Sim racing: perfectly equipped for a virtual race track

Breathtaking duels, spectacular passing maneuvers, taking curves at full throttle – if it sounds like a car race, that’s because it is. Everyone’s talking about sim racing, so we’ll tell you all you need to know about racing simulators.

“Sim racing is a good introduction to the world of motor sports.”

Alexander Sims BMW Formula E Driver

Sim racing, or simulation racing, is virtual car racing, in which a computer simulation on a PC or games console realistically simulates car racing. The right software and hardware are key – which is what we cover in this post.

The goals of sim racing

One thing sim racing is most assuredly not: mindless gaming. Virtual racing teaches players solid driving skills under hyper-realistic conditions. And you’ll have a lot of fun doing it. And nowadays the games have become so realistic that sim racing has practically become a training tool for race car drivers. And these pros have fun using it, too.

“The simulator is good for practicing consistency and precision. Top drivers don’t make mistakes.”

Timo Glock BMW DTM Factory Driver

What is the best racing game for sim racing?

If you ask sim racers what they think the best racing games for PC or game consoles are, you will get a wide range of answers. Every racer has their favorite. The only question then is: which simulator and which equipment should you buy? Below you’ll find an overview of the best-known sim racing options.

iRacing

iRacing simulators for Windows PCs are most often mentioned by racing pros as the best training option. It’s not surprising as iRacing provides an extremely realistic driving experience. The physics of driving, the courses, and the strictly regulated races against other drivers – it’s hard to imagine them being any more realistic than they are now. What makes iRacing different from other racing simulators is its memberships. A monthly subscription fee puts you in the virtual driver’s seat. For an additional one-time fee you can buy extra cars and courses.

“I decided to go with iRacing because it’s so realistic. I’ve been playing it for years. I really like the laser-scanned courses. You can see all the reference points, any imperfections in the road and everything around the track.”

Jesse Krohn BMW GTE Driver

Assetto Corsa

A good alternative to iRacing is Assetto Corsa for Windows PC, PlayStation and Xbox. The simulator has a realistic driving feel and a large range of driving classes. The PC version has free mods you can use for a variety of racing experiences. GT sports car fans will enjoy Assetto Corsa Competizione (only available on PC), which is geared to GT3 racing classes and exciting online races that can be driven against the computer.

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“iRacing is more expensive than other simulations. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for beginners because it’s a little too complex. Better choices would be RaceRoom, rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa.”

Martin Krönke Sim racing pro

rFactor

rFactor games and the next generation rFactor 2 for Windows PC are highly popular with sim pros, mainly due to their sophisticated car and tire physics. The software is practically perfect at simulating tread wear, physically accurate wear on the tires and tire temperatures. Another great feature of rFactor 2 is the changing track conditions. The game’s developers collaborated with BMW, so you can take the brand new BMW M2 CS out onto the virtual courses.

RaceRoom

Racing simulator RaceRoom was created by the developers from GTR 2, and is the most affordable way to get into sim racing because the basic version is free. Famous racing series such as DTM, WTCC or GT Masters are also available for purchase. The driving experience is realistic, but there are no game features that other simulations have such as rain or driving at night. Our rating: good for beginners.

“Every race car driver has a simulator at home.”

Martin Tomczyk BMW GTE Driver

Automobilista

Riding somewhat in the slipstream of the sim scene, racing simulator Automobilista isn’t much on visuals. Despite this, it’s still worth a try. The physics aren’t as detailed as in rFactor 2, but both the steering feedback and the changing track conditions are realistic enough. Automobilista 2, which will be completely revamped, is set to make its debut soon.

Gran Turismo Sport & Forza Motorsport 7

For those who prefer using a game console to race, the PS4 racing simulator Gran Turismo Sport is a good option. But for Xbox One users, Forza Motorsport 7 is the better choice. Both racing simulators have simplified driving physics, which makes them approachable for beginners. Gran Turismo focuses on seasonal online competitions including official FIA certification, while Forza Motorsport 7’s strong point is its extensive fleet, with over 700 cars to choose from.