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Sim Racing Experience
Sim racing could also be described as driving simulators or simulation video games.

Sim (simulated) racing means computer software (i.e. a vehicle simulation game) that attempts to simulate accurately real world driving or racing, complete with real-world variables such as fuel usage, damage, tire wear, grip and suspension to name but a few virtual racing components.

Drivers in sim racing don't need to understand all aspects of car handling or car setup as there are generally communities that will help with this aspect of the sim. However, to be fast, also known as "alien" in the sim racing community the more you can learn about all aspects of driving and racing, such as threshold braking, how to maintain control of a car as the tires lose traction, and how properly to enter and exit a turn without sacrificing speed will help in the long run. Sim racing differs from arcade driving games like F1 2010 and Mario Kart in that the real world variables are key to sim racing, whereas in arcade racer games the feeling of speed and ease of use are the important factors. To the true sim racer the realism aspect is the key to enjoyment, rather than fancy graphics, gimmicks and borked physics.

Sim racing generally happens on PC's due to the demands on graphics, processors and ram. Force Feedback (FFB) steering wheels, load cell pedal sets and all manner of sim racing hardware is available as sim racing on a pad is a big no. Personally I sim race on the iRacing platform, which I believe to be the best and most realistic racing sim on the market. Laser scanned tracks provide every bump and undulation that would appear in the real world, with an eyefinity setup you can see through and around the apex and see up to 179 degrees of perspective. Practice and general track time will help to improve not only your lap times, but your confidence in the car which when it comes to race time allows you to know when to brake instead of having to think about where to brake (as the absolute minimum time to do anything that requires conscious intervention is 200 milliseconds (0.2 seconds). This is called reaction time (RT) and is very consistent, varying only from about 160ms to 250ms among various individuals). This means that in the race you know the exact capabilities of your own car and therefore this allows you to concentrate 100% on race craft and progressing through the field. Find how quick your reaction time is here.

If your reaction times are good enough maybe you could think about a real driving experience.

We have teamed up with Experience Mad and they have been busy pulling together their own line up of high speed driving and racing thrills and experiences, giving ordinary fans like you the chance to experience first hand the adrenaline of steering a single seater racing car around some of the most famous circuits in Britain.

"Pure driving, pure racing, that's what makes me happy" - Ayrton Senna

The First Real Sim Racing Game?
Possibly the first software released into the sim racing world that really differentiated arcade fun from real simulation was a piece of software developed by Papyrus (Dave Kaemmer) and released by EA called Indianapolis 500: The Simulation. Believe me, this was one of the hardest games ever made, especially as I was still on keyboard at this stage, FFB wheels may have been invented but they were still very basic and not affordable to the casual sim racer.

This really was a racing simulation, as the title suggested. Apart from practice and qualifying, there were only 4 game settings and these were what really made it a sim:
  • 10 lap race (no damage, no yellow flags)
  • 30 lap race (no damage)
  • 60 lap race
  • 200 lap race
The car setup allowed you to fine tune the car and all changes could be "felt" whilst driving the car. The level of detail may not have been anywhere near the level of detail in sim racing today but I believe it was programmed based on real numbers. Car adjustments could be made that included fuel, wings, rubber compound, wheel stagger, tyre pressures, shock adjustments, camber, and gear ratios and this was all back in 1989. You could get a puncture after 498 miles and that would be your race over, this was proper sim racing and due to this the title sold over 200,000 copies.

In 1997 Gran Turismo was released by Polyphony Digital having been in production since 1992. Gran Turismo was at the time a massive influence and probably the best simulator on the market at the time. You had to pass licenses to be able to drive specific cars, money had to be earned and career paths chosen. Newer versions of Gran Turismo even introduced endurance events like 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1000km of Suzuka, and the 24 Hours Nurburgring.

Personally I have been sim racing since pretty much the beginning of the sim racing era. Although in all honesty the beginning wasn't really sim racing it was more like playing pretty bad computer games! Coupled with this there were no force feedback steering wheels and definitely no load cell technology brakes to be used. Old school sim racers will remember the days of keyboard and our biggest decisions were whether to use "z" and "x" to turn left or right or my preferred choice of "<" and ">". The real irony is that as technology has improved I swear that some people look like they are still driving on keyboard or android as they can't hold a line! One of my first memory of sim racing was probably playing Geoff Crammond's Microprose Grand Prix way back in about 1992 on the Amiga.

"If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver" - Ayrton Senna

iRacing 2.0
David Kaemmer, co-founder of Papyrus and also the man who made the milestone in sim racing in 1998 with Grand Prix Legends (GPL), is now working on iRacing. Grand Prix Legends was modelled on the 1967 F1 season and one aspect that really allowed the simulation to work well was that the cars basically had no downforce, which allowed the sim to work very well as there were less complications on the tyres and physics. Now Dave Kaemmer is working on what has been labelled as iRacing 2.0 and his new tyre model, known in America as the New Tire Model. This "NTM" as it's known in the industry really will revolutionize sim racing and take it forwards in a massive way.

Using iRacing gone are the days of AI drivers, every person you come across on the track, whether it be practice, qualifying or racing it will be a human competitor, with a passion like yours. Because iRacing is a subscription service rather than a computer game that gets released and then maybe a patch comes out, there is constant development on the simulation, with regular new builds every 13 weeks and minor updates in between "main" builds. will mainly focus our software, car setups and tips towards iRacing as we believe it to be the best sim racing simulation on the market. Our hardware reviews will be tested on iRacing but will function on all games and simulations. It may not be the cheapest driving simulation on offer as your have to buy tracks and cars as well as pay a monthly subscription, but when compared to track days, or going go-karting at Daytona, Sim Racing and especially iRacing are very cheap alternatives for petrol heads that either want to improve their driving or want to race in officially sanctioned races at weekends or even every day. Sim racing can become an expensive hobby/passion if high end sim racing equipment is purchased or things are taken to the next level with hardware like motion rigs. But, for the average sim racer a steering wheel, pedals and the required computer can be bought for the price of a track day or a few go-karting sessions. Track days require petrol, insurance, tyres and possible repairs, sim racing allows for the a very similar experience without the cost and with the knowledge that if you crash you don't have to pay the repair bill!

Recently Assetto Corsa has been gaining more of my attention. Whilst it's not the finished product and can't compete with iRacing for online multiplayer racing there are certain aspects of the sim that I like. They have beaten iRacing to be the first to release a laser scanned version of the Nordschleife and they also have more of a sense of a dynamic driving experience due to the movement of shadows and light due to a moveable sun, whilst iRacing still has skyboxes that don't change.

If you are not already a member, or you know someone who would like to try iRacing we have some iRacing bonus codes, iRacing promo codes or iRacing sign up codes whatever you want to call them. Even though iRacing is based in the US there is no reason why you can't use it as a UK Driving Simulator.
The Art of Sim Racing
Unlike many mass participator sports like fishing, poker and darts, motor sports is a lot harder to participate in. Any one can fish, as long as they buy a fishing license. Any one can go to a poker room and play poker if they can afford the entry fee and I believe the same goes for darts. However, motor sports is slightly different. To race you must attain a racing license for safety reasons as generally motor sports are a lot more dangerous than fishing, poker or darts. You also need to have ability and usually you also need to be able to provide your race team with either money from your own pocket or some form of sponsorship.

If you wanted to be an F1 driver, you would need to have supreme driving skills, great media skills and also usually a financial backer. Most petrol heads and motor sports enthusiasts don't have these luxuries. Which is why I guess a lot of passionate motor sport enthusiasts take part in sim racing. But I still get asked the question why sim racing? all the time.

Sim racing offers a much cheaper alternative to real racing - there is no cost when you crash your virtual race car, apart from to your pride and dignity. Using a motor sports simulation like iRacing you can pit yourself against drivers from all over the world that have the same passion as yourself. Also iRacing offers a form of ranking which is called irating. This allows for races that have members with similar irating to compete against each other which helps to level the field out and make sure you are racing with people of similar speed and ability.

Most sim racers realise they will never be good enough to be a professional driver, but with iRacing's official races like minded people can race against each other in races with up to a maximum of 60 people in hosted sessions or 36 people in multi class road racing events.

Racing isn't just about driving around a race track as fast as you can. That is a massive part of it but people who have never participated in a race with other people before may not realise just what is involved.
  • mind games
  • race craft
  • endurance sim racing
  • concentration
Mind Games
So you've practiced all week at a specific track, you've qualified in a reasonable position on the grid and now you are sitting on the grid waiting for the race to begin. You'd think it would be a case of as soon as the green flag drops you drive around until the end of the race and then it's done. If only it were that simple. When racing you have to deal with mind games inside your own head. You know where to brake, when to accelerate in virtually every situation as you've come across them in practice sessions before, but once in a race the pressure can make things change somewhat. If for example you are under pressure from a driver behind you can over think things, when really the best thing to do is just drive and try not to think and let your reflexes and gut instincts take over. However, there is the tendency to think in your head, "don't brake too late for this next corner" and then before you know it you have out braked yourself and let the opposing virtual sim racing driver past.

Race Craft
So you made an error and let another sim racer past. You know that you are technically faster if you go by grid position (assuming they actually qualified and didn't start from the back of the grid). If you can convince yourself that you are faster than the driver infront then it will make it a lot easier to get past. Being faster than the driver infront of you won't automatically mean you can pass them, especially if they are using defensive race craft and positioning their car well. Good race craft can let you create opportunities to make clean racing passes, force the issue (not dive bombing) or force your fellow sim racer into an error. There are different forms of race craft, feinting your opponent, lining your opponent up for a braking zone, setting your opponent up for passing on exit of a corner and generally just making them think about you and driving in their mirrors, or should I say virtual mirrors?

Endurance Sim Racing
Many newcomers to sim racing, most who have progressed from arcade racing on consoles often find that the endurance factor can be something that they need to get used to. A lot of arcade racing is over very short distances sometimes even as short as just one lap. A ten lap race would to some be deemed long. Sim racing tends to have longer races from say twenty laps up to 1 hour weekly events or special events up to 5 hours in length or sometimes longer endurance events with planned driver swaps. Concentration can be a major factor to virtual racers that are not used to it. I tend to eat biscuits or chocolate on the straights and drink energy drinks when racing to help keep my concentration level high, I also try to blink once in a while when I can...

Mind games and the endurance factor can both be linked to concentration. To alleviate the mind games you need to almost not think and let yourself just drive without thinking. Just let yourself go onto auto pilot as such, you've practised all week, so just hit your braking marks without thinking about things too hard. Don't over complicate it, as mentioned before, don't think in a negative way as in - don't brake too late, think - hit your marks. If everything is going well just keep doing what you are doing, don't look at sector times, just drive. If you have a moment and need to regain composure when you get on a straight have a little drink, a little something to eat just to keep blood sugar levels up and then relax and get into a rhythm.

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