Every time a sim racer starts up his/her wheel, we expect to have a software experience that mimics real-life racing. However, sim racers try their absolute hardest to find the loopholes and gaps in the given software to find the extra tenth of a second they need. Whether it be from setups, track lines, or the car itself, the term “sim” is farther from real life than we think.
Real-world drivers and sim racers share much in common. We need a similar degree of focus to achieve success, we communicate in similar fashion and sometimes we even race the same. But when it comes to the cars’ “drivability,” the difference is almost night and day. Drivers in real life only get limited time in their race cars. Maybe they get an hour of practice at 8AM, or just their 30 minute qualifying period. And even if a driving school is available for newbies, the time is still limited. On the contrary, sim racers have all the time they need.
In iRacing, sim racers can spend 10+ hours a day on perfecting their skills and, in many cases, car set-ups for a given event. For example, many Australians spend hours working on V8 Supercar setups for series such as Fincar or V8 Supercars America. The commitment put into the cars is as high- if not higher than its real-world counterpart. But the separation occurs when the 200 laps overflow into finding the gaps in the sim to achieve a faster-than-real-life time. While it does not mimic real life, it does provide a great understanding of how the Van Gisbergens of the world have to cope with a car with very limited practice.
Just because the testing aspect of a sim is not easily compared to the real world, the racing, the qualifying, and the structure of sim racing on iRacing is very close to the real world. Stats for every car/track combination ever run are stored on a massive database that any member can access . . . not to mention the officially-sanctioned NASCAR, V8 Supercars and Lotus Racing events. I could write an entire piece on the Lotus 79 Classic Team Championship alone. The structure of that series is like none other on the service.
Now, I’m not just here to criticize or praise any one sim. Each sim on the market today has its own plusses and minuses, reasons to love it, hate it, or avoid it, and a great (or not so great) community. When it boils down to is this: No. we are not as realistic as some perceive. But it sure beats going to the bar with your co-workers and schooling them on old Daytona USA machine. At the end of the day, we all share a common interest: Damn-close racing with a small budget and a passion for our hobby.
So, where are sims headed in the future? Will we all be destined to limited testing time, or will our time on the sim continue to be only limited by “real world” demands? Will we even have the discussion of “Oculus Rift VS Triple screens?” in 10 years time? Motorsport simulation has grown to a level that not many other markets have seemed to reach . . . yet. To put that into perspective, the legendary (and revolutionary) NASCAR Racing 2003 Season was released 11 years ago. In that time, we have witnessed incredible technological advancements in sim racing. From the tiny, 10-inch Logitech MOMO wheel to the newly-released Clubsport V2 Rim from Fanatec, we have come a long way in 11 short years.
A simulation is an imitation of a real-world event. And as far as we have come in the past few years, sim racing is far from perfect . . . just like an imitation watch. Instead of spending the $10,000 on a sparkling new Rolex, the “thrifty” shopper chooses the imitation for only $100. It’s almost the same in sim racing. We choose to take the cheaper route. And on a personal level, it is completely worth it. I would rather spend about $200 a year on endless testing, fun with friends, and racing all over the virtual world from Motegi, Japan to the sandy hills of the Netherlands than $10,000+ on a race car I can only race once a week . . . if that.
We are all sim racers, and regardless of how satisfied we are with the “reality factor,” we all share a common interest: racing.