What Skills are Transferable from Simracing to Motorsport?

iRacing IMSA multiclass.jpg
Scott Mclaughlin credited iRacing for his win in the Sebring 12 Hours this weekend. This got me thinking, what skills are transferable from simracing to motorsport?

Image Credit: iRacing.com

This Super Sebring weekend saw an accumulation of amazing races taking place at the old airfield race track. None more so however than the headlining IMSA Sebring 12 Hours. Whilst the top class had its fair share of thrills and spills, the LMP2 category got a new, first-time class winner in the shape Scott McLaughlin.

More traditionally seen in Australian Supercars and, more recently, the Indycar championship, he has adapted very well to the unique challenges of endurance sportscar racing. In just his second race, the New Zealander claimed a class win and finished on the overall podium. After the event, he took to Twitter to credit iRacing for his win.

In the tweet, the three-time Supercars champion explained that the iRacing IMSA series helped him get up to speed for the real thing. Getting used to dealing with traffic is no small feat, with countless top level racers struggling with this unique part of motorsport. "The traffic patterns are so similar," he claims. He even goes as far as to recommend that young, up and coming racing drivers should use the game as a tool to practice for racing through traffic.

The most transferable skills from simracing to motorsport​

This all got me thinking about just how transferable the act of simracing is to real-world motorsport. Sure the seat of the pants sensation one gets from sitting behind the wheel of a real car is missing from simracing. And sure, every game has its own approach to what driving feels like. But the rest of the racing experience from race craft to strategy and even something as simple as racing lines can all be applied to the real world.

Personally, I would suggest that learning a track is the most applicable skill that can be taken from the sim and used come race day. Even the most prominent F1 drivers use simulators to learn new venues. That would certainly come in handy the first time the grid raced at the latest track, the Jeddah Corniche circuit. With a track all about getting into a rhythm and winding through the barriers at break-neck speeds, using a sim to learn the flow before arriving on-site would have been crucial.

What do you think are some of the most transferable skills form simracing to real motorsport?
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Angus Martin
Motorsport gets my blood pumping more than anything else. Be it physical or virtual, I'm down to bang doors.


Track layout - yess if it's recently laserscanned.
References for breaking and turning probably not so much, because real track is constantly changing surface grip, and smaller track side objects are most likely not in the game either.

Reflexes and reaction/decision making to incidents right ahead would also be improved by simracing.

But general car control, as said above, probably not. iRacing driving is kind of twitchy and doesn't encourage pushing for me, unlike like rF2.
The handling of the steering wheel paddles. Beyond the real life benefit of getting the kids in their pyjamas to school quickly with my Kangoo car, it's my wife who is especially happy, I understand myself.

On the other hand, it's annoying to only use paddles, my dog thinks I'm always calling him when I'm not, I've developed a knock lol
From my own experience, hand/eye coordination and the reduction of freaking out if the car starts to get a little squirrelly.

Last fall I did a track day in a Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo. I spent 2 months doing every track in ACC, getting comfortable with learning brake points, turn in points, best lines and not freaking when I felt the car starts to get away from me.

I had done 5 laps on a track in a Ferrari before, but I was not comfortable really pushing it.

This time it was 2 sets of 10 laps each and 1 set of 13 laps. I had never done this track before. The instructor told me that the goal was to get under 1 minute on at least 2 of the laps. I felt comfortable knowing how to find the best lines, braking points and turn in points.

In the first set of laps I got 4 laps done in 59 seconds
In the second set of laps I got 6 in 58 seconds and the rest in 59 seconds
The last laps was 8 in 57 seconds, 2 in 56 seconds and 2 in 59 seconds. The instructor did 3 laps in 54 seconds.

I felt without the time I spent pounding out laps and learning how to drive on the sim, there is no way I would have achieved those times. Hand/eye is transferable to any sport or activity.

Here is my "chariot".

Oh, and in spite of what you hear on the Internet, I did not spin the car the last lap trying to beat the instructor's time. It's a myth. :whistling:

Hand speed. Sim racing is much more unforgiving on the limit (or we tend to find ourselves at 9.9/10ths more often than in real life) so I think the muscle memory of catching a car or making a save is developed and transferrable.

Also, in my case, I feel like years of simracing dramatically accelerated the learning curve in a real race car. I went from zero to contending more quickly than I think I would have without simracing. The last bit comes down to talent, balls, and practice, all of which I may be short on...

Maybe confidence is another trait that carries over, but that's not always a good trait in racing.
Thats my experience.
Virtual driving is so different from driving in the real world that you cannot use skills from the virtual side on the real side.
Thats also the reason there is no causal relation between being a skilled driver in one of the worlds to also being it in the other.:whistling:

But if I work a bit on my imagination then I can quite easy convince myself that there actually is a causal relation :roflmao:
As we all know, there are lots of differences between sims and real driving, and from sim to sim. The exact same car can drive differently in each case, so I think the biggest benefit in transferring from sims to real racing is in the general things. Racing in traffic is a big one. Learning how to experiment with and optimize your driving line (getting practice applying theory, etc.) is another one for me. Learning about setting up cars can be very beneficial in sims, again getting practice applying the theory. Getting a rough idea of track layout can be really good in a sim, but as others have mentioned, you have to expect differences when you drive the real track with a real car.
From the looks of the leading picture I'd say how to abuse the track limits, other than that... only hand and eye coordination for what the screen can deliver, real life is very very different.
I would say however that real life racing might give you a heads up when it comes to sim racing.
May I kindly suggest to rent a (race) car and do a few laps on the Nordschleife in real life and then tell me that your sim racing experience and skills don't contribute anything.
Yes you may - kindly:)
But maybe I know a few things about the two worlds.
And the compare between them.
Because also kindly I can reveal that when I was young I tried to make a career in FF1600 - but because of finance I struggled to keep it going for one single season.:barefoot:

So I dont have to use money to rent a boring road car to play tourist on your Nordschleife.
DEL - cause slightly too bragging :laugh:

But still - My name is Bruno - BrunoBæ :roflmao:
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Then I still don't understand how you come to the conclusion that "nothing" translates from virtual to real but okay.
No problem Bram.
Thats ok with me - too.:thumbsup:

OK to be serious you can probably get to know a new circuit in RL by driving on it in the virtual world. But thats all (IMO).
I went from sim racing to F Vee, my own 2 cents. Stuff that transfers really well (in no particular order):

- Racecraft
- Foot work
- Steering input "muscle memory"
- Track familiarization
- Basic setup concepts
- Understanding, conceptually, things like understeer vs understeer as well as generally what makes one car/driver faster than another

Where sim racing really leaves gaps:

- Mechanical concepts (if you are aiming for an F1 young driver program, probably no biggie, but for amateur racing you'll need to know how to turn a wrench if you want to race)
- Mirrors/flagging - sim racing really dummy proofs both of these
- "Seat of the pants" feel - in my experience, yaw sensitivity is the #1 thing you need in a real race car, but this is nowhere to be found in a sim (even good motion simulators come up well short of the real sensation)

As a general rule, sim racing skills translate really, really well to "real" racing in my experience. When my instructor signed off on my provisional license, he wrote "sim racing works!" in the comments because he couldn't believe how competent I was with no real world track experience (save for a handful of track days). I'm not purporting to be the 2nd coming of Tazio Nuvolari - hell no, not even close - but I am confident sim racing put me WAY ahead of the curve the first time I sat my butt in a real race car.

"Home simulator" setups have been plenty good enough to use as real world training tools for going on 2 decades now, but many are still quick to dismiss them as "video games" ("yeah, my kids love Mario Kart, too", that sort of stuff). It's to their detriment - we know better.

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Angus Martin
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