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Sim rigs and iRacing: the virtual racing revolution

Technology is changing and challenging traditional sports in so many ways and ‘motorsport’ participation is being redefined and expanding rapidly due to online racing. Driving simulation games have always been hugely popular with that compelling blend of competition and fun… doesn’t everyone want to beat their friend in a car race?

Big video arcade games like Sega’s DAYTONA USA were played by most teenagers in countries all over the world in the 1990s.  Tech advances from Mario Brothers karting fun to iRacing has made the opportunity to ‘race’ even more realistic and affordable on a global scale.

sim racing daytona game at the arcade

With motorsport’s global appeal on the rise, the race-loving public is being served up new ways to not only watch, but also ‘compete’ without having the expense of having your own race car, or pit crew! All around the world, gamers and lovers of all things ‘fast cars’ are tuning in to watch live broadcasts or virtual racing competitions, competing in these competitions themselves, and decking out bedrooms and man caves with the latest exquisite race gaming gear.

It is a new frontier for the racing industry, and we think it is incredibly exciting! Let’s have a look at how the virtual world is revolutionising racing.

What is a sim racing rig?

Recent advancements in technology have allowed people to create some incredible racing simulators. A sim racing rig is the entire racing apparatus you game with; the seat, the accessories and even the monitor. You can make modifications and perfect all of your accessories, but don’t forget, it is always important to have the best software!

The cool thing about sim rigs is that just like a real car, the quality and suitability of your accessories influence how well you perform. You want to make sure you have the best fitting gloves, the most comfortable seat, and the most effective cockpit layout possible.

sim racing rig set up for racing simulator gaming

Popular YouTube channel Super GT takes viewers through everything you need for sim racing, and it’s remarkably similar to an actual race car. Locating the handbrake, shifter and pedal where they would be if he had an actual car, he has a very appealing setup. He even has helmets and a very authentic racing jacket, which we would recommend for those extremely dedicated to the concept!

The extraordinary success of iRacing

It stands to reason that iRacing has been a raging success when you actually have a look at it. Having licensed tracks that have been depicted with pinpoint accuracy and physics that seem genuinely lifelike makes the game feel more realistic than anything we have ever seen. The game is more immersive than ever, and if you were to take a quick glance at an iRacing screen, you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching the real thing.

As for the gaming experience itself, it has really come a long way. The visuals allow the player to feel as though they are genuinely in an actual race car at their favourite event. And the advancements in sim rigs provide an opportunity for gamers to customise their ride to give them the feeling they are in an actual car.

But even better than the general experience being very life-like is the fact the game allows for genuine competitions that emulate real life events. The entire experience looks remarkably similar to those amazing images we get from inside the cockpits of our favourite drivers at real events. iRacing even hosts and officiates real life events that are competed for by some of the most skilful gamers all around the globe, which really adds to that sense of reality.

race cars driving around the track during a race

The 2022 iRacing Daytona 24 was proof of the success of virtual racing. A massive 15,780 different drivers made up the 3911 teams. This was a nearly 50% uptick from the number of participants last year. The event was viewed by more than 120,000 people on the RaceSpot broadcast. The popularity of the event was further demonstrated by the fact that big name drivers were drawn in from many different factions of the ‘real’ racing world. NASCAR’s Anthony Alfredo took part, as well as IndyCar’s Tony Kanaan, and even Max Verstappen and Llando Norris from Formula 1.

Another event – the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans – was also an unbelievable success. Like many other virtual events, its roots are in the pandemic, having started in June 2020. That year, it was watched by a mind-boggling 14.2 million viewers. This led to 2021’s prize pool totalling $250,000. The success continued into 2022, with some massive names on the roster. As you might imagine, Verstappen also made an appearance at this event, as well as Formula 1 star Juan Pablo Montoya and the 2021 champions of the real Le Mans series, Louis Deletraz.

sim racing supercars eseries 2021 driver and car

Given you have the opportunity to build teams and compete in endurance races up to 24 hours long and set dates for events, it’s easy to see why the concept is so popular. The best thing is you don’t have to spend money flying around the world; you can compete against genuine opponents from around the world at Le Mans, Bathurst and Daytona all from the comfort of your bedroom!

Supercars Eseries filling the Covid void in 2021

Just as other virtual races were launched elsewhere in the world to replace cancelled events, Supercars developed an exciting hybrid competition series. In April 2020, the Supercars Eseries was launched, and it involved a mixture of professional online gamers, and real world racers like Anton de Pasquale, Shane van Gisbergen and Chaz Mostert. The races took place on a number of incredible virtual likenesses of Phillip Island, Monza and Bathurst.

The value of the series came into its own in 2021 when the Supercars calendar of live events was side-swiped on numerous occasions by Covid. Supercars Australia helped keep fans engaged with the Pro Series (gamers) and All Stars (championship racers) competing for prize money and titles in the 2021 Cash Converters Supercars Eseries.

Dayne Warren and Brodie Kostecki walked away with silverware, with Warren winning the $10,000 winners’ prize in an event that ran for six consecutive weekends when real racing was stopped by Covid lockdowns and border restrictions in August and September.

2021 v8 supercars eseries

Warren and Kostecki combined for eight of the 12 wins on offer across both series, with Kostecki winning the Bathurst enduro with Jarrad Filsell. Dayne Warren raced from Swyftx Pole Position to victory five times, doing so at the Red Bull Ring, Long Beach, Road America, Phillip Island and the Hungaroring. Brodie Kostecki claimed his first Eseries win at Daytona, and made it three wins in a row following victories at Monza and Bathurst.

There was even a ‘manufacturers’ competition, dominated by Holden with Commodores winning 11 of the 12 races across both series. De Pasquale claimed the first and only Ford win in the very last race of the season at Watkins Glen.

Details of the 2022 event are yet to be released, but we will eagerly anticipate them. The spectacle has been enough for Fox Sports and Kayo to sign on, and both of these broadcasters will be presenting this year’s event as well. You will also have the option to watch the events on the Supercars Facebook page.

Sim racing vs ‘real’ racing

Naturally, there has long been a traditionalist sentiment that sim racing isn’t ‘real’ racing. But we might offer a counter to that generalisation, and point out that one of the most important factors when it comes to racing is the competition side of things, and of course, dedicated coverage. At the end of the day, most motorsport fans consume their favourite sport on TV, and that is exactly what the modern world of virtual racing provides.

In the last couple of years, online popularity of virtual racing events had led to major broadcasters getting in on the action. The F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix was first broadcast live on ESPN2 in 2020, which was considered a great alternative as many actual races were cancelled due to the pandemic.

twitch bahrain virtual grand prix ad

In fact, this trend during the pandemic of broadcasting virtual racing really kicked the industry into overdrive. Also in 2020, NBC broadcast IndyCar’s virtual event in place of the cancelled real event, whilst Fox Sports in the US did the same thing with NASCAR. For context, this event drew in 903,000 viewers.

Additionally, sim racing is getting closer to the actual thing not just from a viewing perspective, but even for those partaking in it. YouTuber Chris Haye says “sim racing is one of the closest options out there to real life” and “a supplement to real world driving”. Modern technology offers the option of Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, which generally deliver what their name promises. As Haye says: “with VR, I have moments when I forget I’m in the sim” and that “I approach my driving in the exact same way as I would in the real world”. What we can learn from this is that technology is driving some extraordinary virtual experiences.

If you still aren’t convinced, just consider the fact that a number of professional drivers actually use sim racing as a way to train. Max Verstappen doesn’t just compete a lot in the virtual world; he also is a massive proponent of sim racing. In fact, he even described sim racing as “the same – you’re also pushing flat out, you need to take it seriously, you really need to work together to make it happen”. Verstappen spoke of the need to prepare well for sim racing: “it’s all about preparation, strategy as well, because when you’re doing a 24-hour race around the Nordschleife, it’s quite tough.”

So there you have it! Sim racing might not be the actual thing, but it’s very close. It is also popular, competitive, and loved by professional drivers. There’s a fair amount of credibility in that!

Experience the real thing

The virtual world of racing is exciting, vibrant and immersive. It is all about bringing us closer and closer to the real thing. There is another way of achieving this as well. Just like iRacing, Fastrack V8 Race has access to some of the greatest racing tracks you could hope to experience. And we have the real thing! Check out our driving & hot lap experiences and take a spin around the likes of Sandown Raceway. Sydney Motorsport Park or even Mount Panorama in Bathurst. We can’t wait to see you there!

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