Are Virtual Simulators Worth It?
iRacing is the absolute best racing simulator on the market. I don’t consider Dirt, Shift, or Forza to be top end simulators. I think they definitely have some validity in helping a driver stay in a proper driving mindset and playing nice with others.
In general, I don’t believe the physics engines are accurate enough to generate real, personal improvement. The sim platform iRacing, however, is an incredibly effective way to jump into the world of racing. But we’ll come back to that.
Fast doesn’t just happen. Fast is the result of understanding theory (watch: Why You Need Theory), applying that theory through physical implementation, and fine-tuning until you generate consistency.
People are always making a case for sim racing’s affordability. So I want to shy away from that, even though I completely agree. For now let’s focus on the true educational value of virtual reality.
Virtual Reality: Legitimate Learning Method?
Some of the best innovations in history aren’t innovations at all. They’re simply ideas that already exist in another industry. For example, consignment shops have been around for ages.
But when Car Lotz started a physical business that will sell your used car in a dealership environment, they made a fortune.
I think the validity of virtual simulation is apparent when looking outside the scoop of racing. Look at how the following industries are already leaning heavily on virtual training.
Other Industries Are Using Virtual Simulation For Training
- The nursing industry is using simulation to help workers learn new skills, stay updated on training, and build confidence. http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Vol-18-2013/No2-May-2013/Simulation-in-Nursing-Practice.html
- Fighter Pilots use some of the most expensive, complicated, and dangerous equipment in existence. The value of flight simulation is very obvious, so I don’t feel a need to expand on this. https://www.nap.edu/read/21674/chapter/3
- Even the tourism industry is getting involved. British Columbia is the first destination to offer a remote virtual exploration experience to tourists. This is brilliant and I’m sure this will be more common in the future. http://www.destinationbc.ca/news/local/destination-bc-creates-the-wild-within-vr-experien.aspx#.WCtRM-ErLZ4
- Welding is pretty dicey, with its fumes, vision-impairing light, and potential for burns. Getting your feet wet in virtual reality makes a whole lot of sense, even beyond the safety factor. http://www.thefabricator.com/article/arcwelding/using-virtual-reality-welding-to-evaluate-and-train-welders
While relatively new to the racing world, virtual simulation isn’t a new idea. But now graphics, location mapping, and vehicle physics have become capable of hyper accuracy.
I fully expect virtual race training to become a massive and crucial component of professional driving in the near future.
iRacing Is The Best Simulator On The Market
I really want to focus on iRacing, since I’m most familiar with it.
The realism factor in iRacing is so accurate that Glenn McGee used it to launch his career right from a computer screen to the Global MX-5 Cup Challenge. http://insidemazda.mazdausa.com/press-release/inaugural-mazda-mx-5-cup-global-invitational-drivers/
“Glenn McGee began his racing journey in front of a computer screen. In the 2015 iRacing Mazda MX-5 Cup, McGee tied for the most poles, most wins, and most world record times, becoming one of two iRacing’s Mazda MX-5 Cup champion representatives in the 2015 Mazda’s Road to 24 Shootout. Glenn left the shootout with the $100,000 Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship.”
David Cook (Business Development Manager at Mazda Motorsports) said, “Glenn showed the Mazda Road to 24 judges he possesses the key attributes and skill sets that we look for in a Mazda scholarship driver. His technical understanding and natural speed behind the wheel show the benefits that iRacing’s platform can provide.”
Like autocross, iRacing is a thoroughly underrated method of launching your race career. Professional drivers who started their careers by using simulation have blown the door wide open for anyone else to follow in their footsteps.
By the way, Julian Garfield has recently used autocross as a way to launch a racing career. Winning the 2016 ProSolo C Street championship earned him an invitation to the Mazda Road to 24 Shootout. He was a top three finalist and got some great PR.
iRacing In The Real World: Tuning
iRacing is used by racing teams to test changes to the car. Some report that 99% of the time these virtual changes translate perfectly to the real world.
“Our race engineers provide me with the set-ups they are planning to use at a track and I test them on iRacing – 99% of the time, the results we get on iRacing translate to the real track accurately.” –Oswaldo Negri, Jr TUDOR Sports Car Series
“iRacing is by far the best racing simulation out there. It’s shocking how finely detailed the tracks are; the visual cues and references points are right on the money. And anything you can adjust on a real car you can adjust on the iRacing version and the effects are the same.” –Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2014 Indianapolis 500 Champion, 2012 IndyCar Champion
“iRacing’s tracks are spot on. I used it a lot in preparing for my first test in a Daytona Prototype at Daytona Speedway. When I got to the track for the first time, I felt like I knew it already and was able to get up to speed quickly.” –Sage Karem, 2013 IndyLights Champion, Chip Ganassi Racing at 2014 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona
This allows teams to save massive amounts of time and money. Rather than traveling to specific tracks with all their equipment, they can make positive changes inside the simulator.
Once they finally get to the track, they’ll have strong strategies that they can immediately implement, rather than relying on trial and error.
The iRacing platform is incredibly helpful to drivers as well. Since every track is mapped with lasers and GPS markers, each bump, distance, and reference point are exactly the same as they appear and feel in reality.
iRacing In The Real World: Drivers
Many professional racing drivers use iRacing to learn new tracks and increase their seat time between race weekends.
“iRacing is the most modern racing simulation ever created. Every inch of every track is modeled perfectly. I’ve used iRacing to learn new courses such as Virginia International Raceway, or to keep the rust off at tracks such as Infineon Raceway. For the hardcore sim racer, this is your dream simulation. For the real-world racer, this is your ‘at-home’ test vehicle.” –Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR Sprint Cup Driver, 2-Time NASCAR Nationwide Series, Champion (1998, 1999)
“I am on iRacing as much as I can. It’s amazing how real the tracks and the racing are. The iRacing simulation is a tremendous amount of help. It lets me take some laps on a track I have never seen before.” -Travis Pastrana, NASCAR Nationwide and K&N East Driver, 10 time X Game Gold Medalist, 2001 AMA Supercross Champion
“iRacing is as real world as you can get. The graphics and the handling are by far the best I have seen out of any simulation program. And when I’m not home, I can bet my son, Sebastian, is on it racing someone from somewhere around the world.” –Juan Pablo Montoya, IndyCar Series & 2013 Rolex 24 Champion, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Formula One
To view official testimonials about iRacing from pro drivers and teams, click here. http://www.iracing.com/testimonials/
The Bottom Line
Many industries are using virtual reality to groom new workers and improve the effectiveness of seasoned ones.
Professionals are raving about how useful iRacing is. The most successful drivers and teams on earth are using it to become even better.
A good racing sim, like iRacing, gives you hyper-realism and accurate physics. Virtual simulators are a cheap, convenient, and fun way to improve as a driver or even launch a career.
Are you wasting time in your offseason? Are finances holding you back from racing in reality? What are you doing to improve yourself and follow your passion?
iRacing solves these problems and several more. How much more proof do you need?