I must assume that all of us who are hooked on sim racing, must be at least to some extend interested in racing. At least i am, but not nearly as passionate as some of the other people i race with.
I personally like following the F1 championship, and have done so since the mid 2000s. I don’t really follow any other racing but i must admit that i have cast a look at WEC, Porsche Cup and F2. Actually it wasn’t until i learned the LeMans track through Forza, that i found it pretty exciting to watch the legendary 24hr race!
That said, i got into what ended up as a fairly heated discussion with some fellow F1 fans. After watching a feeder F2 race series to F1 in what i believe was Hungaroring, i argued that F2 really was what most of us really wanted F1 to be. Action filled racing, brave risk takers, close fighting and a very entertaining spectacle. What i was surprised to hear was that if i was watching F1 for the racing, maybe i should just be watching F2 instead. F1 fans seemed to enjoy:
- The fighting on the technical front
- The financial fighting on resource management
- The clever interpretations of rules and regulations
I on the other hand, would much rather see racers fight it out on the track, and see them outsmart the opponents, with clever moves, brave attacks and clean passes
Sim Racing wins
This brings me to online racing. I’ve long been fascinated by online racing. Thinking about the quality of racing, from even public leagues, it can actually be better that what you see professionals do on real tracks. This is assuming that you also enjoy racing the way i do. I agree that real world driving is harder than online racing. Also i agree that the higher-skill online races require a lot more skill than the average public lobby but is this really what makes up for a good race?
I recently saw a race by Matt Malone on iRacing. This is a race from a public league on iRacing with the trusty Mazda MX5 that is guaranteed to give some close fighting. I am sure this is just one race of many exciting ones but it had me glued to the screen like very few real world F1, F2 or WEC races ever have.
The balance game
It is a question of balancing things out. The great part of online racing, is that racers don’t put their health, lives, or even money on the line, when they attempt a brave move. That’s not all though. If it was, you’d end up with Forza style racing, where racers attempt crazy moves without considering the consequences, because there are none.
iRacing has worked this out, especially in these advanced league series. Here, the damage is damaging. There are no quick pits. If you get damage that needs fixing, you will have to get it fixed. There’s no racing with 3 wheels or similar scenarios. You might actually even need to be towed back to the pits! A tow can easily last a couple of minutes. A damage repair is even worse! Depending on the damage, it can take the rest of the race, or even be too bad to repair. I had a crash a few races back, in one of these leagues, and the repair time was 24 minutes. These are real time minutes!
People tend to be more careful when there are consequences like these. The fact that you can’t just join a race right after you’ve quit a race, and that you some times have to wait a few hours for the next one, also sets things into perspective. What would kill this finely balanced consequence, would be if the damage was unrealistic. For example if a slight bumb tore off your wheel. This is why iRacing is putting in a whole lot of effort into their damage model. This will eventually make the consequences more realistic, and let racers consider the consequences of their moves even more than it does now.
I am definetely biased to promoting iRacing, because this is why i mostly race. Does your favorite sim have other mechanisms that let drivers respect the consequences and consider their moves in a similar way? Are there other systems that will allow for respectful and close racing even on public lobbies? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to check out what you find exciting!