6 Takeaways From Properly Trying Sim Racing in VR

Sim-racing-vr-takeaways-porsche-962c-monza-1991-ams2-1024x576.jpg
Sim racing in VR is likely the most immersive experience you can get in a virtual car. RaceDepartment editor Yannik recently got to hit the digital track in Virtual Reality properly for the first time - here are his key takeaways.

Sim racing in VR - it hardly gets any better than this, if you believe the amount of "no VR, no buy" comments regarding certain titles. I never quite understood this notion - sure, VR is cool, but does it really add that much? Well, it took me a while to find out for myself after lacking the hardware to run VR properly for the longest time.

But as always in sim racing, your spending hand starts to itch sometimes. And in this case, it did so regarding a VR headset. The idea of basically sitting in a race car in 3D and being able to look around like you were actually there was just too intriguing. After all, basically all 10-year-old me ever dreamt of was to sit in a late 1990s, early 2000s F1 car.

Doing so in VR finally gave me an idea of what this must be like - namely unimaginably awesome! But we shall get to that again a bit later. After getting some serious run time with in VR under my belt, let's dive into the list of key takeaways for sim racing in VR.

1 - Newer Does Not Always Mean Better​

Many VR headsets these days come with standalone capabilities, meaning you can play games or use apps with them even when they are not connected to a PC. Having the option to do so is great, but many newer models also only feature connectivity via USB-C in addition to their wireless connection capabilities.

It may be worth looking at their predecessors as a result - if they feature a dedicated Display Port connection. This is due to a simple reason: Via a DP connection, the headset can directly use the signal coming from your GPU. Using the USB-C connection, the image needs to be compressed by your PC, then decompressed by the headset itself, using more resources. It is also possible that you get a nicer image out of the older tech that uses a DP connection.

Of course, this is not universal. Newer headsets that you hook up to your PC via USB-C get a lot of praise, too. So this is not be-all, end-all advice, but rather something to take into consideration. Every hardware setup is different, after all. DP connections also result in lower latencies, which can be beneficial for sim racing in VR.


2 – Settings Tinkering Is Time Well Spent​

Getting things set up for sim racing can take a little while. VR is, of course, rather resource hungry. This means that on most systems, you will have to turn down some of your favorite graphics settings in order to have a smooth experience.

A smooth framerate – 90 fps seems to be the most common number to shoot for – is not only good for immersion, but also puts less of a strain on your eyes. Meanwhile, the other main element is clarity. Usually, this can be achieved by upscaling the resolution of your headset. You may need to turn down further graphics settings then, but your eyes will thank you.

To find the sweet spot where everything is running well and without fps dips, you will need some time. Once everything is running and you simply have to hop in your rig, strap on the VR headset and head to the track, you will be happy you went through this process.

3 – Prototype Cockpits Are Tiny​

Remember the Big Boi M8 memes from a few years ago? The BMW M8 GTE was significantly bigger than all of its competitors and absolutely towered over the prototypes, which got taken to the extreme by racing fans in rather hilarious fashion.


It is no secret that prototype race cars are relatively small and look bigger on TV (until you see a GT car next to them, that is). Even knowing this and having seen a Porsche 919 LMP1 in person, I was very surprised just how little room a modern prototype’s cockpit offers.

Jumping in an LMDh car in VR for the first time was astonishing. The cockpit is extremely cramped, which becomes very apparent when you look around. Even the slightly roomier Group C Porsche 962C is not exactly big. Having the cars in front of you in the size they actually are will likely change your perception of them.

4 – Open Wheelers Are An Entirely Different Experience When Sim Racing In VR​

Running an open-wheel car like an F1 racer or an IndyCar is good fun. On an ultrawide screen or a triple-screen setup, you can easily see the apex and position your car accordingly. Hopping into one of these rocketships in VR is an entirely different experience, though.

Sim-racing-vr-takeaways-formula-usa-gen2-road-america-ams2-2-1536x643.jpg

Look at me mom, I am Adrián Fernández in 1998!

With the added depth perception, it feels much more natural to position your inside tire as close to the apex as possible. You can look around in the car and see what is going on around you much better – and being able to use the mirrors properly adds a lot to the experience.

Plus, there is the view you get when exiting the car. It feels like you are actually in one of these high-performance, carbon-fiber-tub based monoposti. 10-year-old me would probably have fainted with how impossible something like this seemed back in 2001.

5 – Sim Racing In VR Changes How You Drive​

Admittedly, this only applies if you switch off certain HUD elements in VR. On a screen, I am used to using the virtual mirror due to the wing mirrors usually being out of sight. A quick glance upwards before a braking zone is usually enough to tell me what is happening around my car.

Using the actual mirrors when running in VR requires some adjustment, though. You need to look to either side of your car, check the mirror, then look at the corner you are trying to make again. For open wheelers, this is easy, as the mirrors are conveniently placed. But try running a race in a Porsche 962C that has its mirrors high up on the A-pillar – that will change how you approach a corner.

Sim-racing-vr-takeaways-porsche-962c-monza-1991-ams2-2-1536x643.jpg

Not pictured due to their inconvenient location: The Porsche 962C’s wing mirrors.

Also, not looking straight ahead all the time like you would on a screen makes a lot of difference as well. Looking to the left or right to see if your opponent is still there is a vastly different experience compared to simply relying on a spotter and radar – and very immersive. This capability also helps to see oncoming traffic when trying to rejoin after a spin. Not that I ever put that to the test…

6 – PC Hardware Has Some Catching-up To Do​

Anyone who has heard of sim racing in VR will know that it is hardware hungry, as we touched upon earlier. What is remarkable, though, is the fact that even on a high-end GPU like an RTX 4080, it is impossible to crank up all the graphics settings and go like you probably would on a single-screen setup. That is even true in arguably the VR-friendliest recent sim, Automobilista 2.

It makes sense, of course. Say you are running a 21:9 screen at a resolution of 3440 by 1440 pixels and you switch to a decent, but not high-end VR headset. That means that all of a sudden, your GPU needs to handle two tiny 4K displays at once – that will take a toll on peformance.

With newer generations of GPUs arriving, this will likely become less and less of a problem in upcoming years. But until then, this also raises the bar for entry into the world of sim racing in VR considerably, as many middle-of-the-road setups might struggle to provide a great experience.

What are your thoughts on sim racing in VR? Got any tips and tricks up your sleeves? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

Asus Zephyrus G14, AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS, Nvidia RTX 4060, 32RAM DDR 5, VR Oculus 2. The Oculus 2 has a slightly reduced sharpness (The blurriness came from the pancake-type lenses. In order to see clearly, I had to look through the lowest part of the lens.), yet the overall experience is extreme. There is a loss in letter clarity, but this does not affect the perception of proximity and depth. Automobilista 2 operates smoothly and without interruptions, and I use it in a range of 72 to 90 Hz via WiFi 6E Router and the app Virtual Desktop for Meta. No USB-C or DP.

I have tested ACC, iRacing, and F1 2023. Automobilista 2 has the best VR system I've seen. Light years ahead of other simulators. Without a doubt, the guys at Reiza have created a gem that, if they don't rest on their laurels... will be the standard to follow.

BUT.... I’ve stepped back from the VR world until a device that looks like a simple pair of glasses becomes available. The pain in my eyes and face made me give up on VR. The experience is good in terms of immersion. But the physical pain of carrying weight on the head becomes unbearable after 20 minutes. In 5 or 8 years more... I will be back at the VR World. Not today or the next year! VR technology is far from be ready yet!
 
Last edited:
OverTake
Premium
Which VR headset did you try in this article as couldn’t see it Listed?
Grabbed a Pico Neo 3 Link, which, I feel, punches above its weight on a DP connection. Definitely not the most technologically-advanced piece of kit, but pretty good to start out with I feel like.
did you experience of the physical setbacks people have complained about?
Luckily, I did not. Even did a 90‐minute league race with it a few days after getting it set up and was fine, except for my eyes being more strained than usual. Bit risky with points on the line, but I really wanted to find out if I would be fine in longer sessions :)
 
To your points 123456, all I have to say is yes,yes,yes,yes,yes,yes.
I have switched to 99% VR a few years back, and I am firmly in the no VR no Interest camp.
Some will come in the thread with the eternal “tried it but it makes me sick” I am sad for them, but also would advice to maybe give it an other chance with proper hardware, as earlier, unstable systems where not helping the faint of hart. VR for SIM racing is just too good to miss on.
Like you said, an open wheeler without VR, is just a pale image of what it can be.
 
Last edited:
I got a VR headset back in August and September, and wow, I don't want to go back to sim racing and flight simming without VR. I felt more like I was inside the game in simulations, than in other VR games.

Hopefully they keep improving the tech and 10 years from now it will be more comfortable and less of a hassle to use than it is now.
 
Glad to see the appreciation for immersion. It's amazing how being "in" the cockpit can change the experience whether it's the claustrophobia of a tiny interior, the sense of speed or naturally turning your head and gaze to catch an opponent alongside or look deep into an upcoming turn. In experiences like AC CSP and AMS2 the little stuff like "real" mirrors that react to your viewing angle go a very long way in selling and enhancing the experience.

Still plenty of improvement to be had in the VR realm but after finally upgrading a 7 year old Vive to a high res Vive Pro 2, I haven't bothered with keeping a monitor integrated with the rig. I can certainly see the downsides for some folks though, especially those who do multi-hour stints in online endurance races. I am about at my own limits after a 2 hour singleplayer session and I'm a salty, seasoned and stubborn VR advocate.
 
Last edited:
Premium
Been racing in VR pretty much since I started a couple of years ago. It's been amazing. I can't even look at iRacing on a flatscreen without vomiting, but in VR it looks...ok.
But AMS2 - oh my lord that is a feast for the eyes in VR. And AC. Even RF2 can look amazing in VR with the newer content. I have an ultrawide monitor, it was quite expensive, but I use it for work and non sim racing gaming. I just can't go back to flatscreen racing, even if VR does make me sweaty and leave an embarrassing red line around my face sometimes. Currently using a Pimax crystal, which is a real privilege tbh, and it has the added bonus of giving me huge neck muscles.
 
I love VR as much as the next guy but only time will tell for you young guyz whats the side effect of 90% usage VR in simracing, the way my eyes fail to me atm ( im 53 ) makes me use VR like 1% of the time if at all... even with prescription lenses. So i end up spending most of my time with my G9 57" and love it ... have an HTC vive,Quest 2 and Pico 4 but ... its mostly to impress friends that come over and never did it :p
 
My biggest issue is the motion sickness. More than 10 minutes and I am feeling very bad. Even worse with 3 dimensions of movement in flight and space sims.
This is with the Oculus Rift, maybe newer tech would help.
 
Last edited:
I love VR as much as the next guy but only time will tell for you young guyz whats the side effect of 90% usage VR in simracing, the way my eyes fail to me atm ( im 53 ) makes me use VR like 1% of the time if at all... even with prescription lenses. So i end up spending most of my time with my G9 57" and love it ... have an HTC vive,Quest 2 and Pico 4 but ... its mostly to impress friends that come over and never did it :p
According to what I read so far and the logic I understand, VR should actually be better for your eyes then any kind of monitor (or book or newspaper for that matter), because the point your eyes are focusing on is actually (well virtually) 4m away, so it is less strain for the eyes in comparison to being in front of a monitor ~50cm away, which induces a lot more presbyopia.

I think some people have some kind of negative placebo and just think it is more strain on the eye because they assume so, but if they'd just relax it would be easier. I don't have VR anymore but used to own a Oculus 1 and Reverb G2 and never had a problem with my eyes, even in lengthy sessions. On a long working day in front of the monitor, I definitely do.

Obviously you really have to have your VR headset perfectly set up in terms of sweetspot, as soon as you are out of focus only a slight bit or have only minimal double vision, it is indeed a lot more strain for your eyes and even more though for your brain.
 
It really gives you a sense of the car and it's quirks. With the new GT2 pack I was sitting in cars giving out about the placement of an A pillar or the height of a seat. You can kind of work around those kind of issues on a screen, in VR you have to live with them.
 
According to what I read so far and the logic I understand, VR should actually be better for your eyes then any kind of monitor (or book or newspaper for that matter), because the point your eyes are focusing on is actually (well virtually) 4m away, so it is less strain for the eyes in comparison to being in front of a monitor ~50cm away, which induces a lot more presbyopia.

I think some people have some kind of negative placebo and just think it is more strain on the eye because they assume so, but if they'd just relax it would be easier. I don't have VR anymore but used to own a Oculus 1 and Reverb G2 and never had a problem with my eyes, even in lengthy sessions. On a long working day in front of the monitor, I definitely do.

Obviously you really have to have your VR headset perfectly set up in terms of sweetspot, as soon as you are out of focus only a slight bit or have only minimal double vision, it is indeed a lot more strain for your eyes and even more though for your brain.
I have the dry eye syndrome, somehow with VR it causes discomfort much faster ... and believe me its not placebo, i really would love to be able to use it much more then i do :/
 
Last edited:
My biggest issue is the motion sickness. More than 10 minutes and I am feeling very bad. Even worse with 3 dimensions of movement in flight and space sims.
This is with the Oculus Rift, maybe newer tech would help.
Nothing you can do there but practise unfortunately. While there are some functions for racing sims like lock horizon or first person games like vignette, there is no such thing for a flight/space sim, here you just have to get the VR gut, similarly like you'd have to get it for real life activities that have a lot of 6DOF vision changes.
I know this from trampolin jumping and paragliding. Doing somersaults or spins/spirals/barrell rolls with my gliders, I get really sick really fast when I don't take it slow at the beginning. It was the same especially in flight sim VR. In the beginning I got sick after 5 min.. I just pushed through, tried several times for months, drinking a lot of ginger tea and gradually getting longer sessions, after roughly 2 months the motion sickness was pretty much gone, even after 2 hours of flying. Question is whether one wants to push through this or not.
I have the dry eye syndrome, somehow with VR it causes discomfort much faster ...
Ah shame, I am sorry to hear that. I can understand that, I think the eyes really dry up faster inside that device, I also noticed that. Might have to do with the missing ventilation.. definitely do not want to advocate wearing VR too much, but I guess for normal, healthy eyes 1-2hours a day are not worse then a monitor.
 
Premium
My biggest issue is the motion sickness. More than 10 minutes and I am feeling very bad. Even worse with 3 dimensions of movement in flight and space sims.
This is with the Oculus Rift, maybe newer tech would help.
Newer tech might help but try it first if you can.

Before getting a Quest 3 when it came out my only experience of VR was the original Playstation VR and the few racing games in that made me sick as dog for hours. I'd never had a problem with flat screen first person stuff before or any other kind of real world motion sickness.

With the Quest 3 (and a PC that can put out a decent frame rate) it's a completely different ball game I can sit there for 2 or 3 hours no issues.

Hopefully you can get a chance to try it with some newer kit.
 

Latest News

Article information

Author
Yannik Haustein
Article read time
6 min read
Views
10,993
Comments
148
Last update
Back
Top