The privilege of thrashing a Ferrari 250GTO around Mugello or doing powerslides around Willow Springs in a Mclaren P1 may only be reserved for a handful of people in the world, but thanks to modern advancements in gaming, many of us can get a virtual taste of what it might be like in real life.
Enter the world of virtual simulation racing.
Yes, there are certain shortcomings to driving a LaFerrari on screen as compared to the real thing, but there are also many advantages, primarily the fact that if you do end up in a wall, there are no costly implications involved and a simple click of the restart button gets you back in the action.
The last few years have been very kind to racing sim gamers. The release of major titles over the last two years means there is a game for every kind of petrolhead.
Those looking for variety will love Forza Motorsport 7 and its 700+ car roster accessible at any level of driver skill. Tame armchair racing drivers seeking a greater challenge will sink their teeth into Project Cars 2 and Asseto Corsa, both capable of testing even the most skilled drivers. Dirt 4 offers a dose of off-road fun and the official Formula One games allow you to rub shoulders with the likes of Hamilton and Vettel on track while living the life of a Formula One star.
The gaming industry has become so massive that car manufacturers work directly with developers to ensure their cars are recreated as accurately as possible on screen. This level of dedication means that you get the closest experience possible. The fact that Porsche unveiled the new GT2 RS at the launch of Forza Motorsport 7 instead of, say, Goodwood FOS, speaks volumes about their commitment to letting the general public experience their cars in the virtual realm.
Let’s face it – today’s gamers are tomorrow’s customers. Many people are both, as gaming is hardly reserved for just kids these days.
As with most things in life, great fun isn’t free. You will need to invest in some proper hardware to get the most out of these games. Apart from the console or PC needed to run the game, the addition of a large screen and dedicated wheel and pedal combo will take the immersion to the next level.
Before you feel nauseous at the cost of a Logitech G920 wheel set (around R4k) and games at R600 – R900 each, consider the hours of entertainment you’ll derive and what the cost of real-life racing is. This is massive bang for buck once you do the math. It’s a highly attractive option for a petrolhead looking to have fun on a budget until they have enough money saved up for the real thing.
Virtual racing need not just be a stepping stone though, as eSports have become high stakes tournaments held by the likes of Forza, Gran Turismo and even Formula One. Players can make careers out of it through sponsor involvement. The Gran Turismo Academy has seen virtual winners be promoted to Le Mans racing teams with major success.
Those who are lucky enough to have experienced the real thing will know that nothing can beat the noise and sensory overload of driving a real car at its limits around a track. Whether you do this regularly or not, the addition of a dedicated racing rig to your home is perfect for filling the void after a long day at work.
And as fuel prices increase and racing costs skyrocket, I can still enjoy driving my Ferrari 599 around Monaco on my Xbox without caring about its consumption or whether I’ll kerb the wheels when I pull out of the garage. Bliss.