At a time when racing games pride themselves on being real simulators, we interviewed some real racing drivers, fans of virtual circuits. Training, learning, driving pleasure, they willingly spend behind a screen to practice their profession but are not necessarily attracted by the same titles as the general public, and do not necessarily have sweet words for Gran Turismo 7, F1 or Forza Motorsport.
Racing games for Xbox and PlayStation consoles
The Real Driving Simulator! Since the PS1 era, the Gran Turismo series has prided itself on being the true racing simulator. Evolving with the performance of PlayStation consoles, both the physics engine and the controls have greatly improved over the years, integrating many parameters of reality and offering more advanced driving compatibility than ever. And all while keeping a driving aids system so as not to lose its main target: the general public.
Thus titles such as Gran Turismo 7, Forza Motorsport 7 or even F1 22, must today make the big difference between an audience of beginners playing with the controller, sometimes young players discovering the practice, and more seasoned amateurs equipped a pedal and a steering wheel. And of this need to attract a wider range of playersto make them play together in multiplayer, inevitably arise some compromises both on the rules of the race and on the very requirement of the practice, namely the control of one’s vehicle.
Simulators for real pilots with Assetto Corsa Competizione
However, at the same time, more advanced simulations, more rigorous in terms of physical models, have been able to develop and find an audience of connoisseurs. We can name Assetto Corsa, its Competizione version, but also iRacing, Raceroom, RFactor 2 or even AutoMobilista. Virtual racing enthusiasts, real Sunday drivers and even professionals, use these titles to learn real circuits, work on their curves, their braking, often at the wheel of the car they own in reality. The approach is different, the requirement of another leveland without having reached the slightest equivalence between reality and virtual reality, these games are now considered as real tools to perfect one’s conduct in reality.
Thus, we went to the Circuit Paul Ricard du Castellet on the occasion of the passage of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe to question real professional car drivers in the GT3 and GT4 category, on their use of these racing games that allow them to make a difference once on the real circuit. A good opportunity to see their journey, the bridges between simulation and reality, the titles they have used and are using today, and finally the equipment they have in their hands to play or train.
QuickGabi: GT4 driver and streamer on Twitch
Gabriela Jilkova is driver of the Drago Racing Team ZVO stable since the beginning of the year, after a year in Team Zakspeed. She is also a streamer on Twitch under the name QuickGabi. At the age of 26, this real racing professional does a series of circuits across Europe, on tracks that she often discovers for the first time at the start of the weekend of competition. So we asked her how she trains.
On the weekend, we have little time for practice, with at best two or three Free Practice sessions before the qualifying sessions. So most of the time, before coming, I train on a simulator at home. It is very useful if we have to go to a circuit where we have never been before. For example here, at Le Castellet, I was able to do hundreds of laps to learn the different turns. And it’s even something I do before a circuit that I know, because in any case it’s still good training.
Obviously, we wanted to know which games, or which simulation software she used:
It depends on the circuits, because not all of them are available everywhere. So I go from iRacing to Raceroom or Assetto Corsa. I’m always looking for the most realistic game in terms of the circuit as well as in terms of the behavior of the vehicle. Gran Turismo, I used to play it on PS1, when I went to kindergarten. But no, it’s not a simulator per se. It’s not something that helps you drive better on the track. I sometimes play it with friends with a controller, but I really don’t see it as a preparation aid.
Gabriela Jílková plays on a VRS DirectForce base, with a Cube Controls steering wheel and a Heusinkveld crankset. You can find it directly
on his Twitch channel
where she regularly broadcasts her races and training in game, even if by her personal admission, she is not yet as fast in virtual as on the real circuit. For those who are interested and not afraid of English, You can find the interview in full here.
Arthur Rougier: eSport and real racing in GT3
Driver of the Emil Frey Racing team on Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO, Arthur Rougier has been mixing virtual and real races since his beginnings. At this weekend’s Fanatec eSport GT Pro Series event at Le Castellet, Arthur finished 3rd in the Pro category, earning 3 bonus points counting towards the GT3 championship. A virtual simulation specialist who shares his journey, his relationship with simulators, the simulations he uses and the equipment that goes with it, in this video in French.
At first I was playing Formula 1, so it was more a game than a simulator, on an entry-level simulator. I started like that when I was 12 years old. And at the same time, I started my sporting career in real life, and I quickly found that there was a way to link the two so that it was positive in both directions.
So we asked him what he used his simulator for today:
Already, the simulator is used to learn new circuits. Today, it is a key element for any pilot. It saves a lot of time and even on a circuit that I don’t know, in three or four laps I can be three tenths of what I can do best later in the weekend. And that saves a lot of time for the teams when the driver is ready quickly and therefore optimizes the weekend as well as possible.
What simulations are used for race preparation?
According to circuits and requests. I also do the races in simulation, so I adapt to the championship where I race, like Assetto Corsa Competizione for the GT World Challenge eSport. My favorite game in terms of sensations is perhaps iRacing, with the community system to play online, it’s really great. I also rode RFactor 2 for the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans. These are the 3 software that I use, depending on the tracks that are available.
More accessible games like Gran Turismo, Forza, F1, are these games you still play?
Not at all. I have always played F1, a series that I like, when it was “not serious” for me, when it was fun. I also had Gran Turismo 5 on PS3. And since then I haven’t played it at all. For me it’s going to be more games. In terms of realism, it loses a little compared to the three platforms I mentioned.
Arthur Rougier trains on an aluminum profile simulator, with a large curved screen, a Heusinkveld pedal set, a Simucube base and a Cube Controls steering wheel. If its computer and hardware setup was quickly set up and adjusted, with the help of the community, Arthur spends a lot of time on the settings of his virtual vehicle. For him, this is one of the essential keys to achieving good times in the race.
Raffaele Marciello: The fastest in eSports as in GT3
Raffaele Marciello is the flagship driver of the Akkodis ASP Team, current leader of the Fanatec GT World Challenge championship with his Mercedes-AMG GT3. He also won the eSport competition that day by finishing first in the Pro category, bringing 5 points to his team, in addition to the 24 points won in the real race. This specialist in simulators, started in real life at the age of 3 in karting, and went through the F1 teams Ferrari, Sauber, respectively as a tester and 3rd driver. A size that explains here its relationship to simulation.
I started with Gran Turismo 1 when I was 3-4 years old. I consider myself a Nerd, I love technology, I build my own PCs, and even though I’m short on time because you have to practice to be fast, I’m into video games in general.
When asked what role simulation plays in his current job, Raffaele speaks about the same as our two previous pilots, except that he doesn’t particularly need it:
The simulation is now a pleasure because I have the chance to drive very often. But it’s a great tool for young drivers, not to feel the car, but to use the brake properly, and things like that. It’s not a real car, it doesn’t feel like speed, but it’s a good tool to understand the behavior of a car as a whole.
And for the simulations he uses or appreciates, the same references are cited, but with a rather different opinion:
In GT3, Assetto Corsa Competizione. I don’t really like the behavior of iRacing in GT3. My pleasure is Assetto Corsa Competizione. I also have a platform with Gran Turismo 7, a Podium steering wheel from Fanatec. GT7 is great, it’s a good game to start, for me a childhood memory, which I use for the pleasure of collecting cars. It should not be taken seriously but it is also a very good game with impressive graphics.
For his PC setup, Raffaele uses an aluminum cockpit with 4 screens, a PC built around the RTX 3090 and a setup based on Simucube. He also has a PS5 setup with Fanatec’s Racing Wheel F1.
You can find his full interview on Youtube
but we warn you, it’s totally in English without subtitles.
Assetto Corsa, iRacing, Raceroom, the new simracing champions
Finally, what emerges from these interviews is that specialized platforms for simulating vehicle behavior are more useful to professional drivers or amateurs than more open titles such as Gran Turismo 7 or Forza motorsport 7. These, and even the F1 series, are considered more as games for those pilots in search of pure realism, who find in titles such as Assetto Corsa Competizione, iRacing or Raceroom, a good tool to work on your knowledge of the circuit, your braking and even, to a lesser extent, your settings.
But each of them admitted to having had in their hands best sellers such as Gran Turismo 1 or Formula One for, when they were children or still today, and having taken or still take pleasure in running. What justify the compromises made by these games for the general public? Can be for beginners, fast racing enthusiasts, car collectors. Surely less for simracers equipped with a steering wheel, a cockpit and which, with the arrival of Assetto Corsa Competizione on latest generation consoles, and the many developments of iRacing or Raceroom, touch the new frontiers offered by the most advanced car simulators, now playable by everyone.