SimRacing is arguably the fastest growing area of motorsport.
The line between real-life racing and virtual SimRacing is blurring. Many professional race car drivers use SimRacing as a means of practise and sharpening their skillsets.
Several real life motor racing series, such as Formula 1 and IMSA, host their own SimRacing competitions to attract new audiences. Live-streaming online races attracts thousands of viewers, while some series such as NASCAR and IndyCar broadcast on television in North America.
Car manufacturers such as Porsche run their own SimRacing series, offering prize money to winners.
With the launch the Racing Edge SimRacing Championship on the horizon, let’s take a look at what makes SimRacing so popular.
Why is SimRacing so popular?
The gaming industry is constantly growing – around 2.6 billion people globally play video games online, according to official 2019 statistics. That’s effectively double the amount of people playing online in 2013. That doesn’t include the millions of people who tune in to online streams of others gaming!
What are the reasons for this growth? As technology improves, there is more choice of gaming consoles than ever. The internet boom means the capacity to play online is easier and more accessible.
Technology is evolving at a higher frequency, which means consoles are updating quicker – with the release of newer versions, older consoles reduce in price. This means there is usually something to suit all budgets. You can enjoy SimRacing with a budget significantly smaller than what you need to buy a real race car and take it to a circuit.
SimRacing set-ups – or ‘rigs’ – come in many forms depending on your budget and what console you use. There are plenty of recommended setups dependent on your experience and budget.
There is also a lot of choice when it comes to SimRacing games – from Formula 1 to IMSA or NASCAR, most professional racing series have their own online series or official game. Therefore, SimRacing attracts fans and drivers across many different racing formats.
Realism is a key factor – as well as attending or watching a real series as a fan, SimRacing allows you to compete and race yourself. Rules and regulations of online racing mirrors those in real life – the experience is increasingly authentic.
And SimRacing offers a variety of experiences – whether you’re looking to compete against friends or to joining a league. The attraction blankets a broad spectrum of users.
The ease of SimRacing
Anyone can enjoy SimRacing. From newbies with basic setups to seasoned campaigners in realistic rigs, you can race on a budget or properly invest.
The great attraction to SimRacing is you can race from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have spend serious money on a race or track car and get it to a racetrack. You don’t have to travel to circuits or track days. In a click of a button, you can be in Germany one race and then Japan the next.
How has it impacted motorsport?
SimRacing allows motor racing teams and car manufacturers to showcase their brands to new audiences. It is a fantastic way to attract and engage new generations of fans.
For example, Formula 1 began hosting its own F1 Esports Series in 2017. Now, three years later, all 10 teams on the grid post entries into the official series. The likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams teams have specific esports driver development programs.
Anyone can initially try out to compete in the F1 Esports Championship. There are online qualifications every year before teams select representation via a professional draft. There were over 109,000 unique entries into qualifying alone last season.
Their investment into esports driving is huge. Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said: “We understand the importance of gaming for the new generation, and esports is part of our Ferrari Driver Academy programme. It’s not something which is fully separated – it is a part of it.”
There are also crossover situations. Esports drivers enjoy rewards of test drives or simulating set-ups for their respective teams, while professional drivers get involved in the virtual world of racing. McLaren’s Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, as well as Red Bull’s Max Vertsappen are well known in the SimRacing world and actively compete. Their online race streams attract thousands of viewers, while it gives regular gamers the chance to race against professional drivers.
W Series racer and inaugural winner Jamie Chadwick is also an active member of Fernando Alonso’s official esports team. Drivers use SimRacing not only to compete, but to practise – particularly in times like the recent COVID-19 lockdown.
How Realistic Is It?
While nothing matches the physical aspects of driving a race car around a track, SimRacing is continually closing the gap as best it can.
Virtual Reality SimRacing offers a driver’s eye view and is incredibly immersive, although the technology can lack so the quality may dip.
Other racing sims such as iRacing constantly release updates to improve realism – such as more realistic tire wear, cold tire simulation and thermal degradation.
SimRacing rigs can adjust and provide motion feedback – particularly through the chassis and steering wheel. You can set up to race with a driver’s view of the track, and you can actively race all major tracks across the world. All virtually recreated in blindingly accurate detail.
The only real differences are what you feel – the lack of physical, natural effects of driving a car at fast speeds. The downforce they generate which shifts your body. And the unrelenting G-Forces into corners. And, of course, the smells of a racetrack.
It is easy to see why SimRacing is so popular. For professional teams, manufacturers and drivers it opens up their respective brands to a whole new world. And for the petrolheads and fanatics, it provides them an opportunity to race their heroes and experience firsthand the finer emotions of motor racing.