What is sim-racing? | EarlyGame
Everything about the virtual motorsport

What is sim-racing?

Sim-Racing brings the real racing sport into the living room
Sim-Racing brings real racing into the living room. (Image credit: iRacing)

Motorsport events such as Formula 1, DTM, MotoGP or WRC thrill fans around the globe. Nowadays racing is also virtual: with so-called Sim-Racing. What does the term actually mean though?

Sim-Racing is the short form of "simulated racing" and describes a separate esports category. As the name suggests, this genre is all about reflecting real racing as accurately as possible - including possible variables such as fuel consumption, tire wear, and vehicle setup. Sometimes even the paths of sim racers and professional racers cross, like at the #RaceForGood charity event we've seen.

Race simulation against arcade racing game

Racing games are almost as old as video games themselves. Already in the 1970s, it was possible for the first time to hold races in front of the television at home. In the meantime, the genre has become so much more. Titles like the Gran Turismo series on PlayStation consoles, Forza Motorsport on Xbox, or Mario Kart on Nintendo consoles are absolute million-sellers.

The genre of racing games is divided into two main categories: Arcade racing games and racing simulations. With arcade racing games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Need for Speed Heat, the focus is on the fun of the game. There's power-ups, weapons, and/or incredible speeds.

The racing simulations are completely different as they are dedicated to the most realistic representation of real motorsports. Here, players usually compete with licensed racing cars on original race tracks to be the first to cross the finish line or to set the fastest time on the asphalt. Within racing simulations, the sub-genre of Sim Racing has been established, which pushes realism even higher.

The basics of Sim-Racing

Sim racing is all about simulating real racing in as much detail as possible. Amateurs and professionals don't compete with a controller, they usually drive with steering wheel and pedals. The simulation comes incredibly close to the real sport and inspires drivers and spectators alike. The drivers turn every screw to get the last hundredth of a second with the right car setup. At the same time, fuel consumption and tire wear have to be considered - just like in real sports.

There are a few hurdles involved in getting started in real racing. In order to follow in the footsteps of Schumi, Vettel, and Co, considerable financial resources are required. The start of a career is usually at a young age through karting. This mainly financial problem is much lower in Sim-Racing. All you need is a PC or a console and a racing simulation such as iRacing or Project Cars 2 and you are ready to go! Theoretically, even with controller or mouse and keyboard your own setup can then be easily extended and improved.

a professional Sim-Racing setup
This is what a professional Sim-Racing setup looks like. (Image credit: Thrustmaster)

Sim-Racing: The most important games

Similar to real motorsports, Sim-Racing has become broadly based, here are some of the most important representatives:

  • iRacing (PC): Perhaps the most famous racing simulation on PC. iRacing is an online racing game, bit by bit, players unlock licenses and compete in seasons against players from all over the world.
A race in the simulation iRacing. Perhaps the most important current Sim-Racing title
iRacing has become the most famous name in sim-racing. (Image credit: iRacing)
  • Assetto Corsa (PC, PS4, Xbox One): Assetto Corsa also focuses on providing a realistic racing experience and is one of the most influential sim racing games in recent years. Especially on the PC, there is now a huge amount of content created by fans, which significantly expands the scope. The indirect successor, Assetto Corsa Competizione, was released in May 2019 and will be released this year for PS4 and Xbox One.

  • Project Cars 2 (PC, PS4, Xbox One): Over 140 different tracks in 60 locations and 189 cars are among the perks of Project Cars 2, which has been nominated for several awards since its release in 2017. An integral part of some important esports events, the Sim even offers its own in-game racing license and its own minor and major events.
The racing simulation Project Cars 2
Project Cars 2 impresses with its incredible scope. (Image credit: Bandai Namco)
  • Gran Turismo Sport (PS4): The latest offshoot of the legendary Sim series for PlayStation consoles, dedicated to real racing cars. It offers an exciting newcomer and development program with GT Academy, combining Nissan and Sony Esports tournaments and a racing driver school.

  • Forza Motorsport 7 (PC, Xbox One): Forza has been one of the most influential console racing sims for years. While the series is much more entry-level than some of the competitors mentioned above, it also demands a lot from pros. With the Forza Racing Championship, the series has its own esports championship.

  • F1 2019 (PC, PS4, Xbox One): Formula 1 also gives full speed virtually. The racing simulation has been captivating for years with an almost perfect image of the real sport. This not only inspires racing game fans but even real racing drivers like Max Verstappen or Lando Norris, who use the Sim to prepare for their races or just have fun. With the F1 Esports Series, there is now even a professional Sim racing league of its own.

Fancy some more racing fun? You can find more on the topic in our new eRacing section.