How To Mentally Prepare To Race Online

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Over the last few years, largely inspired by the rising level of interest in esports and the lack of real world motorsport action during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people took the plunge into the world of sim racing.

With the initial construction of their rigs and the installation of their chosen sim under their belts, they began to experience the thrill of driving a car on the edge from the comfort of their own home.

Many took the opportunity to drive a car they always dreamed of driving, while others saw it as a valuable opportunity to keep themselves fresh while they were unable to test their own cars in the real world.

What started off as a few laps by themselves on track to get up to speed turned into some offline races against the AI controlled cars. However, few seem to have made the jump into the online world of racing against human opponents, which is a massive shame.

But why is this? What hurdles would there be to prevent people from venturing online?

Well, there are in fact many reasons why this may be the case. These can include a lack of confidence in racing against other sim racers, being worried about ruining another drivers' race through an on-track incident, or simply not having a stable enough internet connection.

So, in order to break down some of these fears and help more sim racers to progress into the world of online multiplayer racing, let’s take a look at how you can prepare to take your skills online and enter your first race.

The Mental Game​

To start off, we are going to forget about the actual driving and take a look at what you can do mentally.

If you find the thought of entering an online race intimidating, you are not likely to ever find yourself on the grid.

The first thing to do, if you feel this way, is to figure out what it is that you find intimidating in the first place. This can be any number of things, but here are a few examples:
  • I may be embarrassingly slow
  • Someone might get angry if I crash into them
  • I will be upset if I don’t win
  • I don’t know what to do to sign up and race
If some of these examples sound familiar to you, then don’t worry, you are not the only one to ever feel this way. There are many who have felt this before. In fact, some of those racing online may still feel this way when they enter a race!

So, what can you do to overcome these fears? Let’s go through these examples above.

What if I am really slow?​

Are you worried that you are going to be outrageously slow compared to everyone else, or that you are going to end up being lapped by most of the field?

Although this may not actually be the case, this is a completely natural feeling to have, so don’t worry. However, the truth is, it really doesn’t matter.

Every single person who races online has a different level of ability. Yes, there are some very quick drivers out there, but there are plenty more who are much slower. It is what makes the racing more interesting.

You also have to remember that there is a wide range of experience on every single grid. Some drivers have been sim racing for years, while others have only just started out.

Nobody is expecting a brand new driver to be leading the field into turn 1 or cruising to the victory by over half a minute. It is the same reason they don’t ask you to perform heel-and-toe downshifting flawlessly as part of your road driving test, it just isn’t expected!

You have to be prepared to accept that, no matter your level of experience, there is always going to be someone out there who is quicker than you. This is even the case at the very top levels of competitive Esports.

It is a fact of life that everyone is going to have a different level of skill to everyone else. If we were all blisteringly fast with not even a sniff of a mistake, then the racing would be extremely boring with no overtaking or action. It is the variety of abilities in a field of drivers that makes racing so exciting.

What if I crash and make someone angry?​

If this sounds familiar, the first thing to do is to accept that accidents happen in motor racing. That is just part of the sport. Indeed, some say that if you don’t crash then you aren’t trying hard enough or that you will never learn anything.

In order to attempt to avoid this situation arising in the first place, the best thing to do is to turn some laps in the particular car and track combo of the race you want to enter.

This will help you to avoid missed braking points or overambitious corner speeds in an online lobby, which can lead to some rather unpleasant situations.

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With the car and track combination fresh in your mind, you will be better prepared to join those other sim racers online.

At this point it is worth mentioning that despite your best efforts and many hours of practice, accidents can and will still happen.

If you do, unfortunately, end up in an altercation with another driver, try to stay calm. Don’t get caught up in heated conversations or any form of retaliation. This will only serve to make your online experience worse and cause you to stay away in the future.

I only want to win​

Let’s be honest, those who love racing are also rather competitive. In most cases, these individuals are there to win. But the reality is, you simply cannot win them all. That is one of the main reasons we keep coming back for more!

The thrill of racing against multiple opponents and coming out victorious is highly contagious. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to be on the top step of the podium to feel like a winner. More often than not, you will end up having a good, close race with at least one other driver. You may even swap places throughout the duration of the race.

When you eventually reach the finish line, regardless of whether you beat them there or not, that feeling of closely matched competition is equally as satisfying as taking a race victory. So, rather than focussing solely on the overall race win, take the time to enjoy the pleasure of having a great race, no matter where in the field you are.

I don’t know how to sign up for a race​

In the early stages of your online career, it can be incredibly confusing to find a place to race, let alone how to enter.

Luckily, there are some very simple ways that you can join a like minded group of sim racers online right here on RaceDepartment!

The first thing to do, once you are a premium member, is jump into the Racing Club forums and find the dedicated area for your chosen sim. From there, you will see a Racing Club section where social and friendly races are organised for:
Simply choose which of the races you would like to join and click on the thread. Once you have read the information about the event, all you need to do is reply with the requested information and you are all signed up

Alternatively, you can sign up to race on the Simracing.GP platform. Here you can select a community that you would like to join and see all the races that you can enter, all in just a few mouse clicks.

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So there you have it. That’s how you can prepare yourself mentally to join the sim racing community online and begin your journey towards an enjoyable racing experience.

The main thing to remember is to not take it too seriously to begin with and just focus on having fun with a group of like minded individuals. Though you may get nervous when you go to the grid for the first time, I can assure you that once that race starts, there will be no looking back.
About author
Phil Rose
A passionate sim racer with over 20 years of virtual and real world motorsport experience, I am the owner and lead content creator at Sim Racing Bible as well as a writer here at RaceDepartment. I love all forms of motorsport, especially historic motorsport, but when it comes to sim racing, I will drive anything!


If you really consider to "prepare" for a leisure time activity, better stop immediately, because you're taking the game far to serious.
I know many people who will spend a good chunk of time learning a car/track combination, preparing a setup, making sure they're in the right mindstate to drive. It's not cheap to race in person, or not possible during all of the year, so it's fun to mimic the effort of doing a proper race.

If I wanted something more casual, I'd just hop into iRacing for some quick events or choose to do some singleplayer stuff like AI races and hotlapping.
If you really consider to "prepare" for a leisure time activity, better stop immediately, because you're taking the game far to serious.
You seem to have missed the premise - and you literally have to be prepared in some way for anything you do in life, the only difference is the level that is needed to start.

Good article. I would add that the "crashing into things" fear should not only be adressed by car/track practice but some AI races to gain some sort of understanding of how to fight for position. Only treat AI as they were human. Actually taught me a lot in the beginnning and I turned out to be quite a clean driver from the get go.
Thank you for this, Phil ! .. :thumbsup:
I'm seeing, at least fifteen pages of
truthful telling, about the innards
and outwards of Racer's most secret doings and feelings, here. !
I lift my hat in your direction. :)
Later.. Pp
> I'll give McClutch five pedals,
for the first post, above. Thanks. <
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Nice one phil, my own experience is that I've been sim racing on pc for about 10 years and I'm the official Race Department Snail and I get lapped most races but I don't care!!!! to me it's about the enjoyment of taking part and having banter in discord with my fellow racers. Most of the drivers know what they get with me and are used to the way I drive and it's all good. I always try to do some practice for whatever race I'm doing so at least I know which way round to drive. I very rarely have or cause accidents unless it's me spinning off, I just make sure I'm aware of who's around me and just do my best. I don't quit unless my car is absolutely ruined which isn't very often. I remember when I first started out on Game Stock Car I think I was nervous as hell but then I thought you know what! I'm entitled to race with these guys as much as the next one. A classic example of my race last week at Hockenheim, I see Bram thundering behind me and I know he's a lot quicker than me and he knows that coming up to the next chicane, he can go through on the inside without the fear of me swiping him. It's common sense really, what's the point in me racing against him so I just race how I feel comfortable. Unfortunately, there are not many people in the snail class as it would be nice to have some company lol but I'll keep racing with the fast guys as when I do indeed putmy mind to it, I definitely see improvement with my lap times. Anyone who is new to all this, just pm me and I'll even do a practice server with you.
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If you really consider to "prepare" for a leisure time activity, better stop immediately, because you're taking the game far to serious.
On the contrary. I consider sim racing my hobby / leisure activity so putting time in to prepare for a race has 2 benefits. I get more seat time having a blast finding where the limit of the car is then when the race comes the muscle memory kicks in and I can fully concentrate on battling others on track not wondering where to brake and end up taking everyone out.

Our race department racing clubs really are a great place to start online racing. Our first race of the WCE series last week we all made it through the first chicane at Monza on lap one and there was great racing throughout.
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Nice article and makes me reflect on my own online racing activity during the years.

I can recognize pretty much everything mentioned, all the way back to the mid1990ies 'semi-online' days with GP2 results file uploads. Then especially nervousness in relation to my first ever real online events in early 00's, especially worries about whether I would ruin everything for other competitors. Later annoyances and resentment at being so close to a victory, but ruined by mishaps, mechanics, own distraction, etc.

At that time I had a lot of time, but turned into a tough mental game. And completely lost the factor, that it should be fun too, meanwhile.

Then stopped in the mid 00s with the very serious series, despite successes, as there is so much more than a competitive element in sim racing, at least for me - especially just the feeling of driving out the pitlane for the first time in a new car/at a new track with an immersion of authenticity - which is a huge part of the 'sim' concept for me.

Then with a tad more relaxed perspective participation in SimRaceWay, but it quickly became a wreck party for lobbyists, which became too boring for me.
Shortly after iRacing was introduced, I would even say that I had the right attitude - restrained but enjoying every second. And I discovered that my plenty of offline endurance racing reluctant calm style brought me success. Not going in unnessecary battles, but struck when the opportunities arose.

Then I took almost 10 years break from online, as the offline world of sims and mods is for centuries of human life in itself. At the same time, I had much less time - and would decide for myself when I would enjoy a sim.

With AC and rF2, I have occasionally jumped on online lobbies which were actually pretty good.

During 2020-21 been pretty online active, especially in ACC and iRacing and here I must admit that I felt the nervousness again for the very first time after such a long break from serious competitive online racing.

But the nervousness disappeared already at first lap; It was fun and joyful
But it did not suit me with the tight timeslots.

This year I have hardly been online racing, time factor has meant that when there has finally been time, I have enjoyed all the quality things about offline racing (because there are still many in my eyes).

However, have taken a few drop-ins in AMS2 and it has been a pleasure.

Sim racing should be fun, first and foremost. Nomatter if on- or offline racing.
Unless you base your entire career on it as a Sim Pro. But I think this can still be fun, too ;)

For the competitive aspect I think that mentally the most important factor is that you feel in balance, relaxed and prepared, fresh mind, not overtired, mind looking forward in a positively constructive manner, and just let it go if competitors makes mistakes, destroying your race, not using mental energy for that part.
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Not yet Online with you... :cautious:
But reading the
After-Action-Reports™, is very entertaining for me. Allways is ... !
Some very good write-ups beeing done, by the participants, I've seen. :D Thank you, all.
Almost being there, with you.
. :)
btw.. RD - abcede's approach to Club Racing, is a nice invention. :D

* Premium Members * have the
availability to Read Only, all about it.

*Don't miss the 15 % Account Upgrade, folks... :)
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How to prepare? Doing the 1-2 hour practice before the Q and R. Tweak the car a bit. Learn the track and car again. Do the very best like no one ever was. Having fun! It isn't about winning, but rather have a consistent race and finish on a proper place. Finishing a race is building up experience. Most people tend to quit and never learn to build experience up.
How to prepare? Doing the 1-2 hour practice before the Q and R. Tweak the car a bit. Learn the track and car again. Do the very best like no one ever was. Having fun! It isn't about winning, but rather have a consistent race and finish on a proper place. Finishing a race is building up experience. Most people tend to quit and never learn to build experience up.
See, this guy got it Good.

{ Fifty Laps a day™ is a good thing.. with altered setups :) ]
When feeling good with your Setup in Practice, still getting overtaken a lot in the Race, you simply know, that your competition did a fine job. ;)
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A few beers to get into the zone is mostly enough :)
Well, that Zonethread is in another
place in the News... ;)

Your Online preparations ?

Me ?! Zero. But some day I'll
give the competiton a Race to remember, for a long time .. :thumbsup: :cautious:
How can I mentally prepare for the fact that I simply don't like racing against meatsacks?
  • Haha
Reactions: 4ws
online is just way more fun because in your mind, you have to do three races at once: your own and the chaps' right in front and right behind you. And these are fallible humans apt to do quirky stuff, not the more or less dependable AI doing what they're programmed to do. By far the best way to race online is by joining a club or league so you will find yourself on the grid with always the same bunch of people. Even without a headset, if one joins in the pre- and post-race chat on a forum or platform, this gives the experience a depth AI can never give you. The many "Sorry for the punt lap1 turn4, I really thought there'd be enough space ..." in the minutes after the checkered flag has dropped are heartwarming. As for the very first comment here:
If you really consider to "prepare" for a leisure time activity, better stop immediately,
I can see where you are coming from, but some preparation is a normal thing for many freetime activities, isn't it? I do long-distance runs and part of the joy lies in the prep, both mentally and physically.
Prepare??? I have never done that. This is a hobby for me and I enjoy using practice/qualifying for muscle memory then have a refreshing race works for me. Too many times I caught my league friends doing leaderboards before our online event. These are the type that start at the front and quickly fade away after 2/3 laps. It usually takes me 4/5 laps to match my personal best time on all tracks. Getting in the zone has never been an issue for me.
Yes. Thanks... clearly outspoken.. :thumbsup:
What is the difference between
long distances runs, you do and other runs ?
Please, give us a clue, how to
success in prep and make a good finish, you be proud of . :thumbsup:
If you really consider to "prepare" for a leisure time activity, better stop immediately, because you're taking the game far to serious.
For people who suffer from social anxiety, taking a personal hobby and going into a public setting with it, even if it is with like-minded people, can be quite a big deal. Gatekeepers, Bad-Actors in a community, high-profile participants, all of these and more can really be a major turn-off for going online in a game; and that's something that's arguably true with any game that has a multiplayer component, especially ones that are online with randos.

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