simlife - part one

March 16, 2020 /// issue no. 76

As we are all practicing responsible radiuses our social calendars and out of home activities have ground to a halt. My guess is that for most people their living spaces are either cleaner than they’ve ever been or, perhaps for most parents, messier than they’ve ever been. With real life motorsports drying up, the pros have turned to sim racing. Many top NASCAR drivers are already active in iRacing and F1 driver’s Max Verstappen and Lando Norris are known to be as well. IndyCar is also considering moving the season to sim racing, but there will definitely be a need to create liveries and get sign offs from sponsors.

You and I are probably going to be stuck at home for a while. Weeks could easily turn in to months. So if you’re not already on the sim racing train It might be time for you to join in on the fun too.

For starters you’re going to have to pick a sim which then may lead you to pick a platform. Let’s walk through from least to most sim like.

Gran Turismo and Forza

The Gran Turismo series has influenced an entire generation of auto enthusiasts. And while many might be offended by my inclusion of these in a discussion about sim racing, if you already own a console you can play these on (PS4 and Xbox One, respectively) you would be silly to not see if you’ll like the experience and will commit to the hobby by picking up a second-hand steering wheel and pedal setup (well sanitized of course). Those setups hold their value amazingly well so you’ll probably be able to flip it for the same money should you get bored or decide to upgrade The mega-studio budgets mean both simcade experiences feature amazing graphics, a huge selection of cars, and are far more approachable than the other titles on this list.

Project Cars 2

Project Cars 2 is a step up from console “racing games”. The graphics are not quite as polished as Forza or Gran Turismo, but it is certainly no slouch. Project Cars 2 career mode sticks you in an amateur series and has you work your way up to the top across a wide variety of motorsports. The difference between Forza or Gran Turismo and Project Cars? You can get away with using a controller in the former but don’t even think about it with the latter. Projects Cars 2 might be more work while the classic console games might be more fun. It’s up to you which one will be more rewarding. Project Cars 2 is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Assetto Corsa

AC is the playground of sims. As an open platform, external developers can develop “mods” to introduce their own local tracks and model any car they want. If you want to know what it’s like to drive a grassroots amateur racing Spec E46 race car on a random track of your choosing, you can totally do it. The tire models and physics may not be quite as advanced as “professional” sims but it certainly leans reality rather than arcade game. Assetto Corsa is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. No custom mods on the consoles, though.


iRacing is the mega sim that pro-drivers hop on. Its success certainly isn’t driven by fancy graphics as they look like they are straight out of the early 2000s when iRacing was born. What it lacks in straight out beauty it makes up for in realism in damage models, race simulation, physics, and even semi-follows a race season. This is where iRacing has focused their development to date. They got their stock car models really good, then their road race cars, and only then did they branch out in to dirt modifieds and rally cars. Get out your wallet. iRacing is PC only, requires an annual subscription, and if you want to buy additional cars or tracks beyond some of the base free stuff you’ll pony up for those as well. But for the cost you’ll find the best realistic online sim racing around.

Not mentioned in detail are rFactor 2 and Raceroom. The past few years have seen their popularity fade and if you’re starting in 2020, you should really be looking elsewhere. Over the next few days we’ll explore builds, setups, and getting better at your craft. I hope to see you on the virtual track soon.

Coffee time,

daily automotive addiction.