Comparing Daytona 24 lap times: Real vs Sim
Image credit: Reiza Studios

Sim Racing VS Real Life: Comparing Daytona 24 Hour Lap Times

Sim racing is all about realism. But is it as accurate as we like to believe? Let’s compare Daytona’s 24-hour lap times between real life and several games to find out.

The month of January is very much the beginning of motorsport. However, the whole month is traditionally dominated by a single series at a particular circuit. The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona along with the Roar testing weekend a week prior fill the first month of the year.

In addition to the real-world event, the sim racing community frequently catches the Daytona bug in January. As a result, themed new content and events fill the early part of the year. 2024 was no different with Automobilista 2 receiving three IMSA LMDh cars just after Christmas and iRacing hosting the virtual event.

With the new additions and mass participation in the iRacing Daytona 24 Hours, we are now in a fantastic position to compare GTP lap times between real-life and sim racing. How accurate are these new LMDh cars in sim racing? Now is the time to find out.

Daytona 24 Lap Times

In 2024, the Daytona 24 Hours kickstarted the second season for the all-new GTP cars. Still very much in development, fans and teams alike saw incredible strides forward in pace at the Road Course.

In fact, according to motorsport data resource, The B Pillar, the 2023 race saw average times in the top class hovering around the high 1:37 mark. These averages are based on each driver’s 50% fastest lap times across the 24 hours. Meanwhile, the top drivers managed to set the fastest laps just about hitting the 1:35s.

This year however, the data shows that times tumbled to easily reach the mid 1:35s. Once more, it seems the pace across the GTP class fell to the 1:37.0 zone for the race leading Cadillac #31. Clearly, then, it isn’t easy to know the true pace of the current GTP cars as progress in setup and software departments continue.

For this test of sim racing’s portrayal of the LMDh category, however, let’s focus on the 2024 timesheet which you can find in this Only Endurance Instagram post. As aforementioned, this indicates that the majority of drivers were indeed very close on times with high-1:36 to low-1:37 providing a good reference in dry conditions over the 24 hours. An absolute best time however can drop into the 1:35s on occasion.

Automobilista 2 Daytona GTP Times

The most recent title to receive brand-new GTP cars is Automobilista 2. The release resulted in a massive influx in player numbers across the New Year. With that in mind, the AMS2 time trial leaderboards are particularly healthy when it comes to GTP lap times at Daytona.

Taking a look at the page, one will immediately point out that lap times take a significant jump from real life to AMS2. At the time of writing, two players sit at the top of the standings with identical times. Both Nielsfortyseven and JK managed to extract a 1:30.358 from the Cadillac V-Series.R.

The AMS2 Daytona leader board shows fast times.
The AMS2 Daytona leaderboard shows fast times. Image credit: Reiza Studios

Throughout the first page of the Automobilista 2 Daytona GTP leaderboard, times remain fairly consistent, slowly approaching the 1:31 mark. An impressive two seconds faster than the real-world Rolex 24 pole time, those who can reach such a time should be proud.

Of course, race pace does take a hit from the worldly heights of the time trial. As a result, consistent times in traffic will most certainly fall to the 1:33-1:34 space. However, this is nevertheless faster than B Pillar’s data for the real event.

Are iRacing GTP Cars Accurate?

Perhaps the best way to truly compare sim racing to the real-life 24 Hours of Daytona is by running the sim for a round-the-clock race. Well, luckily for us, iRacing did just that no more than a week before the real event.

Thousands of teams came together to participate in the iRacing Daytona 24 Hours, across 95 splits. Throughout those 95 splits, the GTP class was no doubt one of the most popular, featuring in the majority of races. Fantastic battles occurred in the broadcast top split, but also throughout the different runnings.

The top split pole position time was set by Williams Esports’ Josh Lad with a 1:30.209. A whole two seconds faster than Pipo Derani’s record-setting 1:32.656, that is no doubt an impressive time. Throughout the top split race, runners averaged in the high-1:33 to the low-1:34 range, a three-second drop compared to the real race.

Average pace in the iRacing Daytona 24 top split.
Average pace in the iRacing Daytona 24 top split. Image credit: iRacing.com

Elsewhere, lower split average lap times do not appear much more accurate. Average times in most standard splits appear to hover around the 1:36-1:37 range in the GTP class across the 24 hours, including incidents and pit time. This figure matches the B Pillar’s top runners despite basing averages on each driver’s 50% fastest laps. When doing the same on iRacing, averages easily drop to the 1:33 mark.

Poor GTP Hybrid Simulation

Then, sim racing does seem to suffer from unrealistically fast lap times. One can partially put this down to the limiting factors present in real motorsport. But it does seem that the GTP cars in sim racing are much faster than their real-life counterparts. In both titles featuring official GTP content, lap times drop by over two seconds in ultimate pace. During full stints, it seems that between

From testing, it does seem that these games poorly simulate GTP hybrid systems. According to the LMDh ruleset, cars must not exceed a maximum power output regardless of hybrid usage. As a result, when the electric power kicks in, teams program the internal combustion engine to take a rest. This does not happen in sim racing.

Different hybrid modes in iRacing will provide great differences in top speed and acceleration, which does not happen in real life. Instead, the hybrid simply reduces fuel usage. This frequent kick of up to 100 additional horsepower will easily explain the gain in lap time.

By driving the AMS2 GTP cars, it is clear that the hybrid boost is not quite as intense. However, running without the electric power is sure to reduce Daytona’s 24 lap times by a second or two. As a result, it too fails to accurately simulate these top-flight endurance sportscars.

There is no doubt that these games give a fantastic insight into the world of GTP and Hypercar racing. Details such as hybrid programming are something only the teams running the real cars can ever know, and it is admittedly pedantic to focus on such minor touches. However, this gap in simulation does provide Le Mans Ultimate with a great chance to surpass the competition.

Do you think it is worth comparing sim racing lap times to real life? What do you make of the differential? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

A petrol head and motorsports fan since the early days, sim racing has been a passion of mine for a number of years. The perfect way to immerse myself in my true dream job; racing driver. With lots of experience jotting down words about the car industry, I am happy to share my passion for pretend race cars here on Overtake!