Racing Vs Real Life Karting! Is Simulation Racing the New Grassroots?
Alan Dove investigates how the world of
online racing simulators could be eating into karting's traditional
markets. He speaks to the people behind the growth of sim racing,
people who have dropped karting for simulated races, and a real
high quality kart racer who has used simulators to make huge performance
gains on the real track!
has relied for many years on the basis that it is the 'grassroots'
of motorsport, and the best value for money when it comes to motor
racing. However there is a sleeping giant on the horizon that is
poised to strike - The world of racing simulators!
Racing simulators are becoming
ever more popular, and ever more realistic. I am not talking about
Gran Turismo, or Forza Motorsport here, I am talking about full
blown, hyper realistic driving simulations such as Live For Speed,
rFactor, NetKar Pro, KartSim, and Grand Prix Legends.
For a few hundred quid you can buy a decent
PC, a Force Feeback steering wheel, and a game such as Live For
Speed. The actual driving input is no different (That
includes clutch pedals, gear sticks etc...) to reality, and the
level of skill to be fast is just as high as real life. Bullshit
I hear you cry.... Carry on reading to see how I back that up!
Added to this you can race online against
real, highly skilled racers pretty much 24 hours day.
With ever growing leagues, and competitors, the 'sport' of online
racing is gaining more and more credibility every day.
Undoubtedly nothing comes close
to driving a real proper racing kart. Nothing! But as karting is
slowly declining, online racing is becoming ever more popular. The
interest in racing is still there, but it's be harnessed somewhere
else.... the virtual world.
Becky Rose is
part of the team that runs of the'Sim Touring Car Cup'. An ever growing popular
racing league that uses the Live For Speed simulation. The
STCC is one of the biggest online race leagues in the world and
broadcasts each race with over 100,000 people tuning in.
Also an ex-karter this is what she said on the matter -
'I discovered sim racing whilst
I was recovering from a car crash and could not race due to my injuries.
Since finding sim racing I've NOT returned to karting,
and there are a number of reasons for this.'
go karting is hugely expensive and results do not reflect
talent, but financial investment. Also karting suffers
from two issues based on the same problem, the average newcomer
is a dangerous liability on track, and it is simply impossible to
find the time to get a reasonable amount of track time to reflect
ones financial investment.'
I look back on my karting now I think my last new kart was a total
waste of time and money. I
enjoyed it, but my limited budget meant the few races I could do
over the years I ran the thing provided as much value for money
as a cup of tea at Harrods.'
the other hand sim racing solves the financial issues which in karting
are just getting worse and worse. You can get a middle of
the road PC for a few hundred pounds, a top of the range force feedback
wheel and pedal set in the guise of a Logitech G25 for £160,
and the simulation software costs £24. You've just
spent the cost of two engine rebuilds, and you're up and running
and racing with exactly the same car as the guy on pole without
any equipment discrepancy what so ever.'
sim racing is cheaper and, more importantly, it's financially viable
whereas karting stopped being accessible to normal people many years
ago. This means it solves
the next problem too, the racing is free so aside from the cost
of your home broadband connection which most of us will be paying
out anyway, there's no entry fees and you can - if you are mad enough
- do race after race for 24 hours a day without spending a penny
extra. The important thing here is track time, whereas in karting
I once broke 3 ribs tripping over a back marker who was not ready
for the race track, in sim racing new comers get the chance to practice
in public 'pickup' racing before entering a league race.
in general is where the best racing is to be had. Some
simulation software does not tie the owner of the game to their
online account meaning that 'wreckers' (usually young kids with
no understanding or even a care to understand anything about racing,
and who just want to 'test' the crashing physics) are prevalent,
and some haven't thought through the online race experience very
well - but in my sim of choice – Live For Speed -
I can log onto public servers and get dozens, literally dozens,
of high quality public races every night. What's more, this is licensed
racing. The Sim Racing Authority (the pick up and play sim
racing equivalent of the MSA) has around 10,000 drivers on it's
books from all over the world, and hosts hundreds of races every
racing isn't just a replacement for the grass roots of motor sport.
It also plays host to some fairly major international events.
The Sim Touring Car Cup began only last year but already broadcasts
to over 120,000 spectators a month. It is a sim touring
car league which uses 2.0 litre turbo charged saloon cars in a race
format designed for spectators, broadcasts are monthly and around
30-45 minutes long and distributed via movie downloads and popular
video streaming sites such as You Tube and Google Video. There are
late night television motor racing round up shows that would like
to have those kind of viewing figures, but the STCC is still growing!
It is now starting to attract a small number of sponsors so it probably
wont be long until we see professional sim racers.
Video - Round 7 Broadcast
of STCC Championship -
is struggling, the MSA is experiencing an ever dwindling membership
and the SRA continues to grow every week. Sadly every attempt
made by the SRA to negotiate with the MSA and also the FIA has so
far been met with total silence. I've written to several
different people in the MSA, and to the FIA secretariat once, in
all cases I just outlined who we are, what our figures are in order
that we not be dismissed out of hand as 'bedroom hackers',
and i've outlined my intended goal which was sanctioning of the
STCC broadcast league in particular, and discussing possibilities
regarding some of our other races.
appears to us here at the SRA that neither body is particularly
interested in sim racing and is acting somewhat dismissive.
Meanwhile over in America the National Auto Sport Association, one
of the big 3 race licencing bodies, has already fully embraced sim
on that is if they do not want us then they do not get us. We'll
just do our own thing and - to be honest - we're doing ok as things
So, Karting is ever searching
to be cheaper, and more accessible. But unfortunately for
kart racing, online race sims deliver on these criteria
better than karting ever can. Unless of course karts suddenly cost
£30 quid, and racing is free!
With the MSA, and FIA
seemingly out of touch with these new technologies, can
karting really afford to ignore sim racing and just hope it goes
away, and hope it doesn't have a real tangible effect? No of course
not, and the governing bodies need to act fast and harness the opportunities
online simming is providing. If you want to hunt for numbers, and
people who are interested in racing they are easy to find...they're
already racing online. Karting needs to exploit this opportunity
and provide a real step up from simming to the real thing.
Video - Taking sim racing
to the next level. The 301 Motion Platform using the Richard Burns
Rally Simulation -