There's more to sim racing than just putting your pedal to the metal and hoping for the best.
Just ask professional racing coach Scott Mansell, a former racing driver who's won numerous European championships, driven 25 different F1 cars and worked with brands such as Ferrari and Renault F1.
His company Driver61 helps racing drivers - including sim racers - fulfil their potential through online programmes and coaching. We were lucky enough to pick his brains on all things sim racing, ranging from the best sim racing setup, how sim racing compares with real-life and what his top tips are for starting out and getting up to speed!
How sim racing compares to real life
Sim racing is certainly a useful training tool to help bridge the gap to real world racing, and Scott believes the most transferable skills between the two is a driver's adaptability and knowing how to be fast.
"You have to feel and predict what’s going on on the track. What we teach drivers is how to figure out being fast, what to try, and which areas to manipulate," Scott tells RacingGames.GG.
"So many things are changing [throughout a race], like the circuit evolution or the tyres or the weight of the fuel. It’s a constantly changing environment, so you need to be adaptable.
"It’s not about knowing the individual tricks for each platform, it’s understanding how to adapt yourself to the platform. As a coach and someone who’s driven hundreds of different race cars, you develop this skill of being able to know what fast feels like, how to get there quickly, and how to extract the most speed from the car. It’s about figuring out how to be faster, it’s not about knowing a specific technique."
Which game is the most realistic for sim racers?
We all know that there are dozens of racing games and simulators out there to choose from on current platforms. But which game is the most realistic and the best experience for drivers?
Scott told us that the realism of a game's driving experience can depend on the track you're driving on, the car and the game's physics.
"The physics, depending on the cars, are very good and they’re certainly good enough to figure out and work on your technique and adaptability. It’s never going to be exactly the same, but these platforms are close enough for you to figure out what is fast and that can be transferred into anything."
Your kit, rig and setup
Thankfully, you don't have to spend a fortune on your racing wheel and pedals to get started in sim racing.
Scott uses a direct drive wheel and top-level pedals for sim racing. But he also claims that sim racing-extraordinaire and GT racer James Baldwin was just as capable racing in a £200 used rig.
Scott added: "It depends where you’re coming from. If you want to be fast in the sim then you can do it with affordable equipment - you just need to have the right technique and to be fast enough.
"I don't spend a massive amount of time in the sim, only for training for the real world, but I need the better stuff just so I can feel everything.
"The biggest thing for me is the pedals; I found the most time [on a lap] when I spent a bit more money on the pedals!"
Nailing your setup and getting all of the hardware working properly is one of Scott's main tips for starting out in the world of sim racing. In fact, his programme offers guides on how to setup the field of view, the steering wheel, and so on.
Track technique, vision & braking
Let's dive into the nitty gritty of track technique, which Scott says begins with your vision. This covers what you're seeing ahead of you and ultimately builds up the habit of looking towards the next corner.
Scott said: "Typically our driving vision is low-down, very close to the car, not very far in front and very narrow.
"In the first week of our training programme, we teach drivers how to look in the right area, bring their vision up and look through the corners. The difficulty is it’s a very natural thing to bring your vision down when you’re pumped up and racing, so it’s about building up the habit of looking in the right area."
Next is approaching a corner and adopting the right technique for braking and getting the feel of the car. Scott says that once you've adapted your vision, you’ll find that the car feels a lot more fluid going through the corner.
He added: "You’ll start looking a couple of seconds ahead of yourself and that means you have a much better picture of what’s coming up and you can be much more accurate.
"The car will be a lot more stable and smoother when it dives on the brakes and rolls into the corner. This then means that you can bring up the speed in the apex of the corner and get the car pushing closer to the limit."
One thing many aspiring sim racers struggle with is wheel-to-wheel racing and learning how keep calm when battling an opponent for position.
Race craft preparation is something Scott's academy prepares sim racers for, and the main thing is learning how to get used to be off the racing line.
Scott said: "There are a couple of problems that you need to overcome when you're racing hard with an opponent. There's the red mist and the excitement of trying to beat whoever you’re racing against, so you need to get used to cars moving around you.
"You also need to get used to being off-line. Whether you’re defending and someone is trying to get around the outside of you, or if you’re attacking and you’re on the inside of an opponent. You have to get used to being in the wrong position on the track."
Driving first, then setup
Having the best setup for your car to match a specific track is something many sim racers strive for. But Scott believes jumping into the complexities of a setup is nothing if you haven't honed your driving skills and technique first.
He said: "You still need to have the ability to assess what's going on with your specific car and specific driving technique in those conditions. There's so many variables when you're out on the track. There isn't one perfect setup.
"Drivers need to understand that their technique needs to be good, and then on top of that you need the capacity to understand where you car is limited and where your driving is limited. Then, once you've got that, you can look for patterns on the whole lap and decide on which setup changes you want to make."
That’s an important tip for everyone, regardless of the game, to understand.
In the end, there is no magic bullet or shortcut to being fast, but through some hard work and the expertise of Driver61, you can unlock your potential in sim racing!
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