When I say “sim racing,” people always stare at me with a puzzled look on their faces. “Sim racing?” they often ask, “fake racing, like on a computer?” This is the point in the conversation where I assume that people picture me sitting in front of a computer. Where they see me turning a steering wheel left or right and screaming “JUUUUUUNIOR” at the top of my lungs. But that is only half right.
As a young child, my professional athlete dreams didn’t cater to catching touchdown passes, wearing pinstripes, or draining the buzzer-beating three. I dreamed of winning at my local dirt track, pulling my black #47 I.M.C.A. Modified into victory lane. It is a fantastic dream that I admit that I still have to this day.
My imagination was able to create a wonderful racing world. I would grab anything that resembled a steering wheel and raced to my heart’s content. I’d often beat my local track heroes and the grandest of the current racing stars of that time. Growing older and being slightly embarrassed by my racing fantasies, I searched for a new way to scratch that racing itch and sim racing is still the most viable option.
Sim racing for professional drivers is a tool to learn a new track. Create a base set up for the race weekend, or assess young talent for future success. For me, it is an escape from the bustle of a busy day. A place where I can go to be the racer I have always dreamed of being. I can race the streets of Monaco, participate in the Daytona 500, go down the corkscrew at Laguna Seca, and ride the cushion at Eldora all in the same day. I can discover different eras of motorsports and test the amount of testicular fortitude these men possessed as sim racing creates a bridge from the past to the present.
What makes sim racing unlike playing any other popular sports games, are the user inputs. I produce everything that is happening to that virtual car. The throttle control, steering angle, racing line, is all due to my skill and knowledge of the track. Developing setups to gain tenths of a second or being able to sustain a consistent pace while becoming entranced for a full stint is the part of immersion I genuinely enjoy.
With top brands like Formula One, NASCAR, and the World of Outlaws involved with official online league racing; Sim racers are becoming known around the globe. More importantly, becoming recognized as actual racers. Sim racing has helped current drivers, like NASCAR rookie William Byron, get his start into racing. Even Dale Jr has openly praised the competitive racing he has found online. This kind of endorsement provides validity to those using sim racing to improve their professional craft, but also to the hobbyist racing for their thrills.
It is no secret that racing is expensive. At its lowest levels, people are spending thousands of dollars to ride in the back of the pack, and that’s just for the car. Add in the cost of fuel, tires, spare parts, and we begin to talk about expenses that will make your head spin. Does sim racing replace the real thing? No, it doesn’t. However, it does allow me to race any car I want, at any track I want, at any time I want minus the racing suit. It isn’t the race car I always dreamed of having, but sim racing has given me the ability to keep that dream alive.