-world counterparts. Some sim racers are even making the jump from computer rigs to real cockpits. Meanwhile, top talents from the real racing world have been turning to iRacing and other highly detailed sims for training and testing.

Kenton Koch, who drove to a first-place finish in the Prototype Challenge class at the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona, is one of those drivers who uses simulators as a means of mental training between races.

“When I was getting into racing cars, I had never raced at any of the tracks that the series visited,” Koch says. “With companies like iRacing, who laser-scan race circuits, it gave me the opportunity to get a visual experience from the driver’s seat. It helps me get up to speed more quickly, so I can spend the most time in trying to find the last couple tenths of a second available instead of spending the opening session figuring out where the track goes.”

Read the rest of the story

Huckleberry
Huckleberry MegaDork
6/6/17 1:24 p.m.

Does it contain the word "Simulation"? The question answers itself.

Nick (Bo) Comstock
Nick (Bo) Comstock MegaDork
6/6/17 1:34 p.m.

We just had this thread a couple months ago.

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Associate Editor
6/6/17 1:41 p.m.

This is the article that thread was about.

Nick (Bo) Comstock
Nick (Bo) Comstock MegaDork
6/6/17 2:03 p.m.

In reply to Ed Higginbotham:

Yes but the article was linked in the other thread as well.

LuxInterior
LuxInterior HalfDork
6/6/17 4:12 p.m.

HapDL
HapDL New Reader
6/6/17 4:34 p.m.

If a real race ran like races run on iRacing, about 6 cars would finish, the others would be littered about the track in varying states of destruction. The number of asshats in simulator racing is right off the charts and it's the biggest drawback to getting involved. However, it can still be a very useful tool for learning tracks, as McGee says because you don't have to race with the idiots, you can practice in private to your hearts content. As far as learning racecraft though, that's a lost cause on sims, it's more about pure dumb luck and survival. The attitude expressed out loud at iRacing is that if you got wrecked you likely caused it yourself which is BS as often as not.

And for those who think Sims are a joke, why does every professional team out there have an in house simulator and usually a dedicated sim driver?

LuxInterior
LuxInterior HalfDork
6/6/17 5:12 p.m.
HapDL wrote: for those who think Sims are a joke, why does every professional team out there have an in house simulator and usually a dedicated sim driver?

Not a joke. Not real. But a useful tool. An entertaining pastime. But I'd guess that the pros don't hang out on online racing "Asshat Central" systems

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
6/6/17 7:03 p.m.

I enjoyed the article Ed. I had no idea that there was that much money in it!!!! As for getting wrecked on line yes it happens. But settle in with a good group and that tends to go away. I race a lot on line and some days you are the bug and other days you are the windshield. In between you find some dame good competishion.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/25/20 1:57 p.m.

Just bumping up something that seems more relevant today than ever. The following update has been added to the original article

Update from March 2020:

The following story first appeared in print and online in 2017, but it seems even more relevant recently, for some odd reason or another. 

Since this article was first published, the number of digitized tracks and race cars has grown in all the popular sims, and with the recent advent of affordable VR headsets, sim racing is now more immersive than ever. We even opened a dedicated subforum

Following the recently enacted guidelines limiting social contact due to Coronavirus, sim racing is also seeing a very heavy boom in popularity and public awareness. 

During the first weekend of widespread high-profile race cancellations, IMSA, NASCAR and the FIA streamed sim races featuring their star drivers live to the internet. As of week two of widespread quarantines, we now have sim races featuring pro drivers scheduled for major network national TV broadcast. 

The big question: How will this long-term social distancing impact sim racing in the long-term? Is the current surge in popularity and awareness going to dissipate once we’re all fully released back into the wild, or is this sim racing’s big move into the wider public consciousness?

Enjoy the story and join the discussion below. Maybe include your screen name and platform, and we’ll try and give you a virtual point-by sometime.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/25/20 2:06 p.m.

Nice timing here, as I just renewed my lapsed iRacing account, then my G29 decided it wasn't going to do force feedback on any sim (iRacing, ProjectCARS or Assetto Corsa). So, anyone care to either give me some G29 PC troubeshooting tips, or suggest a nice upgrade that I can spend my Coronacash on?

_
_ Dork
3/25/20 2:55 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

I have a G 29. Sometimes FFB can be a Settings related issue that gets disrupted with an update. (Windows or software). Since that is low hanging fruit, attempt that first.

 

When it comes to simulation racing, the penalty system is simply not there yet. What would happen in a real life race, if you splashed into the back of someone's car? If you did it intentionally you are likely in for a black flag, a wad of cash, and potentially banned from that series. not to mention having to repair your car which would cost money. That is where Sim racing needs to be with the penalty system. Don't give out so much money for each race until people make it to the big leagues. And they have to qualify to be in the big leagues. So when you are starting out, in your spec Miata, you don't drive like an ass hat. Otherwise, you will go broke on the game and have to start completely over from scratch

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf Reader
3/25/20 6:29 p.m.

Is this post in reference to 'Playstation' type games or just pro level simulators?

and From AJ Foyt:

"Foyt discussed some of his favorite race tracks, his favorite Indy 500 win and then blamed himself for missing victory in the infamous 1979 Daytona 500. But when questioned about simulators – had he ever tried one, and would he like to race Tony Stewart (for whom Foyt is an idol) in a simulator NASCAR race, Foyt was dismissive.

“No, that’s not racing. I never wanted to, even though people have wanted me to try it. For me it would just be a waste of time. I have too many other things I want to do…

“I never cared about simulator stuff. If I were to do anything, I’d want to race [Stewart] in a car.”'

https://www.yahoo.com/autos/foyt-cites-ward-toughest-rival-230147050.html 

_
_ Dork
3/25/20 8:33 p.m.

In reply to L5wolvesf :

I'm not a professional racing driver, but all of my skills on track have transferred from sims. They use a sim to train jumbo jet pilots. They use sims in nasa. They use sims in the military.
 

I'm not taking what Foyt said as gospel. That's just the bantering of an old man. Now if we want to compare the thrill of racing in real life to sims, it can't compare. Would you rather spank it online? Or actually get down with a lady? Watch golf on tv, or go the country club? 

Loweguy5
Loweguy5 Reader
3/25/20 8:35 p.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

Thrustmaster T300RS has so much more natural feel and feedback than a G29, though the downside is they are less reliable.

I had a T150 that was awesome, upgraded to T300 and it died 18 mos later (I did put over 10000 miles on it playing GT Sport).

I now have a G29 and while it's okay, i wish for the more realistic feel of the Thrustmaster.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/25/20 9:49 p.m.
Loweguy5 said:

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

Thrustmaster T300RS has so much more natural feel and feedback than a G29, though the downside is they are less reliable.

I had a T150 that was awesome, upgraded to T300 and it died 18 mos later (I did put over 10000 miles on it playing GT Sport).

I now have a G29 and while it's okay, i wish for the more realistic feel of the Thrustmaster.

Yeah, tonight's project is to troubleshoot the G29, and if that proves unsuccessful, I'll probably pull the trigger on a T300 or an entry level Fanatec setup, because what even is money anymore, right?

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/26/20 9:25 a.m.
JG Pasterjak said:
Loweguy5 said:

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

Thrustmaster T300RS has so much more natural feel and feedback than a G29, though the downside is they are less reliable.

I had a T150 that was awesome, upgraded to T300 and it died 18 mos later (I did put over 10000 miles on it playing GT Sport).

I now have a G29 and while it's okay, i wish for the more realistic feel of the Thrustmaster.

Yeah, tonight's project is to troubleshoot the G29, and if that proves unsuccessful, I'll probably pull the trigger on a T300 or an entry level Fanatec setup, because what even is money anymore, right?

jg

Fixed. Needed updated drivers, which is not nearly as easy for a Mac guy working on a PC as it should be. 

Still thinking about upgrading, though :)

adam525i
adam525i HalfDork
3/26/20 9:31 a.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

I have a T300 and I really like it but if I already had a G29 I wouldn't be looking to upgrade to it. I'd go the Fanatec route or higher, personally I plan on going to an entry level DD base when my T300 dies. The idea of running larger diameter wheels with the necessary torque to match what I actually use in real life is very appealing.

Adam

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
3/26/20 11:00 a.m.
JG Pasterjak said:

Nice timing here, as I just renewed my lapsed iRacing account, then my G29 decided it wasn't going to do force feedback on any sim (iRacing, ProjectCARS or Assetto Corsa). So, anyone care to either give me some G29 PC troubeshooting tips, or suggest a nice upgrade that I can spend my Coronacash on?

I figured a big shot magazine guy would be past the cutoff! devil

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/26/20 11:17 a.m.
z31maniac said:
JG Pasterjak said:

Nice timing here, as I just renewed my lapsed iRacing account, then my G29 decided it wasn't going to do force feedback on any sim (iRacing, ProjectCARS or Assetto Corsa). So, anyone care to either give me some G29 PC troubeshooting tips, or suggest a nice upgrade that I can spend my Coronacash on?

I figured a big shot magazine guy would be past the cutoff! devil

Yeah but I'm married to a teacher, so even if I had a personal helicopter, she'd average us out to government cheese levels.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/26/20 11:17 a.m.
adam525i said:

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

I have a T300 and I really like it but if I already had a G29 I wouldn't be looking to upgrade to it. I'd go the Fanatec route or higher, personally I plan on going to an entry level DD base when my T300 dies. The idea of running larger diameter wheels with the necessary torque to match what I actually use in real life is very appealing.

Adam

Jesus you people are good at spending my money...

:)

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
3/26/20 11:45 a.m.

I'd go Fanatec for the wheel. My past rig that's what I used. Compared to friends Thrusmaster and Logitech I thought it was much better.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
3/26/20 11:57 a.m.

Just pulled the trigger on the budget Fanatec bundle. I'll probably do the load cell brake upgrade at some point in the future. 

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
3/26/20 2:33 p.m.
JG Pasterjak said:

Just pulled the trigger on the budget Fanatec bundle. I'll probably do the load cell brake upgrade at some point in the future. 

Talk to Mat (AKA e30matt). He uses one and he may be able to help with setup as I have heard that they have a boat load of adjustment. 

racerfink
racerfink UltraDork
3/26/20 3:56 p.m.

https://youtu.be/kgvqzg4sW9A

 

Dale Jr. and Hamlin talk about their race, and sims.

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