Monday, April 16, 2007

Did Simracing Really Help?

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 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.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

How is the Real Thing Different?

Well, after my race at Kyalami, I thought I would have driven enough to make a few observations between real and sim racing.

There's the poop factor. You are travelling in a race car at some speed, and although you're in a controlled environment, you are always on the limit (wouldn't be much of a race if you weren't) and things can go wayyyy wrong in an instant - you're in control, and you have the responsibility. If you crash, that's it. In rFactor you can throw the car anywhere, flat out anywhere, because there is no consequence. Personally I'm not really that scared of doing harm to my body in a crash, I'm just worried about what it would cost afterwards. I'd like to keep racing thank you, but this mentality makes me slow. I'm sure it does. Where is the balance of putting it all on the line and being 'mature' about it? Patience.....a different patience to what simracing taught me.

The cars are not the same. You're not in the same machinery, this is quite a big factor of course :P But nobody quite realises this when you sit and watch on TV. All those cars out there are all in different much time to gain in pure maintenance alone, and that only if it's the same model of the car. There are quite a few chassis types and body shapes out there.

When you sit and wonder why you're slow, you can only do it sorta like this:

Just a printout of the timesheets. In rFactor you can exit to the pits, click on the faster guy and watch onboard with him to see where you're going wrong. But that's never enough, you end up asking him for his setup, to which you can compare side by side, and make changes in a few clicks of a mouse button. To change the anti-roll bar in a Formula Vee, you'd have to get it made, strip the entire front end to get to the inside of the front suspension, put it in, and finally when everything is back together again (probably a couple days later) then you have your new anti-roll bar 'setting'. Man you'd better hope you were right about that change....Being in the right gear at the right time is so important. In rFactor I have a habit of staying in a higher gear and keeping the revs's faster. If you do this in real life, or at least in a relatively low powered vehicle like a Formula Vee, you'll be so bloody slow. Have to rev the crap out of it at every opportunity. It's also pretty easy to misjudge your speed entering a corner when you're concentrating on downshifting smoothly - you get the downshifts right, but you're just in the wrong place at the wrong speed in the corner...quite annoying, and you feel like a noob.

Driving the car is different. It's a car. In a game, its a wheel and pedals with basically no feedback. There really isn't much physical consideration of the goings on of changing gear, for example. My mind was well prepared for racing lines, etc, but the thing that got me in the end was the downshifting. You simply can't learn the tricky and evidently important stuff in a game - impossible. Being bashed around the car is kinda distracting too :P Everyone knows this is the main difference, the physical part of racing, so I don't need to go into that much. All I know is that I have to get a lot fitter for the next race :P

So what can you learn from simracing then? Totally useless? Ehhhh I think it taught me a lot....get your ass to the next post lol