Community Question: What Is Your Opinion On Hotlapping?

Sim racing offers a plethora of ways to compete, and hotlapping is quite possibly the fastest way to get stuck in. However, some do not appreciate running for lap time by themselves - what is your stance on it?

Racing revolves around battling other cars on track to finish in the highest position, at least in most forms of circuit-based racing. Overtaking, defending your position, pushing other drivers to make mistakes under pressure - many sim racers enjoy these elements, as the countless ways to compete online show.

However, not everyone is fond of running online surrounded by other racers - and most titles' AI leaves a lot to be desired when racing offline. That does not mean that there is no way to compete with other humans, though. Most sims come with time trial modes that include online leaderboards. Everyone gets the same conditions, so times are easily comparable. You could argue that it is the purest form of measuring a driver's pace.

In fact, back when online races were hardly accessible to anyone, this is effectively how Grand Prix 2 leagues were run, for instance. Drivers would do their races offline, save the race and send over the save file via email (or even a floppy disk!) to the league organizer who would merge and calculate the final result of the race.

Grand Prix 2 Footwork San Marino.png

The Grand Prix 2 era had some hurdles when trying to compete with other drivers.

On the other hand, it seems like many online racers only practice tracks by hotlapping, all by themselves - and that sometimes shows in actual races. They may have grabbed pole position by quite a margin, but start struggling when racing in close quarters with other cars. For this reason, many look down on hotlapping.

Then again, hotlapping is a great way to familiarize yourself with a car and track combination, to find out where to gain (and lose) time, and how to be consistent. So it can be a good training tool for some.

Editor's Take​

For me, hotlapping is a mixed bag. Practicing with other cars surrounding you is always more helpful in my opinion, as this effectively forces you to try and find out where to brake when trying to overtake or defend, which corners work two-wide, or how to follow other cars.

However, this is not always going to be feasible. Despite many leagues or events running practice servers, there is no guarantee that you will run into other cars when you have an hour or so to practice. The session then becomes a hotlapping session by default.

And that can be a good thing, I think, mostly for the reasons stated above. Doing lap after lap builds confidence at a track, you can find out which setup adjustments you might want to make, and build muscle memory for a certain rhythm.


Admittedly, trying to get a hang of the Karussell at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife is certainly a lot easier when no other cars are around.

The one thing to avoid, in my opinion, is time trial modes that have fixed amounts of fuel and no tire wear, so no car progression. Running time trial laps for an hour means that unlike a "normal" one-hour session on your own, your car will not evolve due to tire wear and fuel burn, meaning it will feel much different compared to a run where these elements are a factor. Consequently, it will not help you to get a feel for a race stint as much as it could.

For competitive purposes, however, time trials can be quite fun. Battling a few friends for the fastest lap on the leaderboard is usually quite motivating and even addicting - as is chasing a world record, if that is within reach.

What is your take on hotlapping, though? Do you think it might strengthen unwanted habits? Do you believe it is a good base to dive into racing a certain car-track combo better? Let us know in the comments!
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


With the right grip profile hotlapping can be a lot of fun with strict cut tracks in place... Going against the clock trying to better my lines and set up can a quick 20 minute car try out and turn it into a 2 hour run...

When the grip comes in spades or the cut track are loose then I lose interest pretty quickly...

I'm also not fond of the strict conditions for most leaderboards with optimum grip on track... As that can make a saturated grip profile even worse to drive...
All of the negative comments seem to basically be "it can make you worse at actual racing". Which is a fair comment - but as the article states at the start, not everyone actually enjoys racing.

So, if you don't actually enjoy getting bumped off at the first corner / crashed into on the last corner / abused for no reason by angry children / stuttering, lagging gameplay and all else that online racing can provide then hot lapping can be one way to enjoy your sim. And if you've paid for it then you should be able to enjoy it as you see fit. If the game has Time Trial mode than the devs obviously thought it was worth the work to add it.

What the article doesn't mention is that leader boards do go down permanently (PC2) or go offline for long periods (AMS2), and sometimes get reset when the sim updates their physics model (also AMS2), which are more pertinent downsides than "driving on your own fails to teach you how to race with other cars". No ****, sherlock.

And getting WRs is great, regardless of the sim. I have a bunch, but then I generally only drive open-wheelers around the longer Nurburgring variations, which isn't a popular car / track choice! And it's 'only' AMS2 - but if it's that easy I expect to see loads of new names above mine on the boards shortly, proving the point :)
I've done some hotlapping at Laguna Seca in AC, often there's a few Hurricans/whatever there drifting (no not drift server) I'm aware of them and for the most part they're aware of me, and we each do our thing happily.
I've raced online with guys I didn't know and not having VR I don't know exactly where they are as I push into a corner/bend, this makes it difficult to race cleanly and and fast... it a can also cause problems if the other guy has VR and expects you to know what's going through her/his mind because, well obviously you have VR too yeah?
So instead I race against guys that I know, use their mirrors, and assume I'm doing the same, we don't make dives for the lead at any/every opportunity, if I/we make a mistake I/we expect to be passed and look for it coming.
I'd like to race against some of the guys here that have similar tastes in cars and racing outlook...
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I like lapping alone on track, but I rarely do it for laptimes. Only Raceroom competitions are those where I hotlap and do not race in the game.
In many games it's hard to get right the AI difficulty, so races can't be setup quickly.
In many games it's hard to get right the AI difficulty, so races can't be setup quickly.

This is generally why I end up hotlapping... Single player is just so lacklustre in 2024...

Racing against the AI takes so long to set up in modern jack of all trade sims... And then when you've finally found a lap time you find out how badly their physics are calibrated against the players physics... Trying to set up for a championship with the slider is a non-starter as well...
I often feel like I’m in a tiny minority of people who think “Why does everything always have to be a competition?” be that with other cars or just your own laptimes. For me, enjoyment is the prime motivator of why I drive on a computer. “Competition” or “challenge” can be enjoyable but they rank behind the enjoyment I get from simply driving fast cars fast. How far behind varies based on the car or track in question or even jut my mood at the time.

Additionally for me, the track can play a significant role. There are certain tracks that are enjoyable to drive but not so much to race other cars on. Conversely, I would say there are probably some tracks that people enjoy racing on, but may find relatively boring to drive around solo.
Hotlapping is zen.

A period of focus, clarity and connection, All other distractions removed, Just the car and the track, You can feel every movement of the car, the shifting of the weight, the tires screaming in pain as you brake into the corner.

lap after lap, comer after corner, each input being refined, Pushing there, pulling back there. All the time each lap is getting quicker and quicker, You can feel your pace is faster, your lines are cleaner, You are feeling the excitement of the ragged edge, but under your control. Only your inputs and senses matter.

Razor sharp focus.

Synergy achieved.

The final reward, Looking at the leader board and seeing yourself at position 1149 and 12 seconds off the pace.
Not a fan. Especially if it's used to help determine places in a racing competition. Because not everyone who has good racecraft has amazing one lap pace.

But those with incredible hotlapping abilities tend to not have the most amazing racecraft
That makes for a bit of a reverse grid situation in some respects, which honestly makes for some potentially very entertaining racing. Raw speed versus racecraft and strategy.
That makes for a bit of a reverse grid situation in some respects, which honestly makes for some potentially very entertaining racing. Raw speed versus racecraft and strategy.
It does in theory but I've seen it in execution. The drivers who qualified for the Olympics sim racing events in 2021 and 2023, the ones you rarely see in the GTWS were just poor in wheel-to-wheel situations.

Typically the drivers in the GTWS qualify by doing actual races. So that's why I've never been a fan of getting the drivers who are amazing over one lap to compete in a racing event like that.
Still get PTSD every time I see Silverstone - from hundreds and hundreds of laps in the 370Z during GT Academys. I hotlapped until I got in the top 1000 worldwide each year, good enough for me!
I think the name hotlapping covering all aspects of being on track by yourself is a bit misleading. Most of the practice that we do could be described as 'hotlapping' by the article.

Racecraft is developed in races and while you can with another willing person in a practice session have the odd battle it is not usually a constant thing.

So often you would be doing what the article describes as hotlapping. I consider hotlapping to be trying to get the fastest time lap after lap taking the ideal line. This is also great practice because you are often not in a position to overtake, maybe the gap is seconds to the car ahead but you are also trying to maintain or make a gap to the car behind. The reality is that most of your time racing will be like this so 'hotlapping' is something you should be good at so that you are not in a position of having to defend as well as giving you the opportunities to be able to get to the next car for the overtake.

Good defending and making an overtake are different things and will mostly be learned in races, not practice sessions.

You rarely see in real life practice sessions much racing, everyone is working on their own programs.
Another good thing is to practice all the lines that are not ideal, for when you do have to use them in traffic, you get more opportunity to do that by yourself - great if someone else is there but usually not. I dont consider that hotlapping but may be by the articles broad description.

It's a bit like fighting, you can train but its the real fights that prepare you for taking a punch. In racing, its the real racing that prepares you for racecraft.

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