Jun 26, 2019

Learning to be Faster in Sim Racing

About the Learning Process in Racing Simulators

Learning a new track and trying to find the pace? All those years I did it wrong!


Posted by: Ted Meat

I started sim racing in the early 90's with the somewhat primitive sims of the time. When Microprose Grand Prix 2 game out, the AI was actually competitive for the first time. Still, it was relatively easy to win with a keyboard. But with a keyboard you need steering help and with steering help on it was almost like half-automatic driving!

Then I got my first racing wheel. This beautiful thing, Thrustmaster Grand Prix 1. Behold:


Things changed. Skill requirements.... eh... increased. To put in mildly! I was no longer fast or consistent but still had an obsession to win every race. From this moment on I learned the wrong way to learn how to drive.
Heres how it went:

  1. Learned a new track
  2. Realized I'm way too slow
  3. Tried to drive faster
  4. Trashed the car because of trying too hard
  5. Endlessly repeat the steps 3 and 4
  6. Anger
  7. Hate
  8. Suffering
  9. Dark side

At the time I was young and stupid and I didn't think racing for other positions than a win was worth it. So I kinda lost interest it sim racing for years to come.

About a year ago I got back into it! Got myself a subscription of iRacing, a decent racing wheel and was very excited! Then it started again:

  1. Learned a new track
  2. Realized I'm way too slow

...and you know how it ends

It was not until a Formula 3 race at Charlotte Roval this January when I finally realized how learning a new track and finding a decent pace works! Took me only about 25 years. Not bad!

Everybody seemed to hate the track and questioned its suitability to F3 cars. It's bumpy, narrow, walls are close and made out of concrete. I decided that my goal will only be to survive the race without an incident. To achieve this I drove a “race simulation” of 25 laps with the idea of staying inside my comfort zone all the time and avoid binning the car.

Those were the most productive 25 laps ever! Without overdoing it I didn't wreck the car once and allowed my skills to improve naturally. By the end of the “race simulation” I was suddenly fast and consistent. I went into the race with confidence and had a good result.

So the lesson learned is this: When you start driving a new track you'll probably notice that you're way off pace compared to the front runners. Forget the pace, it is what it is. Just concentrate on driving as you were driving a real, expensive racing car. You can't go faster than your skill level allows you to. If you try, you'll crash repeatedly and get frustrated.

By driving comfortably inside your skill-level, you get more laps under your belt, you start feeling the limits of the car better and the speed just mystically appears from somewhere! Just give it time, don't force it

This is probably obvious for the more experienced virtual racers but hopefully this helps some of the new guys out there!

Have a nice race!

Ted Meat

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