Simulation’s real value

It is a recurrent question. Can be used iRacing (or other hardcore sim) as a plausible replacement to real seat time? Here, some users with real race car experience and many hours behind the wheel try to answer this key question.

William Levesque

It depends a bit on mentality and balls size. As well as what kind of driving style they tend to have. I don’t see why most aliens couldn’t be decently fast in a short period of time IRL, assuming they can drive the car properly (clutch, heel and toe, right foot braking, etc).

Personally I haven’t had any issues and was pushing quite hard first time out on track, sliding around between walls.

Chris Lazarevic

I started off in sim racing and driving fast road cars at the odd track day, I then bought a Formula Ford to do some real racing. In my first test I was 1.9 sec off a mid pack driver in the Australian Formula Ford series and in the first round I got lucky and had a race win. I competed in 5 of the 6 rounds of the state series and I only had the one win but was fairly competitive in outright pace but would make too many mistakes.

In comparison to the fastest Formula Ford drivers in the country I am still generally about a second slower on a hot lap on a track with a 90sec lap time. You can see from the GT academy drivers that it is possible to have someone with only sim racing experience be a good driver but I don’t think we will ever see an F1 champion come from a sim racing only background, too much ground is lost to people who start racing as kids.

In response to the question, no, in my experience sim racers are not expert drivers of real cars, it’s a totally different beast.

Colin MacLean

It’s a funny thing. Sim racing teaches you the finer points of racing. It teaches you traffic management, race strategy, the intricacies of the racing line, basically the upper third of the pyramid. Your typical iRacer is paying WAY more attention to the finer details than your typical club racer. Your typical club racer is basically focused on not crashing, not becoming broke and not dying.

What sim racing does not teach you is the basics, the cornerstones of driving fast on a race track. You have all the knowledge but none of the foundation. So what ends up happening is the folks who can pick up the basics quickly go up the learning curve MUCH faster than your typical driver. However, folks can be alien 10,000 iRating but if they don’t have the ability to feel the car or able to push through the fear they’ll be just as slow as everyone else.

When it comes to driving fast on the track there is a moment when you must prove to your primitive lizard brain that you can indeed go through that turn at X mph even though every fiber of your being says NO! If you have a good instructor this can be accomplished quickly with a ride-along. If you’re self-taught it can take months or even years to make that breakthrough. Sim-racing is of no help in this whatsoever. Once you make it over that hump though, you have a colossal advantage over the every-man.

Mark Pickford

The last time I had my backend step out on me at speed and my instinct was correctly not to let off the throttle, I smiled and thought to myself, “thanks iRacing!”

Bill Smith II

I think it really depends on the person and what you are driving and your mentality to both. For the record, I have been driving things since I was 5 and sim racing since I was 7 or 8 (29 now). I started my first wheel-to-wheel racing when I was 17 and have done dirt ovals, endurance sports car racing, karting, driven tons of sports cars/exotics and have been instructing for 3 years.

With any sim, be racing or flight, there is a risk of approaching it like a game. In this case some things will transfer, but many bad habits can be picked up. If approached correctly, I think sim experience can make you much better in what you do in real life for much lower cost/hour.

I really learned how to left foot brake and use both throttle and brake simultaneously in sims and have brilliantly applied it to real racing when the situation requires it. The biggest thing I see that you can get from sims that people without sim experience lack when starting is the hand-eye coordination in dealing with a car in the non-linear region of the tires. This is the biggest hurdle with anyone starting and I see it again and again in training and instructing. Eventually, however, after a certain point you have to have seat time in the particular thing you are doing to get better. A couple weekends ago, I tested a Formula Mazda for the first time. In one 20min session, I was within a second or two so of front running guys and a few seconds faster than most first time FM drivers. Now, this is probably attributed to all of my other experience, but even another 5 years of sim racing and other forms isn’t going to make me really any faster in the FM. I would need to get seat time in the real car.

All of that to say sims are a tool and like any other tool it compliments your training. It isn’t a substitute.

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