Suck Less at Sim Racing (4/10) your ass isn’t worth shit

The next 7 days are somewhat pivotal in the history of the health of the US. We haven’t faced a pandemic in 100 years, and the exponential spread of COVID-19 is very concerning. Lots of events are being cancelled from the local schools to the NBA. During this time of social distancing, one activity that is seeing a surge in popularity is sim racing. So I thought I would do a short series of daily posts on sim racing as we buckle down and survive these next 7 days (or whatever it is).

Sensory Deprivation

There are a lot of really good racing drivers who simply cannot drive in the virtual world. There is a huge difference between 2D and 3D vision. More importantly, the kinesthetic feedback provided by accelerations are completely absent. So racers who drive by the seat of their pants may as well be driving blind. And yet some racers will tell you that sim racing is 90% as good as the real thing. What gives?

Reference Points

Without 3D vision and G-forces, it’s really hard to sense distance and speed. Yet those are absolutely critical to consistent entry speeds and fast laps. In order to be good at sim racing, you have to be really good at creating, monitoring, and using reference points.

The most obvious reference points are the brake markers ahead of a turn. Your reference point might be “brake marker 3” or it might be “1/3 of the way between 3 and 2”. Many tracks don’t even have brake markers. In those cases, you have to manufacture them yourself. Discolorations in pavement are often useful, as are objects that become visible after a certain point.

In addition to finding reference points, you have to experiment with using them. One driver’s reference point isn’t the same as another. Not everyone hits the brake pedal the same way. And of course, not every car behaves the same way. You have to get in the habit of checking each reference point every lap and asking yourself how it went. The answer is in your delta timer.

During a race, there are more important things than watching your timer. In order to race well, your reference points must be automatic. That doesn’t happen by wishing, but with lots and lots of practice.

Tomorrow: hardware matters

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