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How to get started in sim racing

Everything you need to know to get online and get racing 

Sim racing and esports may have gained far more interest of late, but simulations have always been a valid part of any training regime. Driving sims are great for learning track layouts, and if you're short on time, they can also be a good option to get race practice in.

We will soon start our own Club sim racing championship on iRacing, so if you'd like to take part, here's how to get started.
 

What

Although there are plenty of driving options on games consoles, if you want to take part in the club championship you will need a PC. iRacing's minimum spec is a 4-core CPU, 8gb of RAM and a graphics card with at least 2GB of dedicated memory. You can also run Windows under Boot Camp on a Mac if it meets those hardware requirements. Let's look at three price points:

Minimum
This spec will run iRacing.

Powerful​ 
This spec will give you better graphics and enable multiple screens. You may be able to get virtual reality (VR) to work too, with some tuning of settings.

Virtual Reality
This spec will allow you to run VR without any faff.

It's worth noting these examples do not come with a keyboard, mouse, or display. You'll need to factor those into your budget too.

You will also need a wheel and some pedals at minimum. A gearshift is a nice to have, although most race cars are now paddle-shift. The Cayman GT4, 911 Cup and 911 RSR cars in iRacing are all sequential shifters, so the paddles you'll find as standard on most wheels will suffice. Again, let's look at three price points:

​Minimum
Logitech
Thrustmaster T300
 
A step up
Fanatec ClubSport
Fanatec ClubSport Pedals

Money no object
Direct Drive wheels are generally accepted as the best option, because there is, as the name suggests, a direct link from the motor to the wheel in your hands. Often the wheel is just mounted on the shaft to the motor, and the motors are a lot more powerful. The power isn't so much about 'force' as 'detail' though. Sims transmit a lot of data about the surface textures you're driving over, and powerful direct drive wheels transmit the nuances more clearly.
Simucube direct drive wheel base.
Fanatec Podium direct drive wheel base.
AccuForce wheel base.

It's worth noting most of the time DD wheel bases come without a wheel which you'll need to add.

Heusinkveld Sprint and Ultimate pedals. These feel like you're in a real car. If you opt for a direct drive wheel base and buy a normal wheel for it, you'll want shifters and probably some buttons. The luxury option is Ascher Racing.

You can get started with a wheel base clamped to an existing desk and wedges under the wheels of your desk chair. But you'll quickly realise the limitations of this, namely driving position and being able to brake consistently. You know what it's like driving different cars — to be consistent on a race track you want to drop yourself into a familiar space and feel. A 'sim rig' is the next step. There are many options, but fundamentally you're looking for rigidity. When pressing that brake pedal hard in a race, the last thing you want is for the frame to flex.

Good enough for belt-driven wheels
GT Omega

What you'll want for a direct-drive wheel
Sim-Lab
RSeat

Money no object
Vesaro

You can add motion to a lot of rigs as a retrofit, and it should be noted that you can start with Vesaro as rig only and continually upgrade.

 

How

For the club championships we will, like Porsche Club America, the Porsche Esports Super Cup and the Porsche Virtual Super Cup, be running on iRacing. There are lots of other options, and the PCGB sim racing community will happily talk about them all. We will run virtual trackdays on Assetto Corsa, as there's a large modifying community and it doesn't require an ongoing subscription.

The PCGB sim racing community has a presence on Discord which you can access here. Think of it as your virtual paddock. You can find helpful advice on anything discussed on this page, plus we'll organise race test sessions and virtual track days there. Discord has many useful functions, including voice channels and screen sharing ability. Need a bit of driver coaching? Discord will be the place to do it.

Never raced before and want to learn some basics? The Driver61 Drivers University is a great start. iRacing also has a useful video series.

Fundamentally, sim racing is no different to real life racing — vision is the number one skill to start with. However, there's no getting away from the fact there is no motion (unless you bought the money no object rig option above) to communicate what's happening with the car. Force feedback from the steering wheel is a large part of filling in that gap, but also sound matters a lot. You'll soon learn to hear, see, and feel through the wheel what the car is doing, and your clever brain will compensate for the lack of motion. Before you know it, you'll be mixing in a fast moving pack of cars and enjoying your first race win.