Sim racing is a fun way to explore the world of motorsport without leaving your home. The realism and immersion offered by sim racing can be truly incredible, and it is worth spending some time getting good at it so you can make the most of it and be a successful sim racer.
The 8 steps to sim racing training are:
- Getting your setup sorted
- Picking the right game
- Using the in-game training schools
- Using time trials
- Turn off the assists
- Watching and comparing yourself to other sim racers
- Completing races against AI
- Entering live races
- Taking a training course
We will go into more detail about each of these steps below. While they are not all essential, they will all go a long way to improving your sim racing abilities, ensuring you have as much fun as possible in the process. But first, let’s discuss why you might want to train as a sim racer.
Why Should You Do Sim Racing Training?
Useful For Everyone
The idea of sim racing training might not sound appealing, as you may just be looking at sim racing as a hobby. But even if that is the case you can still benefit from some sim racing training. You don’t need to be a professional racer to want to get better, and more often than not, getting better at it will only make it more fun.
If you are struggling to keep the car on the track, you will probably get bored quite quickly. But you are not going to get better without learning where you are going wrong in the first place. Sim racing training doesn’t need to be something to fear or something you can’t look forward to, as it often simply involves doing more racing, which should be more fun!
Not Time Intensive
You don’t need a lot of time on your hands, and you won’t need to go far out of your own way to get better with some basic training. Spending just a few extra minutes practicing before each session can add up over time, making it very easy to become very good at sim racing in a short space of time.
The important thing to remember is that the steps we outline below are just a guideline, and you should take a dynamic approach to sim racing training if you want the best results. By this we mean you should be able to have a play around with the steps below and do them in any order you like.
For Any Experience Level
Feel free to focus on one step more than the others if you find it is improving your results faster than they are, as you don’t want to waste time practicing things that aren’t helping you in the long term. With that said, we have only included tips we believe will be of good use to any sim racer of any experience level. So, without further ado, let’s get into the best steps to become a better sim racer.
The 8 Steps To Sim Racing Training
1. Getting Your Setup Sorted
The first step to any sim racing training program begins with your setup. We have several articles on Flow Racers that go into great detail about different setups for different types of racers, but we will outline the basics here. This is because without a good setup it can become difficult to improve as a racer.
That is not to say that you need to go out and spend thousands on a sim racing rig in order to be any good, but you will need to have the basics. First, you will of course need a wheel and set of pedals. Sim racing with a controller is possible, but we assume you want the immersive side of things, and not only that but you will probably be faster than with a controller once you get good with them.
You don’t really need to worry about getting a handbrake or gear shifter unless that is really something you feel is necessary. If you are looking to get good at rally games for example you will perhaps need to go for a handbrake, but maybe not if GT Sport or iRacing is more your style. More on game choice in the next section.
Comfort Is Key
You will also need to get yourself a good racing seat, preferably one that provides plenty of comfort. You are going to be spending a good few hours at a time trying to get better at sim racing, so you need to get a seat that will allow you to do this without struggling to walk afterwards.
Finally, you will of course need a console or PC to play your favorite games on. This might be dictated by which game you want to play, or those you already have. Putting all of these components together and getting used to them is key before you start taking things too seriously. You won’t get good very quickly if you can’t even use the basic functions of your equipment first.
2. Picking The Right Game
The next step is picking the right game. This comes down to personal preference really, as like we said in the previous section there are racing-discipline-specific racing sims on the market, so you want to choose one you actually like. If you are a rally fan, Dirt 2.0 might be a good choice, while any of the F1 games are ideal for fans of open wheel racing.
PC2 & GT Sport
For good all-rounders, pick something like Project Cars 2 or GT Sport, depending on your platform. We go into more detail about specific games in this article here, which should give you a good idea as to which ones are better than others for different play styles. But you might also want to consider your experience level here too.
iRacing & rFactor
If you are diving into the world of sim racing for the first time, then the examples above are good places to start. However, if you are already a fairly experienced sim racer, and like a challenge alongside extra realism, something like iRacing or rFactor 2 might be more suited to you. These are proper racing simulators, and so they are good for proper sim racing training.
These games are designed to be very realistic and immersive, which means they can be tricky to get used to for beginners. The physics involved in them and the level of competition in the online matches can be intimidating, so it is not recommended that you start with these games if you really have no experience at all.
If you do though, these games will push you to your limits and beyond once you get the hang of things. They have their own game modes that allow you to train, but they are heavily focused on online multiplayer racing. This means they can be difficult to use as a training method if you are not already quite a competent racer.
So, pick a game that suits both your own desires and experience level, and you will be good to go! For the next few points, we will be bearing in mind the games that are more on the simcade side of things, but we still think these games, such as PC2 and GT Sport, present good ways to practice for all levels of experience.
3. Using The In-Game Training Schools
Gran Turismo Sport is a classic example of a game with a built-in training school for those that need to learn the ropes of sim racing. These are great chances to get to grips with your new sim racing equipment, as they will also take you through the basics of race craft as well. This is a vital component of becoming a good sim racer.
These events go through everything from braking zones to cornering, and while they vary from game to game, they still usually contain all the basics you need to get going. Practicing these before trying any real racing will make your life much easier, and you will probably save yourself a lot of time in the long run with fewer avoidable crashes.
This is a really good method for racers that find a lot of value in structured learning. Some games treat it like a real training course, allowing you to unlock features and cars as you progress. This can make it worth your time to work through the classes or events, improving every step of the way.
While some portions of these training schools can be quite easy, others will push you to your own limits and show you where you need to improve. You will probably also learn a lot about driving in general, as sim racers are built to emulate the real thing. Thus, these training schools can be an enjoyable experience as well as a rewarding one.
While the intermediate to advanced sim racer might not find as much value in these training components, they are still useful as refreshers or for tightening up small portions of your racing that you know you need to work on. However, once you get these things down the next best thing is to take them onto the track.
4. Practicing Time Trials
Time trials are a feature in all good racing games, and they allow you to compete against others on the leaderboard but also, arguably more importantly, against yourself. By setting times on different tracks with different cars you will be able to monitor your progress as you go through your training.
Learning The Tracks
You will undoubtedly start out pretty slow. This is because you will probably be trying to learn the track at the same time as learning how to race. This is a process real race car drivers need to go through too, and it is just part of the fun. Once you start to learn the tracks off by heart, you will naturally get faster.
This is great in itself, but you still won’t get anywhere near the top of the leaderboard just because you know the layout. You then need to start cutting down your lap times by driving smarter. You will learn the racing lines, the braking zones and the track limits which will all allow you to shave valuable seconds off your lap time.
The best way to make use of this training step is to carry it out on a large number of tracks with different cars. This will mean it becomes less about muscle memory for certain corners and more about knowing what you should be doing for different types of corner. Obviously, muscle memory plays a big part, but knowing why you are doing what you are doing is more important.
One extremely useful component of time trials is the ghost function. This is a transparent version of your car, usually your fastest lap, which drives alongside you on your next lap. You can use this as a target, but it is much more useful to use as a learning tool. If you watch your ghost as you are driving, you will be able to spot where you made mistakes without realizing it.
Chase Your Ghost
Obviously, you will be ahead of your ghost for the first dozen or so laps as you continuously improve, getting used to the car and the track. But once you set a relatively good time, you will then find yourself chasing your ghost. This is where you can watch it from behind and find the areas you can go a little wider, and when you can outbreak yourself to shave off valuable seconds here and there.
But you will inevitably reach a point where you can’t take any more off your time. This is where you need to look for external help. The best place for this, if not in the game with AI and the built-inghost features, is YouTube and its abundance of sim racing creators. But before we get into that, there is one more thing you might want to do in your quest to become a better sim racer.
5. Turn Off The Assists
An Optional Step
While this step is technically optional, it is one that will really show you what you need to do in order to be a good sim racer. When you first start out with any driving game, there will be a bunch of assists on to help you. These can range from traction control to electronic stability control, with some games, like GT Sport, even having assists to tell you when to start braking.
While these make the first steps of the sim racing adventure much more gentle and far easier for the inexperienced, they remove a lot of the skill needed to be the very best. These assists are there to make your life easier, but if you want to be a good sim racer you need to learn to drive without them.
While some real cars will have driving assists, like GT3 cars and their ABS and traction control, many will have none at all. While this is a hotly debated topic in the world of sim racing, with some believing that driving with assists is not driving at all, it really does come down to personal preference.
If you are an absolute beginner, you will probably struggle endlessly when you turn off assists. Learning a bit more of the theory can help you understand where you are going wrong, but really what you need to do is learn how to drive the car well with them on before you turn them off, so that you at least know what good driving should look like!
Practice Practice Practice
Then, simply try turning one of them off at a time. You will find yourself struggling to control the car at first, but after enough practice you will eventually get the hang of things andrealize just how much of the work some of these assists do. Then, turn off another one and go through the same learning process.
Eventually you will be able to drive the car perfectly fine without any assists, and this, if nothing else, will really show you how much skill is needed to drive a car fast around a track, and it will give you a new appreciation for real race car drivers and sim racers alike.
However, do not feel pressured if you simply cannot get the hang of things. If you are already struggling with the assists on, just keep going with them. Turning them off can be like playing a completely new game, and as the aim of the game here is to have fun, you should not go out of your way to make it less so.
6. Watching And Comparing Yourself To Other Sim Racers
Platforms like YouTube have plenty of sim racing content on them, with some from top drivers both in the world of sim racing and in the world of real racing too, with one notable example being Nico Rosberg and his YouTube tutorials of all the F1 tracks.
Learn From The Best
However, your goal is to find creators that play the games you play and race the way you want to race. You need to find creators that are better and faster than you, as these are the ones you can learn the most from. You want to watch how they approach the race, how they take corners and how they approach the braking zones etc.
Some creators will put up entire training courses dedicated to helping others become better sim racers, while others might simply show off their own driving skills. Either can be useful for the amateur sim racer, but we recommend trying to find someone that at least talks through what they are doing so that you can actively follow it and understand it.
Of course, YouTube is not the only platform you can use. Websites such as Reddit often contain lots of insight from other gamers that have found better ways to practice or indeed tackle specific concepts within racing itself. This can be useful for the understanding side of things, as getting the theory down when it comes to racing can often make doing the practical much easier.
Pay attention to the small details and take notes if you want. Then, head onto your game of choice and try and emulate what they are doing. Use their driving as a reference and try to implement the things they say and do into your own racing and see if you improve. Then, just repeat this process until your lap times are much more consistent.
7. Completing Races Against AI
Once you have spent a decent amount of time on the time trials and have learned a lot from those that are better than you, it is time to get into some races. Now, this doesn’t necessarily need to be step number 7 in your training program, as you will probably want to do some racing as soon as you get the game.
Plus, you might need to do some racing in order to unlock tracks, cars and events, so this is more of a step that can be done throughout your training program. The reason for including the step here however is to illustrate that it is something you should focus on as a standalone training procedure after doing all of the previous ones as well.
Entering races against the AI in the game is the best way to put your skills to the test in a racing situation. You will need to adjust your racing lines and strategies as you go and understand the effect of having other cars on the track beside you. This is important to do before you jump headfirst into races against other people, who will be at or above your skill level.
Racing Other Cars
You can play around with the difficulty level of the AI too of course, but the most important thing here is to simply learn how to negotiate other cars. You still need to be fast and use your skills learned in previous steps but learning how to make smart overtakes and when to defend will prove vital for the next step.
Simply racing endlessly on ovals might not make you a better racer, and so you will need to be adventurous here. Try custom races as well to really make your training specific to what you need to improve. This is a good chance to mess around with different driving conditions too, such as the cold and wet, to see how it affects your tire wear and grip levels etc.
Once you have taken on plenty of virtual opponents, it is time to take on real ones to put your skills to the real test.
8. Entering Live Races
Once you have gone through the previous steps and gotten yourself familiar with the prospect of racing against computer opponents, the next step is to take on real opponents to test your skills. Games like GT Sport and iRacing will pit you against other people of a similar skill level, so you when you first start out you might find yourself against a bit of a mixed bag.
First Real Test
However, once you put some more time in and continue to perform well, with a focus on fair racing and driving safely, you will move up the ladder and start facing more skilled opponents. This should be a fun step, but it will also be the most challenging. It will require all of the skills you have learned by practicing in solo sessions, while also being aware of others around you doing the same.
You can use this as a good way to measure your progress too, as you will inevitably struggle to place well in the first few races, but as you move up the ranks and become a better driver you will have more success. While you are doing this, you can continue to work through the previous steps, and watch how they all work together to make you a better sim racer.
9. Taking A Training Course
An Optional Step
The final step is the most optional out of the bunch. This involves taking an external training course to learn how to become a better sim racer. There are lots of different options out there, and they vary by price, instructor and experience level. You will also be able to find training courses for specific platforms and specific games.
Sim racing courses are usually carried out by either professional sim racers or professional race car drivers. They are people that really know what they are doing when it comes to racing, and so they will be able to find out where you are going wrong and what areas of your racing could be improved. These courses can be a fast way to get much better at sim racing.
This step is really only necessary if you want to become very good at sim racing and are struggling to do so on your own, or if you want to start sim racing competitively. While this is definitely something you can do, it is worth considering whether or not you simply want to get better at sim racing for your own enjoyment and achievement.
The steps outlined above are easy to follow at home and, aside from the investment in games and equipment, require no real outlay other than time. Investing in a sim racing training course might be worth it for your abilities at the end of it, but if sim racing is not your priority then you definitely do not need to do this.
There are lots of ways to get better at sim racing. There are training steps you can go through that will guide you on the path to faster, smarter driving. Whether you want to simply be the best out of you and your friends or if you eventually want to compete professionally, these sim racing training steps are the best way to achieve both of these goals.