Sim racing in itself is an easy thing to get into. You just have to pick yourself a game, and perhaps get yourself set up with a beginner rig. However, if you want to take to the next level and play in competitions, there are a few extra steps to take and things to be aware of.
To get started with competitive sim racing, you should consider:
- Your game and platform
- What to learn
- Joining a team
- Finding places to compete
These are very general things that need to be considered and we will look into each in much more detail below. You must consider all of these things in turn as it will make it much easier for you to not only start racing in competitions but start winning them too.
How To Get Started In Competitive Sim Racing
1. Your Game And Platform
The First Step
The first thing that you will need to do before you start doing any kind of sim racing is to pick your platform and then pick your game (or games). You can choose to play on consoles, or on PC. If you choose consoles, you will be able to take advantage of some things, but you will also lose out on some aspects of the PC experience, and so you have to choose wisely.
Console vs PC
You can get your hands on a PS4 or Xbox One for under $300, and these can be the ideal choice for those with a smaller budget. If you want to be a PC sim racer, you can very easily spend over $1000 on a PC that is able to handle the highest settings on the best games. However, you will be able to find cheaper PC options, but there is a lot more to think about.
PCs require lots of different components to be of the right specification in order to play the top sim racing games smoothly, whereas the PS4 and Xbox One both come packed with their good hardware already. This means you don’t need to worry about the same kinds of things you need to consider for a PC, such as the processor and graphics cards.
A Lot More Potential
With that said, if your budget is a little bigger, and you don’t mind shopping around for the best technical specifications, a PC is definitely the ideal choice. There is so much more to customize with a PC, and they can achieve much better performance than the consoles. This means that you can play games at higher frames per second (FPS), and there are of course some PC exclusive racing sims too.
This brings us on to the point of choosing your game. There are certain games that are exclusive to specific platforms. One popular example of this is GT Sport, which is exclusive to the PS4. On the Xbox One side of things you have the Forza Motorsport and Horizon series, which are exclusive to this console and PC only. But then there are PC-exclusive games to consider as well.
These games include the likes of iRacing and rFactor, which are two of the most popular simulators out there. They also happen to be two of the most competitive, due to their very high levels of realism and thus challenging difficulty. Although there are plenty of GT Sport competitions, and other competitions for other console racers, if you want to play iRacing you will need to opt for a PC.
2. What To Learn
The next thing that you need to do is learn as much as you can about sim racing and its competitive side. There is theory behind the practical aspects of sim racing, and you can treat it as a learning process. This means you can carry out your own research and even study the fundamentals of sim racing. Getting the theory down will make it easier to do well in-game.
A Lot To Learn
The theory varies by game, but for example, games like iRacing are designed to be very realistic. This means you must learn what kinds of actions produce the right outcomes when you are driving. The more you learn about track dynamics and things like brake bias and weight distribution, the better prepared you will be to take advantage of them when it comes to actually racing.
Getting Outside Help
You may wish to take things one step further by engaging with a coach or a tutor to teach you how to become a better racer. This could be used to help you get the theory of racing down, or they may even be able to help you with the practical side of things as well. There are a lot of people online looking to help others become better at sim racing, and even watching videos on YouTube can be helpful.
Learning how to use the right sim racing equipment will also help, and whether you do this yourself or with the help of a coach, this is one of the best ways to become a better racer. You will struggle with the controls the first time you play, but with enough practice you will learn how to get the most out of your equipment, and you will learn what you may need to upgrade.
The Right Setup
Depends on Experience Level
The setup itself is what you use to race within the game. The game can be the very best of the best, and you can have all of the skill in the world, but if you don’t have the right setup you will struggle to do well as a sim racer. You don’t need to have the most expensive racing rig, and you can get started with a basic sim racing setup for just a few hundred dollars.
There are several key things to consider when putting together your ideal sim racing setup. In order to compete at a decent level, you will at least need a good steering wheel and pedals, while your life will also be made a lot easier with the addition of things like sequential gear shifters and perhaps even a handbrake, along with addons such as button boxes.
Lots To Choose From
There are plenty of different options when it comes to each of these pieces of equipment, but the steering wheel and pedals will probably be the most expensive and the ones that take the most thought as well. Usually, you will start with a budget gear or belt-driven wheel, along with a set of potentiometer pedals that will give you an idea of what sim racing is like.
Upgrading From The Basics
If you are not a total beginner however, and if you are looking to try out some competitive sim racing, then you will probably want to look into the higher end belt-driven wheels, or even the direct drive wheels as well. These will give you the edge in competitions once you get used to them, and they are what the very best sim racers use.
In terms of pedals, you will want to upgrade to load cell pedals for a more realistic feel and better performance. Then there are hydraulic pedals, but they are usually a matter of personal preference and they are much more expensive. Regardless of how you choose to upgrade your rig, you will first need to have the skills to be able to use it all effectively.
3. Joining A Team
Another thing that you might consider is joining a team. There are sim racing teams out there all over the world, and due to its nature, you can usually join them and race for them remotely. This is in contrast to a real racing team, which will obviously require a lot of travelling to and from competitions, and to meet with your team at physical locations to practice.
Teams Can Make Things More Fun
Teams can open doors to new competitions, and there are usually team competitions on offer alongside most solo tournaments as well. Just like in real racing, being part of a team can make things a lot easier for you. Besides, it will also probably make it a much more enjoyable experience and you can learn a lot from those around you.
If you can’t find a team to join, or would just prefer to start your own, building a team from scratch is another option for you. This will involve a bit more work, and you will need to go out and find people that are willing to join if you don’t have anyone already willing to. You will need to either take charge of the team yourself or give the power to someone else, but it can be very fruitful.
If you can get a decent team of people together with a reasonable amount of skill, there is no stopping you from entering competitions with a team that you have built yourself. This can provide a very rewarding feeling, especially once you start winning. However, it will take a lot of time and effort, and of course your teammates have to be good enough to perform in the competitions.
If you don’t already know people that might like to join your team, then you may find that looking online is the best way to find potential teammates. There are countless sim racing forums out there, and they often have threads dedicated to finding new teams to join and new teammates to bring on board. Other than this, you could reach out to people on social media too.
More Research Required
This is where research can help once again, as if you look around online you are bound to find some people that want to race. Or, you could simply reach out to people within the games you are playing, and this way you will get a chance to see how they perform before you make any commitments. However, it is usually more effective to check spaces where people actively look for teams to join.
4. Finding Places To Compete
Whether you decide to join or form a team, or if you want to just go it alone, you then need to think about where you want to compete. This doesn’t mean physically, but instead refers to the types of competitions that you want to enter. Once you have chosen your platform and your game, and know what you are doing with your equipment, it is time to find a competition.
There are online tournaments that take place all the time, and these often even have big prize pools. This is where becoming a professional sim racer, i.e. someone who gets paid to race, can seem like a possibility. There are regular online tournaments and competitions that pay out prize pools into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This means that if you can perform at the top level, you can win some serious money from sim racing. Most of the big sim racing games, such as iRacing and GT Sport, have regular online competitions that are open to anyone to enter, and these can be a great way to get a taste of the competitive racing scene. But they are not only online, as there are also live tournaments as well.
These live events can put you in head-to-head races with the very best sim racers and can be very exciting, but very hard to qualify for. However, there are also various other ways to race that don’t put you in such a competitive environment. Although they are often just multiplayer game modes, most games are very good at matching you up with other racers of similar abilities.
Use Multiplayer Modes To Improve
This can serve to be very useful when trying to learn to improve as a sim racer, and it can be a vital way to get to know different cars and tracks in a real racing situation, albeit a slightly less competitive one. You don’t have to be racing in a professional sense in order to make money from sim racing, and definitely not in order to enjoy yourself anyway.
Other Ways To Get Into Sim Racing
It Should Always Be Fun
Sim racing should be fun, and so if competitions are not a fun thing for you then you should not force yourself to enter them. There are other ways to get involved with the community that surrounds sim racing, and not only can these provide viable sources of income, they can also just be a very rewarding thing to do with your sim racing in order to get the most out of the experience.
For example, Jimmy Broadbent is a sim racer that is active on YouTube with over half a million subscribers. Although he does a fair bit of karting himself, he has also been a big name in the world of sim racing for other reasons, mainly due to his following on YouTube. He even found himself commentating at GT Sport’s FIA-backed sim racing championship back in 2018.
As competitions get more numerous, and as the prize pools get bigger, sim racing events like these will become more popular. The events are held much in the same way as real races are, and there is a need for commentators and other roles that help to make the experience better for both drivers and spectators.
We have talked about other ways to make money with sim racing in greater depth in another article, but even just the few that we have touched on here illustrate that there is more to sim racing than being a professional racer. As the e-sport expands, there will be more roles to fill, so even if competitive racing is not for you, there still may be a related job for you out there.
There is a lot to think about when you are considering getting into sim racing, but with modern technology it is very easy and affordable for beginners to get into it with a rudimentary racing rig. From there, you can improve on your skills through practice and by doing your own research, and as you progress as a racer you will also want to upgrade your rig as well.
Once you get quite good at racing, you may wish to reach out to other racers to form or join a team, or you may wish to go solo. Then, you can enter live or online competitions, some of which pay a lot of money to the winners. But if you decide that competitive sim racing is not for you, there are other ways to get active within the community, and there is still a lot of fun to be had.