Racing at Night: Fear of the Dark or Performance Tunnel?

Automobilista 2 Ultima GTR Night.jpg

Do you like racing at night?


  • Total voters
    323
Getting to grips with all sorts of changing conditions is essential in racing, especially in endurance events. Of course, this does not just mean weather, but also the day/night cycle and changing visibility as it gets darker. Racing at night tends to look spectacular, but can be much more difficult - or even helpful for others.

Image credit: Reiza Studios

There is no denying the atmosphere of endurance races running into the dusk, with the available light becoming less and less by the minute until the cars headlights eventually cut through the darkness of the night that has just set in. What is an optical treat for spectators at the track and on TV is of course a more difficult scenario for the drivers, and in sim racing, this is not any different.

Now, where to brake again?​

Braking points get more difficult to spot, trailing cars only appear as blinding lights in the rear view mirror, and unlit parts of the track descend into darkness - drivers need to adapt to these things in some endurance races, and even more so if the weather changes. Racing at night and in the rain is quite a challenge, especially if a race features multiple classes and you might not immediately be able to tell which class the set of lights you are coming up on belongs to.

Assetto Corsa Competizione Emil Frey Jaguar GT3 Night.jpg

Getting around other cars in the dark may prove to be trickier than during the day. Image credit: Kunos Simulazioni

Adding to this, once the night rolls around in 24-hour races, fatigue might set in, potentially increasing reaction times and making it harder to concentrate on what is going on around the car. As a result, some drivers tend to avoid driving at night - and leave it to others who thrive in these conditions.

Entering The Zone​

The limited visibility can work as a tunnel of sorts, tuning out possible distractions and allowing drivers to enter the zone - a phenomenon we have highlighted before - much easier as things seems less frantic than at the start and in bright daylight. The race has usually settled into a rhythm at this point, allowing drivers to put in lap after lap while simply focusing on their own race.

Distractions from your own team tend to be less frequent as well, as most of the co-drivers that do not have to be in the car until later on usually try and get some sleep to rest up for their stints. In that sense, it is an advantage for drivers who can get lost in doing laps like clockwork and do not mind driving the late-night stints.

Assetto Corsa Competizione Misano Circuit Night.jpg

Just because the sun is down, does not mean the on-track action stops. Image credit: Kunos Simulazioni

Of course, the fatigue argument does not normally apply when night races are driven when the real-life clock shows that it is daytime, but the challenge of driving in the dark is still there. And it tends to be a great environment for quick laps as the temperatures drop, leading to considerable improvements on personal bests during night stints.

Your Opinion​

We want to know your stance on driving in the night: Do you prefer the better visibility of the daytime, or are you one of those drivers that find it easy to focus and put in solid stint after solid stint? Let us know in the poll as well as 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

This year I took part in my first 24h race, as a race engineer for one of the Huracan GT3s in the 24h Nürburgring. One of our driver was crazy as hell, hasn't slept the night before and probably had like 3-4h nights the week before. He jumped in at night and was quick as hell, surely with no sleep before. Also after his stints he just stayed awake. It was so crazy and impressive to see at the same time :D
 
Premium
Not particularly as all it adds is an element of you not being able to see a damn thing. I did vote 'it depends' as it depends on the game. Iracing is the worst with barely any night ambient lighting (lights from other cars, lights from lamp posts/track signs etc) while ACC is the best and rf2 falls in the middle. Rain adds a bit to the experience but again it depends on how well its implemented in-game.
 
Last edited:
I like to drive in it but I don't like to lower my VR settings for it. So a yes and a no. When it comes to AMS2 I only like it when there are not many drivers simply because I otherwise get framedrops under 90fps. Since I mainly race in daytime, all my settings are configured for that.

But in dirt Rally 2 it's amazing, the lighting, especially combined with rain. And the performance is still good.
 
Premium
I tend to do shorter races against AI and quite often like to do a day night day transition with accelerated time.

Over the space of a 30-40 minute race you're not spending a huge amount of time in total darkness and the dusk and dawn transitions are the best part of any "Night" race.
 
First time really enjoying night ride was first summer trip across Europe, just after acquiring my drivers license 18yo while whole family sleeping. Two good things: 1) relaxing for eyes - only main things to focus on 2) relaxing for ears: no yelling, bragging or high singing noices all around me :D
My plan was a stop for every 1½ hour, but went well with just a single stop (very short in order not to wake my noisy family) between 2 x 3 hour stints from dusk to dawn.

And though the years watching Le Mans I've often heard race drivers with night race debut same relaxing and performance enhancing feeling.

Which was just same feeling for my personal first endurance night sim race event, almost same experience as first time real driver public roads Autobahn experience.
It feels like I can drive just endless in darkness.
And now even better in VR. Just need some setup to make better helmet shake and blur in VR to have perfect night immersion for hours and hours non-stop.

Think it's somehow related to humans loosing a sense, whether it is sight, hearing, smell. The other senses are being sharpened.
 
Last edited:
I was entranced by the darkness of Spa during the 24 hours. Very eerie with only the headlights illuminating the circuit in some places. Racing there at night with drivers following is a serious challenge where your practically blinded at times. It's an important skill to learn for endurance racing.
Last year I saw an onboard stint with Sven Muller in the Porsche at the N24. I could barely comprehend what I saw; he went flat out, at 4 am on the Nords, passing traffic left and right, leaving nothing on the table. Simply awe-inspiring. Really shows how good these drivers really are.
 
Club Staff
Premium
We have started with 24h races with 24x time multiplier in our AC RaceDepartment Club Races and it's great! We started with LeMans obviously. Of course it depends on the track but this fall we're doing a Fat-Alfie championship with this format on all of his amazing tracks. It's magnificent. David has put so much detail in it also things that are better to see in the dark like campfires.
If you have AC, you should have a look at it.
 
Last edited:
I haven't done any night racing. My next project is to go through all the similar tracks in AC, ACC, AMS2, PC2 and Rfactor 2 and race them all at night. I have done them all in the day against AI, so now it's time to be gangsta.
 
Racing at night is maybe not quite the right question. What makes it interesting is the transition from day to night and back. Our team has done many endurance races including 12h and 24h races and the changing conditions add a lot to the overall experience. That being said, it does depend on the sim as it needs to be able to implement the lighting properly plus the change in air and track temperature, as well as the appropriate effects on brake/engine temperature and tire temp/grip/wear. Hardware performance is another point: Especially with a large grid, a day-night cycle can be extremely demanding on your PC and even the slightest lagging can cause things to go awry quickly. Night racing is a great feature in my opinion but it's the change that makes it really interesting.
 
We have started on with 24h races with 24x time multiplier in our AC RaceDepartment Club Races and it's great! We started with LeMans obviously. Of course it depends on the track but this fall we're doing a Fat-Alfie championship with this format on all of his amazing tracks. It's magnificent. David has put so much detail in it also things that are better to see in the dark like campfires.
If you have AC, you should have a look at it.
Afair Fat-Alfie didn't like lights on his tracks, at least on Feldbergring, or at least at first.

Oc i love driving at night.
 
Last edited:
Not a fan of night racing. It makes me fall asleep seeing cars under the lights. Thoth it dose improve focus as items around you become less viable. In F1 night races have good lighting so it fells like daytime, Leman has less lighting around track and is harder.
 
Premium
Clearly at night.
Since I've been driving with VR glasses, I've loved night races.
Best with changing weather conditions and different classes.
Before that, neither rain nor night racing was fun for me. Now I can't do enough 24h races.
Porsche 906, 911 Turbo etc. and Nordschleife 67 by WilliamRiker, Spa 66 or LeMans 67 etc.
Gas, brake, clutch, manual shift.
That's racing.
Everything else is just driving a car.
 
I love racing at night...

In some sims it's a painful experience getting there, as the transitions can be a slideshow even on my PC, but when it's working it's a great experience and really adds to the entire immersion level I go for...

With the right lighting effects it's a real joy to compete in the night and in some ways I prefer it... But as not everyone gets their set up correctly to be able to see or not have a slideshow the actual online racing can be very hit and miss with night racing...
 
This year I took part in my first 24h race, as a race engineer for one of the Huracan GT3s in the 24h Nürburgring. One of our driver was crazy as hell, hasn't slept the night before and probably had like 3-4h nights the week before. He jumped in at night and was quick as hell, surely with no sleep before. Also after his stints he just stayed awake. It was so crazy and impressive to see at the same time :D
adrenaline keeps you awake for hours, crazy how our body works
 

Latest News

Article information

Author
Yannik Haustein
Article read time
3 min read
Views
3,757
Comments
29
Last update

How are you going to watch 24 hours of Le Mans

  • On national tv

    Votes: 138 34.8%
  • Eurosport app/website

    Votes: 112 28.3%
  • WEC app/website

    Votes: 77 19.4%
  • Watch party

    Votes: 24 6.1%
  • At a friends house

    Votes: 8 2.0%
  • At Le Mans

    Votes: 37 9.3%
Back
Top