If you’re interested in starting your sim racing journey but don’t know where to begin, we’ve collated some handy advice to help get you out on-track.
Before you virtually visit your favourite circuit, however, you may want to ask yourself why you want to do it in the first place. Do you simply want to have fun or are you looking to become an esports star? Do you want to race online with others or are you happy running offline time-trials?
The answer to these questions may be the guiding influence to which sims you use and how seriously you take your sim racing in future, with a knock-on effect towards the equipment you use and the amount of time you spend honing your sim racing skills.
A gaming PC isn’t cheap to buy, so many sim racing novices start out with a console, which is a great steppingstone.
However, for the best virtual racing experience, and to get access to a plethora of PC-only sims, you’ll have to take the plunge and buy a gaming PC..
You can buy these pre-built or, if you’re particularly confident, you can build one yourself. This second option can be cheaper but carries a number of risks for the inexperienced builder, like accidentally fitting an underpowered PSU to your powerful set-up (like I did… twice).
That’s why it may be a sensible option to purchase your first gaming PC from Chillblast. This will help eliminate worries over the quality of your build so you can concentrate on driving without any nasty minor explosions…
Gamepads work just fine in most sims these days, but to really immerse yourself in the world of sim racing you’ll need a steering wheel and pedals.
In terms of entry-level wheels, Logitech offers beginner packages that will get you up and running in no time. The Logitech G29 is a capable, gear-driven wheel and pedal set with paddle shifters, rev lights and enough mappable buttons to cover almost all requirements.
The G29 can be purchased for around £200 - or much less in sales, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for holiday deals.
For a step up in quality, Logitech’s G923 is an evolution of its successful G29, featuring more grown-up styling cues and Logitech’s proprietary TRUEFORCE feedback technology, retailing at the entry-level price of £300.
Both wheels also feature sturdy desk clamps; ideal considering most beginners won’t own sim rigs.
Thrustmaster also offers its T248 for around £250, again with a plethora of buttons, a three-pedal arrangement and a hybrid belt and gears force feedback system.
The French company also sells the more budget-friendly T128 alternative, again with hybrid drive, but this comes with just a two-pedal setup reflected by its sub-£200 price point.
So, you’ve got your gaming PC set up and you’ve purchased your first wheel - now what? Well, now you need to choose which sims you want to drive.
There are several fantastic PC sims, all excelling in different areas and covering various motorsport disciplines, so your decision could be based on a number of factors; including ease of use, availability of multiplayer lobbies, variety of content and cost.
Check out our companion guide to help you decide which sim will suit you best at the start of your virtual racing adventure.
This seems like a no-brainer, but practising offline is the best way to prepare and build confidence ahead of your first forays into online racing.
Focus on high-fuel, long-run pace initially, as this will help build up your car control and consistency. If you need help with set-ups you can check out a wide variety of guides online or buy tunes directly from online set-up shops.
Such has been the progress in sims in recent years that real-world racecar driving advice can also be applied to virtual racing, so it’s worth paying attention the next time Martin Brundle dispenses his vast array of Formula 1 driving knowledge.
Watching esports professionals’ hot laps on YouTube can also be helpful in pointing you in the right direction in terms of driving technique, but their lightning pace can be off-putting. Try to filter out information that will be pertinent to you and your sim racing goals.
That’s an easy one - race at Simracing.GP!
Simracing.GP covers Forza Motorsport, F1 23, Assetto Corsa, Assetto Corsa Competizione, RaceRoom Racing Experience and Automobilista 2, providing free, well-organised racing events ideal for beginners.
Clever ranking and licence systems ensure driving standards are high, while specialised communities guarantee you can battle against like-minded racers of all abilities.
Sometimes we forget this bit, but sim racing should be fun, so go and enjoy this hugely fulfilling hobby!