Jamie Fluke: How do esports drivers adapt to different sims?
Assetto Corsa CompetizioneiRacingrFactor 2

Jamie Fluke: How do esports drivers adapt to different sims?

After competing on three different sims in the Esports Racing World Cup, Apex Racing Team’s Jamie Fluke was kind enough to answer some questions we had about competing on iRacing, rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione.

Image credit: Apex Racing Team

In January, the first ever Esports Racing World Cup was held and it saw drivers from 22 teams compete on three different racing simulation games. It proved to be the ultimate test of which team had the most versatile and capable set of drivers, and in the end it was who came out on top after placing third on ACC and winning on both rFactor 2 and iRacing.

On the third and last day, Redline went up against Apex Racing Team on iRacing and they put up a good fight in the final. Apex have historically speaking always been an iRacing-aligned team. They won the Dallara iRacing Grand Prix World Championship last year with their driver Peter Berryman, and recently also won the Daytona 24 hours iRacing Special Event the week before the ERWC.

Apex finished seventh overall in the ERWC, bolstered immensely by finishing second in the iRacing leg of the competition after ending up 13th on ACC and 12th on rFactor 2. They clearly showed their strength in the simulator they specialise in, which is what the ERWC is all about; finding the teams and drivers who can be the quickest across all three simulators.

During the competition, many drivers took on the responsibility of racing on all three. Such examples include of Erhan Jajovski of R8G, BS+COMEPTITION’s Jarl Teiein and perhaps most prominently, Redline’s Enzo Bonito who was the most successful driver who competed on all three days.

When it came to the Most Valuable Driver award – where the driver with the most podiums across all three days got a bit of extra money – Bonito ended up tying with Redline teammate Kevin Siggy and Veloce driver James Baldwin. They all earned six podiums apiece despite Siggy and Baldwin only racing on the first two days, which just proves how tricky it is to adapt across multiple sims.

Help from an expert

When it comes to finding out about driving on all three simulators, one of Apex’s drivers who did just that seemed to be the most fitting to ask about it. Jamie Fluke offered his insight on how a professional esports driver has to diversify, leave their comfort zone and compete on multiple different sims.

OverTake: Now it’s been a couple of weeks since ERWC, how do you look back on how the event went over all three platforms?

Jamie Fluke:

I thought it was a pretty good success. I never had any experience in a major event on ACC so it went quite smoothly, the day on rFactor was a little more fraught with issues like with servers.

One of the issues with rFactor is that the online racing can have a lot of lag so it can be troublesome but we got through it fine. Then of course, the iRacing one went very well, no surprise since it’s the one we did the best in.

OverTake: What has been your personal relationship with all three sims?

Jamie Fluke:

I had zero experience of ACC and rFactor 2 until the week before the event, so I had to quite frantically learn both of those sims in double quick time. Obviously, Apex Racing Team have quite the extensive background in iRacing, we’re very much an iRacing team so we kind of just banked all of our experience and knowledge on that and put our full concentration on the other two.

I actually quite enjoyed learning ACC, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 we drove was a fun car to drive, plus the tracks hold up well and graphically it looks great, I thoroughly enjoyed it. rFactor 2, the Formula Pro was a very difficult car to drive so getting up to speed with it was quite tricky, I still don’t think I managed to get there but we did the best that we could with the time and experience that we had.

Finally, the Holden Supercar for iRacing was such a fun car to drive, so difficult, you have to be careful with how the car handles. Especially since we raced on Okayama which is a track that has very little grip so we were very much driving on our fingertips. ACC was perhaps the most balanced, you can push and feel what the car is doing, rFactor 2 it’s tough to sort of feel what’s going on a lot of the time and iRacing you drive with minute details with your inputs.

OverTake: What are some aspects about all three titles that make them different to race on?

Jamie Fluke:

I think the main difference is the technique required to be quick on each sim. Racing is racing of course, regardless of car, track and sim it’s all the same, translates across everything. When it comes to driving, it largely comes down to the brakes, in ACC you can kind of just mash the brake pedal and the car will pull up fine, in rFactor 2 it’s somewhat the same but with iRacing again you have to be so careful on the brakes because it’s so easy to just lock a tyre.

With rFactor 2 you feel like you have to really overdrive the car to get speed out of it and ACC is again similar as well to rFactor in that regard, again I didn’t get on top of everything with that. On iRacing you very much have to stay under the limit to get the speed out of it, you can’t really push the limits of the tyre too much. So adapting between all three is difficult enough, there are noteable differences in how each sim handles how you’re supposed to go quickly.

OverTake: Being primarily an iRacing team and seeing you compete on all three, what were the difficulties you faced when transferring to each sim?

Jamie Fluke:

It’s a lot of just rewiring your brain in how to drive a certain way, especially with the fact that I only really had experience in iRacing leading up to this point. Getting used to training your brain to think “I need to hit the brake this way, apply the throttle this way, I need to apply extra steering angle, more so than I would do normally”.

Just little things like that which means you aren’t driving on your natural instinct, you sort of have to think about everything you’re doing, until you are like four or five hours into the day of practice and racing, then it starts to become a bit more natural. Because the sims are quite different to drive, it does take a bit of time to adapt whenever we started the next day of racing, it was like “Alright I need to forget what I had to do yesterday and start all over again” and it did take a bit of time to get back up to speed.

OverTake: How important is it that drivers and teams compete across various racing games?

Jamie Fluke:

I do think it is quite important, sim racing as a whole is expanding at a rapid rate and not everything is going to remain on one platform. From what I can see and where the industry is going, there’s going to be so many competitions available to us pretty much at all times that we need to be able to transfer from one sim to the next and to do it quickly as well, we need to be on top of it across the board.

You never know when something might happen with a sim hosting a big competition, that could fall by the wayside and you need to look at the next thing to compete in and to be strong in. We (Apex) do want to expand into other competitions, hopefully rise and remain at the top of the industry.

OverTake: Heading into the first round of ERL, what are you hoping can be applied after your experience in the ERWC?

Jamie Fluke:

Well we’ve sort of got the teething issues in terms of getting set up with the other two sims out of the way and we can then focus on being a little bit more productive in our preperations, getting everyone up to speed on the sim.

ERWC ultimately for us was a bit of a case of us dipping our toes in the water, just sort of to see where we were, what we needed to do to improve because we didn’t have the experience on the other sims like many of the other teams do. We sort of knew going in for the ACC and rFactor 2 side of things that we weren’t going to be incredibly competitive as long as we weren’t like two or more seconds off the pace then we could treat it as a baseline.

Ultimately we were between 0.5-0.75 seconds off the pace on those two platforms which given our prep was fine. With a bit more time to prepare, hopefully we can be a little bit more competitive.

Sim racers who have to juggle between different games whether they be top line simulators like iRacing or even less hardcore simulation titles like the Codemasters F1 games deserve a lot of respect. The Esports Racing World Cup has proven that being quick on multiple titles is the direction esports racing is going and it may not be enough to just compete on the one game.

The first round of the VCO Esports Racing League Spring Cup takes place 9 March, it will be held on Assetto Corsa Competizione and each round is separated by two weeks on a different platform.

What are some differences you notice when driving on different sims? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

Luca
Biggest esports racing fan in the world.