10 Sim Racing Tips for Beginners: From Zero to Hero

The learning curve when Sim Racing is quite surprising. You may think that it would be pretty easy to load up iRacing and complete a race, backing yourself for a podium finish.

However, most aspiring racers soon learn that this can be a little bit daunting, as the concentration levels required for a 30+ minute race are levels ahead of a typical 3 lap, or 5 minute race.

It can also become very frustrating, and I hope I haven’t put you off in your quest to become a sim racer, but if you follow these Sim Racing Tips for Beginners, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

Sim Racing Tips for Beginners

Set Your Field of View Correctly (FOV)

This is one of my most important Sim Racing Tips & it deserves it’s place at the top of the article. I know this, because it’s something that I failed to execute correctly.

FOV stands for Field Of View, and I’ve explained this separately here because I genuinely think it’s super important that you understand it properly.

There’s actually special FOV calculators out there that help you calculate your field of view, but most Sim Racers now have in-built FOV calculators.

Charles LeClerc Onboard Cam FOV
Field of View will bring true immersion. Picture shows Charles FOV, Abu Dhabi 2021 GP.

Initially, it may seem difficult. But as you’re picking up on these tips during your practice time, it gives you plenty of time to get used to this new look. It’s going to look like you don’t have much vision to begin with, and your spatial awareness might be a little off.

However, if you can master this, you’ll reap the rewards. Having Field of View set correctly will help to make distances look accurate to life, so you won’t miss that corner that’s caught you off guard the last few laps.

Take it Slowly

If You’ve loaded up your racing game and immediately jumped into a Lamborghini Huracan, you’re probably going to have a rude awakening. I know, because I did exactly this.

It’s probably not a bad idea to go into a faster car, to see the level that you have to work towards. After you’ve had your 5-10 minutes of fun, or spinning out… get back on track in a slower car.

There’s no rush when working towards your online licences and games like iRacing actually force you to work through the ranks, starting with the wonderful Mazda MX5 Cup. Although at first you might think this is a little boring, it’ll soon have a place in your heart. It’s a little rocket!

The thing is, it’s when you’re driving slower that you learn. If you’re a racing fan, you might have a favourite track that you love to race on. My track is Melbourne, Australia (F1!). There’s going to be lots of tracks that you don’t know, and you won’t really learn the racing lines or become familiar with the track if you’re full throttle. You’re most likely to just miss the apex!

If you work with this mantra, you can slowly increase your speed until you’re consistently beating your personal bests on a track. If you can combine this with consistently driving smoothly through the corners, you will become a force to be reckoned with. Lets be honest, it’s easy to drive flat out on the straights and slam the brakes on ready for the corner, and you’ll soon see how rewarding it is, to perfect the racing line and be the first car past turn one.

The smoother that you can race, means te more consistent you will be. Over the period of a longer race, this will pay dividends as you come up against an aggressive driver that loses focus and ends up in the gravel.

Find Your Track & Dominate

As I mentioned above, I have my track. I’m nothing special, but I have managed to break into the top 3,000 lap times without using a customised setup. Believe me, that takes some doing!

You may already have a track that you love racing on. For quite a lot of people, it’s Monza. It has the tricky turn 1 & 2, where late braking can cost you the race.

It has the Curva Parabolica, where you can set yourself up nice and wide in order to get a longer straight and take advantage of your top speed. The corners are great, and the straights are full attack-mode.

Consistency is Key When Sim Racing

When you’re racing on the same track over a long period of time, your muscle memory will adapt to the track. You will find visual cues that aid you with your braking zones & you will know when you have perfected a corner. All of these things bring confidence, which you can then take into an online race. This is going to be much more productive than if you just search ‘Quick Match’ and jump into a track you don’t know.

There are lots of players that do this, quite often console racers. As they play recreationally, they don’t have time to learn the tracks. If they don’t know when they should be braking, it’s a car crash waiting to happen, quite literally. They will either be using a Dynamic Racing Line, or even worse… waiting to see the car ahead slow down before slamming the brakes on.

If you understand where the braking points are on the track, you’re less of a risk on the track. This will increase your Online Reputation and increase the Safety Rating on your licence. Going forward, this will help you get into driving clubs and leagues.

It might not seem like the most ‘fun’ way to spend your time, but you’ll soon learn that challenging your own lap times is actually really entertaining. It’s when you start to struggle to beat your times, but get consistently near them, that you will realise you’re getting ready for your online journey to begin.

Turn All Assists Off

When you’re first getting used to a new game, it may become very tempting to keep some assists on. Automatic Transmission, Full Traction Control & Full Dynamic Racing Line. Whilst I agree to the driving line in some instances, if you get used to the game with all assists on, you’re going to have to learn the game all over again when you decide to turn them off. Actually, it will become even harder. Why? These driving assists are giving you something to rely on. You know you’re never going to lose the car if you accelerate too much coming out of a corner, you know you’ll never miss a shift.

When it comes to the point that you turn the assists off, you’ll have trained yourself for when to apply the brakes, and you can apply them much harder with all of your assists on! You’ll literally have to go back to practice, potentially dropping back to a slower car.

It’s better to jump in the deep end with armbands on… instead of thinking you can swim and falling in, only to learn the hard way!

A Poor Quote, Myself.

I’ve not hit the above with true conviction, but it does make sense. Your assists are armbands, and when you finally turn them off… you’ll realise you need to either put the armbands back on, or learn fast!

It might sound counter-intuitive to turn assists off if you’re a beginner, but it will help to craft you into a better racer. Remember, there are Sim Racing lobbies out there that ban the use of assists, so you don’t want to limit your pool! (Excuse the pun that plays into that bad quote!).

Use Manual Transmission

When I said all of the assists, I meant the gearbox too! If you’re driving on a fancy wheel, you need to make use of that flappy paddle gearbox!

The reason that quite a lot of wheels are expensive is due to the build quality of the gear system. It would be ashame to waste that, plus it’s not really that immersive.

Configure Force Feedback Settings

On quite a lot of games, your force feedback won’t exactly be ‘plug and play’. It will need fine tuning, in order to find the best settings that provide an immersive experience.

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If your force feedback is set too low, you’ll really struggle to feel what the cars doing. If you’re pushing the limits on a corner, you might not feel this and end up in a premature spin-out. On the flip side, if your feedback is set too high, you’re not going to feel a thing, as your motor maxes out and can’t offer any more detail. Just think of having strong torque, with no detail or definition. This is actually quite hard to explain and it might need a video.

I plan to create a guides area, where we can all discuss Force Feedback Settings for specific games, which should help with this.

Get Social & Practice Together

Social Practice is fun, which also makes it an involving game if you have friends that are into Sim Racing. Although in the race everyone will be competing, that’s not the case in practice sessions. You can join these with your friends, or better yet a Racing Team.

Here, you will be able to each share your tips and tricks for each track. If someone finds something that works for them, you can attempt to replicate the setup and see if this works for you. You never know, you could actually find something that shaves a few seconds from your lap times. It’s what practice is for!

It’s generally more entertaining than practicing alone, as you still have a leaderboard where you can add a little bit of competitiveness. Although you get no prize for being first in practice, it definitely gives you a psychological edge!

Avoid Competition & Pick Your Battles

This one is much easier said, than done. One of the first things that you’ll be tempted to do, is see what your ‘benchmark’ is. This is basically where you’ll head into an online race and see how you do. I actually did this on Formula 1, without knowing that my wheel needed an update for F1. I ended up ploughing straight into the leader in Baku, which resulted in being on the wrong end of a stern telling off.

Being competitive is great, at the right time. However, it can also hinder your progress, as you’ll tend to drive much more aggressive and understand the track and car less. Yes, you might put up a good fight for position, but you won’t be able to consistently hit great lap times.

I’m not saying don’t go online at all, as this can be a great barometer of where you’re at. However, race your race. Naturally, you’ll want to finish first, but at the start of your Sim Racing Career I would definitely advise that finishing races without hitting any opponents should come above finishing first at the cost of wiping out the competition.

The great thing about most sim racers, is that it’s full of the ‘right kind’ of racers. They aren’t the typical console gamers that will wipe you out, if you’re flying past them with DRS wide open. Yes, they might defend, but to the letter of the racing law. You might get an unfortunate coming together at some points, but racers are always apologetic. Consistent offenders are often banned!

The Practice:Race Ratio

There is no official practice to race ratio, but it’s something that I’ve not seen mentioned much at all. Interesting.

When you look at competitions such as Formula 1, they have over 4 hours of practice sessions for a 90 minute race. If you also take into consideration the time they will spending on their Racing Simulator too, they’re practicing much more than they’re racing.

Although you aren’t fighting for the World Drivers Championship like Max Verstappen, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be doing something similar. I know I’ve spoken about practice quite a lot, but it’s really important that you get the hours in practicing, because you will see the benefits at the end of the week, when you decide to put yourself into an online race.

Get A Rig

I’ve tried to avoid a post where I’m advising you to get this, or get that, but it’s creeped in at the end. If you can afford to get a cockpit where you can mount your wheel and pedals, you’ll have both better performances and a much more entertaining time.

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I’ve seen some stories of people who have their wheels on their laps, whilst sat on the edge of a bed. Whilst I applaud the effort, this sort of setup would cause more issues than it’s worth! Not only am I talking about your lap times and consistency, but I’m also talking about your spine and general aches and pains! Most Sim Racers come online for a spirited race with their friends after work, you don’t want to be cramped up and in pain due to your posture.

In the perfect world, we would all have a Sim Racing Rig. A really expensive one, probably a motion sim. I know one thing for sure, I can’t afford that, and Mrs TSR definitely wouldn’t ‘sign off’ a £10,000 video game accessory. However, you really don’t have to spend all that much, there are some great budget rigs on the market, which can even fold-away if you don’t have too much space.

We want to have fun and we want to win, but you want to be comfortable too.

The final benefit of getting some form of rig or stand, is that your pedals won’t be slipping away on the carpet. If they’re bolted down, you won’t have to do that awkward thing with your feet when you find yourself a few seconds on the straight. You know the thing, where you have to shimmy the pedals whilst somehow trying to keep 100% throttle.

Sim Racing Tips: Closing Thoughts

It’s important that you aren’t too hard on yourself when you make a mistake when Sim Racing. Providing you learn from it, at least it shows your growing as a driver. The reason that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself is that; we are all human.

Just because you’ve read this blog post, doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically become the most consistent driver on the track. I must have over 200 hours track time with a 95 safety rating, but that doesn’t mean I’m guaranteed to not crash in my next race.

These Sim Racing Tips will help you step things up, as you look to improve your racecraft, on your mission to achieve podium finishes, but more importantly, clean races!

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