WE’VE EXPERIENCED AN INCREASE in the popularity of sim racing over the past few years. This is in part due to the availability of powerful gaming computers at relatively low prices. Similarly, highly engaging VR (virtual reality) systems have brought the level of immersion to new levels. In fact, the Quest 2 VR system was one of the hot items this past holiday season. The level of realism and detail available in these systems is what, as a kid, I dreamed of when watching Star Trek. Sim systems such as iRacing, rFactor and Assetto Corsa use sophisticated tire models and millimetre-level detailed laser scans of some of the world’s top race tracks. The trend of E-sports, multi-player video-game competitions, has grown to become its own industry. In fact, when F1 was halted due to COVID-19, many including Lando Norris took to competing in E-sports-based races and some were watched online by over five million viewers.
My adventure into sim racing started during COVID lockdown to help keep myself engaged but also to do some off-season driving training. Yes, today most racers use some form of simulator to learn new tracks or fine tune race craft and other driving exercises. While it’s not the same as driving a real car on a real track, there is no other activity or sport that has the same level of online to real world parallels. Believe it or not, certain aspects of driving such as visuals, looking up and far ahead, and throttle control lend well to and are well represented in these simulators. My sim rig today includes a racing seat, a 32-inch three-monitor set-up, Logitech G920 steering wheel and pedal set, and a Quest 2 VR headset. I’ve chosen iRacing primarily because it has Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP – aka Mosport) as one of the available tracks and a great selection of Porsches.
One of the reasons why these systems are so much fun and engaging is that you can be sitting in a real race seat, with a steering wheel and pedal set, wearing a VR headset that accurately mimics the real world. The psychology and neuroscience explanation to this is that the human brain is very effective in projecting itself into situations and producing similar physiological effects. This is why humans can cry while watching a movie or physically be scared watching a horror flick. Similarly, a 45-minute race can lead to fatigue, cold sweats, and frustrations alike. There are also numerous resources available such as Virtual Racing School (VRS) which includes tutorials, corner by corner analysis, and the ability to upload and analyze the telemetry of your actual sim driving against the pros and friends.
Today most racers use some form of simulator to learn new tracks or fine tune race craft and other driving exercises.
If you haven’t already ventured into sim racing, all you need is a basic gaming computer, most within the past two years should be sufficient; a steering wheel and pedal set, starting at about $250; and a subscription to a simulator. Most of these can also be picked up used for a fraction of the price as well. You can check whether your computer meets the iRacing requirements at iRacing.com.
To join PCA Sim Racing, you must purchase an iRacing subscription, cars and tracks at the same website iRacing.com. iRacing costs about $100 per year plus any extra cars or tracks, which are $12 to $15 each.
PCA is more than just about the cars, it also now has its own national Sim Racing league. You can find out more at PCASimRacing.com. There are approximately 500 members and a number of regular sessions and races at the Zone level. It even supports an eDE program where members can participate in track walks, receive one-on-one instruction, driving exercises, practice starts and open lapping. Each region also has its own race schedule where multiple classes participate and points are awarded.
While there is a nationally supported league, PCA UCR has now launched its own specific Sim Racing League as an effort to help promote the activity at the local club level. The first season will feature a minimum of six races, starting last month on Jan. 24 at our very own CTMP. Each race includes a 20-minute practice session, 10-minute qualifier and 30-minute race, all starting at 7 p.m. on a Sunday evening. The schedule is as follows:
- Jan. 24 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
- Jan. 31 – Watkins Glen
- Feb. 7 – Road Atlanta
- Feb. 14 – Daytona
- Feb. 21 – Summit Point
- Feb. 28 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
To help keep it fun and friendly, the car of choice is the Porsche 991 RSR with a baseline set-up. If you are interested in participating, you can submit interest HERE. Once accepted, you will receive a league invitation in iRacing. If you have any questions or need any help, please contact me at email@example.com.