Looking back at my races, I see that I would be pretty much nowhere if I had gone into Formula Vee without any simracing experience (have not done karting at all).
I don't need any help with racing lines, I can figure it out by myself. What's fast in the game is fast on track - it works. I was taught to be patient....don't let any emotions get in the way, and maybe even channeling the emotions to make you faster or more consistent....but most of all I learned patience, just to keep your head sane and calm in the craziest of situations....and to keep pushing, at every moment.
When I was hopelessly slow, I didn't give up. In simracing I'm usually the slower guy, I may have been the pace setter once or twice, but mostly chasing. You have to concentrate on certain things, and basically focus on where exactly you need to improve the time. It has to be done, and you end up doing it, instead of farting around feeling sorry for yourself.
The most joy I can take from simracing is the actual wheel-to-wheel duels I had online. These battles helped me strategise subconsciously on when and where to be on the track to force an error, make a pass, defend, etc. When attacking a driver, it's quite difficult in some circumstances to watch him and also drive the corner properly (seeing as you will be off the normal racing line you're used to), and you build this cool awareness of knowing exactly where the driver's car is, and what he is probably doing. I had some interesting battles on track at Kyalami...very interesting :P There is no way I'd be alive today after overtaking someone around the outside of T1 if I didn't have that awareness of what to do, how to slide off-line without getting in the other guy's way (ie: crash into him). You also learn to size up a driver's nature very quickly, how aggressive he is, etc. And after that, you know exactly what to do with him. It's very cool, no screwing around wondering what to do :P
Example of a tough simracing duel
There's some occasions where it doesn't work out. In rFactor I'm sure as hell I could defend my position against a relatively aggressive driver around the outside of T5 (Sunset corner, fast righty), but it didn't work out at all. It's so dirty off the racing line, I ended up going sideways through there, and too close to crashing.....wow I learnt the hard way :P Under no circumstances ever get onto the dirty line :P
You see, simracing seems to have helped. But it's all a matter of application. Real and Sim are totally different. Simracing will teach you the raw basics, the underlying truth to what being fast really is about. But it can be total trash and absolutely useless. It's up to the individual to identify certain similarities, and find a way of applying that knowledge to make it work. It's hard to totally trust a computer game, seeing it's just a fudged approximation of what someone thinks feels like real life. Its obviously flawed, and can't go flying into corners on the real track without basing knowledge of what the car is going to do from experience WITH the car itself. I certainly won't base my trust in simracing like that. But there's quite a bit else that I can gain from rFactor, I'm sure I haven't figured out the full potential of how simracing can help in real racing.
I have raced 2 events and my best finish now is 11th, with the car still intact. If some other simracer had the same opportunity, he/she could have done a lot better. Or much worse. It's all about how you can apply what you've learned, and figure it out in the shortest amount of time. Quite interesting, I still got lots to learn on track, and I'm enjoying this experience.