Sim racing has come a long way, both regarding hardware and software. With Le Mans Ultimate set for release in 2023, a golden age of choice for licensed titles might lay ahead.
While games and sims portraying a single series used to be common, most of them offer a sandbox approach today. Assetto Corsa Competizione with its focus on multiple GT World Challenge seasons is an outlier as a result, alongside the F1 and WRC series of games.
However, the World Endurance Championship has not had an official game since its initial season in 2012. Content could be found in numerous different titles, including iRacing, the Project CARS series or the original Assetto Corsa. Le Mans Ultimate marks a first for the championship with its targeted release until the end of 2023.
Le Mans Ultimate Marks a First
So, why is this a bit of a big deal, then? Well, the F1 series may have seen yearly releases since 2009 and through most of the 1990s until 2006. WRC has had a steady stream of licensed games since 2010 as well. With the release of Le Mans Ultimate, 2023 marks the first time all three of the big FIA World Championships have their own game available.
This means that sim racers can try their hand at any of the three disciplines in titles emulating their actual real-life seasons. F1 fans are used to always have up-to-date calendars, teams and drivers available. WRC fans, after years of Kylotonn’s games not quite scratching that rally itch to satisfaction, are hopeful that EA Sports WRC is going to live up to its hype. And WEC enthusiasts will be able to compete in their favorite prototypes or GTEs at any of the 2023 season’s venues – including all teams and drivers.
This does not mean that sim racers face a reduction in choice in sandbox-type content. For instance, Assetto Corsa 2 is most likely going to release in Q2 of 2024. While it is not known yet what exactly the plan for the title is, a return to the more open approach of Kunos Simulazioni’s first effort is expected.
Sim Racing’s Golden Age: Plenty of Choice in 2024?
GTRevival seems to be taking a similar approach. With most of the team of the GTR series on board, the FIA GT cars of that era seem to be a focal point. But Straight4 Studios Lead Ian Bell has already hinted at much more content to come. Basically, the studio is looking to add anything they enjoy themselves – so an interesting selection should be on its way.
Either way, by the end of 2024, sim racers could be spoiled for choice more than ever before. iRacing and ACC will still be around, the original Assetto Corsa is not going away anytime soon either, and rFactor 2 might have found the recipe for its own rebirth by introducing its new ranked online system. Automobilista 2 also continues to get better with each update – and who knows what RaceRoom still has up its sleeves. Couple that with the expected new releases, and we might have a ton of high-quality simulations on our hands next year. A sim racing golden age, if you will.
Editor’s Take: The Single Season I Would Love To See Covered in Detail in Sim Racing
While it is excellent to have this choice for current seasons, there is one season from the past that I would like to have such a trifecta – 1986. It may be close to 40 years ago, but during this year, motorsport had arguably the most insane cars across the three disciplines.
Group C was already in its fifth season since its introduction in 1986, having spawned endurance beasts such as the Porsche 956 and 962C, the Lancia LC2/85 or the Nissan R86V. Not to mention the older cars still running that year – there would be plenty of exciting choices. The top-tier C1 category raced alongside the C2 group of cars, which featured some lesser-known machinery.
The WSC calendar of 1986 was nothing to scoff at, either. Of course, the centerpiece were the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but Silverstone, Monza, Spa and even the Norisring made appearances that year. Jerez, the relatively new Nürburgring GP layout, Fuji and Brands Hatch in their 80s guises rounded out the nine-race season.
F1’s First Turbo Era
Meanwhile, over in F1, the first turbo era reached absurd heights. Dedicated quali engines would only last for three laps at best with the boost cranked up to 11, and engineers did not even know how much power they made back then. Dynos simply could not handle the power until years later, when figures north of 1,400 bhp were measured – in cars that weighed roughly 500 kg! Add in superstars like Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg and an up-and-coming Ayrton Senna for drivers, and you have an incredible lineup.
The calendar certainly helped, too. While the streets of Detroit were a bit tedious, to say the least, circuits like the old Österreichring (now Red Bull Ring), Hockenheimring or Mexico City certainly make up for that. Never mind that pretty much any circuit is an intense experience to drive with these turbocharged monsters.
Speaking of turbocharged monsters: The World Rally Championship was at the peak of arguably its most exciting era. Of course, we are talking about Group B. Insane speeds and looks with the advent of all—wheel drive systems made for an unbelievable spectacle. Cars like the Audi Quattro Sport S1 E2, the Lancia Delta S4 Rally 037 evo, the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 E2 or the Ford RS200 are still awe-inspiring to this day.
Spectacular, But Dangerous
Part of this allure was the element of danger, which unfortunately spelled the end of Group B after that season. Fatal crashes that killed three spectators in Portugal as well as Lancia ace Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto in Corsica put a painful spotlight on this. For 1987, WRC moved to Group A regulations.
Of course, danger was still very much present in all three of the competitions I mentioned. In F1, Elio de Angelis died in a testing crash at Paul Ricard. And Austrian Jo Gartner died at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a high-speed accident on the Hunaudières Straight in the middle of the night.
Luckily, the tragic side of racing is not a factor on the virtual tracks. As a result, a detailed recreation of the 1986 season of all three disciplines would be somewhat of a sim racing nirvana for motorsport history nerds like myself.
What do you think about this possible sim racing golden age? Which season would you love to see get the full treatment? Let us know on Twitter @overtake_gg or in the comments below!