Why is Sim Racing so Popular?
Sim Racing (and gaming in general) has been getting more popular for years now, however Sim Racing was brought to the forefront due to COVID-19 pandemic, when the cessation of motorsport left a void for petrol heads and motorsport viewers who needed their fix of racing action. This unfortunate situation however provided Sim Racing the opportunity to take the forefront and show how good it has become, and ever since Sim Racing continues to go from strength to strength. We'll take a look at a number of the reasons why we think Sim Racing is so popular today, and why it is only going to continue getting more and more popular.
The first and probably biggest advantage of Sim Racing compared to motorsport is cost. You might see many of your idols on television racing in various formulas such as Formula One, BTCC, GT3 & GT4 racing and think they're all racing due to sponsors and being scouted by teams. The truth is, most drivers paid for their seat in motorsport - only a select few of the most professional drivers are paid drivers (i.e. the team pays for them to drive for them). Whilst many drivers are able to pay for their seat via cumulative sponsorship monies, other drivers simply have wealthy parents/backers which enables them to fund the seat. The cost of motorsport can be quite shocking; it is estimated that one season in the British Touring Car Championship with a mid-grid team can cost anywhere from £250,000 - £400,000, and more than £500,000 if you want a front-running team. Obviously, that makes this level of motorsport unattainable for most people. Contrasting this to Sim Racing, you can get a quality turnkey sim racing setup for under £5000 (see our Full Sim Racing Package - Starter Package for example), and this enables you to join any Sim racing championship with equipment that will allow you to excel. Your virtual Sim Racing championship / league may have its own modest fees, but compared to motorsport, the cost is significantly lower.
2) Accessibility & Convenience
The second advantage is accessibility, and by this we mean, how easy it is to go Sim racing. Imagine participating in a race in Formula 1 - you need to go to the track, arranging your travel, accommodation & food, scheduling your timetable to meet all your sponsor commitments and driver meetings and engineer sessions, before waiting for your allocated session to go out on track, for the allotted time. Whilst out on track, you could have a puncture or a mechanical failure, or a fellow driver could crash into you, ending your session early. Imagine if the damage could not be repaired in time for the race, so it left you with a wasted journey and/or a big repair bill.
Contrasting this situation to an equivalent in Sim Racing, to go racing you simply start your game, select your car and track you want to race on and then load the track. No faff with travelling hours to the track etc. You are ready and racing within minutes. Sim Racing is extremely convenient and easy to access.
3) Realism & Transferrable Skills
It's no secret that Sim Racing today has become a lot closer to reality. The very fact that Max Verstappen is one of the fastest drivers in Formula One and one of the fastest drivers on iRacing is testament to the realism and authenticity of Sim Racing games. The uptake of Sim Racing amongst the global lockdowns from COVID-19 showed racing drivers from around the world across numerous championships taking to Sim Racing to provide entertainment and also some seriously close racing. Personally, we can't think of another esport that shares such synergy with its real life counterpart. In one of the response can you come across against your racing hero and race alongside them in a virtual environment? Simulations today are usually built with input from real racing drivers, and incorporate real life vehicle dynamics and physical laser scans of tracks, all with the viewpoint of making the simulation as close to reality as possible. The ultimate effect is that Sim Racing now teaches you transferable skills which aid in real life racing. Which is absolutely epic.
4) You Decide the Rules
Similar to point number 2, if you travel for several hours to the racing track, hoping for dry weather and to aim to smash a lap record, it can be very disappointing when the heavens open and the track becomes wet. Or equally, if you're excelling at dry pace but your wet pace is lacking and you need extra practise, there's no guarantees the weather will be as you want for your session. Which, and I can say this from experience when I raced at various tracks in the UK, can be very annoying. You wait and get excited for the race weekend, and then the weather does a U-turn and it's awful.
The beauty of Sim Racing, is that you decide the conditions. You can decide what you want the weather to be, when you want to race to start, which track & track layout you want to race, how many opponents you want to race against. The list goes on. And it's all at your finger tips. If you need to practice on your wet pace, you set weather to rain and practise that for as long as you need to. Want to do a pit-stop to change tyres? Done easily, without lifting a finger, and your bank balance stays unchanged despite now having 4 fresh new tyres!
5) The Sim Games & Hardware
Following from point 2, a big reason that Sim Racing is so popular is the amazing realism and authenticity. The reason for this is due to a variety of high quality simulation games that are available to us along with the high quality hardware. There's simulation games that cover a variety of racing formulae including F1, NASCAR, Touring Cars, GT3/GT4, Australian Supercars, Rallying, Rallycross, Truck Racing, Drifting & Karting (to name a few!) In other words, whatever your favourite racing discipline, there's usually a few games out there for you. The tracks and cars are all modelled to a high level of detail so you actually feel like you're driving a real car on a real track.
Complementing the high quality simulation games, there is an equally abundant range of high quality sim racing hardware, like Sim Rigs, Seats, Monitors, Wheelbases & Pedals. Sim Rigs are critical as they allow you to get a comfortable and ergonomic driving position, to control your car to the best of your ability. A comfortable and authentic racing seat adds to the immersive experience so you believe you're in a racing car. A high refresh rate gaming monitor gives you brilliant display and again immerses you in the game - nowadays where simulation games have such good graphics and audio, a good monitor really helps make the whole experience more immersive and realistic. There are now racing wheels with powerful & detailed force feedback, wheel rims that are replicas of real racing wheels and that incorporate LED rev counters & integrated displays, so offering a very premium and realistic racing experience. Combined with Sim Racing pedals utilising load cell or hydraulic technology, you get an authentic feel through the pedals to again mimic reality more closely and improve your sim racing experience.
The combination of high quality simulation games and sim racing hardware have worked hand-in-hand to raise the profile of Sim Racing, and as both the simulation games and the hardware improve, Sim Racing will continue to become more popular.