Racing simulators

Nothing beats driving a real car on a real track, but lets be honest: owning and running a tracktool is expensive, and most of us don’t have a race track in their backyard. So what can you do to get your track fix when a real track is not an option? A video game is your best bet. With the computing power that is available now and innovations such as laserscanning of race tracks, the current generation of racing simulations gets you pretty close to experiencing the real thing.

Steering wheel

If you want to enjoy Sim Racing, forget keyboards and game controllers – a force feedback steering wheel is a must. The three companies that matter here are Logitech, Thrustmaster, and Fanatec. Most models are modular, allowing you to pick different wheels, pedals, shifters, and other upgrades such as shift lights and handbrakes. Other add-ons such as race seats and screen mounts can be had, too, and you can easily spend upward of 1,000 €/$/£ if you want to.

If you’re on a budget or want to try Sim Racing first before going all-in, the Logitech Driving Force GT can be had used for cheap and works on both PC and PlayStation 3/4.

iRacing

iRacing has been synonymous with Sim Racing for quite some time.  A disadvantage is the relatively expensive subscription model. Not only do you have a monthly fee, you also have to pay for new cars and tracks. It’s difficult, too – even when I felt that I was on the absolute limit, I initially was still 10% slower than the fastest drivers. Practising is a necessity. On the upside, there’s a very large number of tracks and besides road racing there’s also oval, dirt track and dirt oval racing, and trying the game is easily done with a one-month subscription. The safety rating/iRating system is second to none. If you want to race against real people, iRacing is still the way to go.

Assetto Corsa

Assetto Corsa is a bit more on the game side. It features quite a number of road cars and is geared more towards solo play, including a career mode. There is a sim racing module that is recommended if you want to play against humans. On slower systems, AC looks a bit better than iRacing. The laserscanned tracks appear very realistic. I also like the physics model – you can clearly feel the difference between a road and a race car, and cars are pretty easy to drive on the limit with oversteer that can be controlled. The track selection is somewhat limited, I especially miss some of the classic challenging tracks in the US and England.

Project Cars 2

Project Cars 2 does several things right. There is a large number of cars and a decent selection of tracks. There’s an immersive career mode that lets you pick a race series to start in and progress from there. But the physics are a different story. Some cars are very difficult to drive on the limit, as there will be sudden snap oversteer that is impossible to catch and correct. And there’s not much fun to be had when you start your career in the Clio Cup and find yourself facing sidewards every second turn. This was less of an issue with some of the rear-wheel drive cars I tried.

rFactor 2

rFactor 2 to me feels more like a sandbox for plugin development than a full game. The interface is very basic. The number of cars and tracks is quite limited. The graphics are Ok but not special, at least not at the settings for my laptop. The physics on the other hand feel quite good – less gamey than Assetto Corsa, but more controllable than Project Cars 2. Definitely a game with potential, but wanting for more content.

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