While Sim Racing can definitely be regarded as an alternative to real life racing, there are definitely elements that simply can not be replicated. I believe that sim racers should try some form of real life autosport in their lifetime. I would highly recommend karting, because it can give you a hands-on approach to real racing and driving techniques at a relatively inexpensive cost. I did a karting class with the Jim Russell (now SimRaceway) driving school back in 2011 and, even though it was 3 years ago, I can say for a fact that it helped improve my sim racing. I would like to go into a couple reasons why I feel every sim racer should try karting, based on my experiences.
KARTING IS THE ULTIMATE IN DRIVER CONNECTION TO THE VEHICLE
When I first started driving the go-kart in the class, the first thing I noticed was how the kart responded to my inputs. The steering was very responsive, and it did not require much to make the kart react in a drastic manner.
At the same time, I noticed that you have to be very smooth with your inputs, especially with the throttle. If you’re too heavy on the gas, the kart will bog down, and you will lose speed. While that does not happen in all cars, it teaches you good principle in regards to smooth inputs. Smoothness is also key in steering, where you want to scrub off as little speed as possible through the tires.
KARTING SHOWS YOU HOW TO DRIVE WELL
One thing that was clearly apparent to me in that karting class was that your driving line matters. I was seeing drivers running nowhere near the ideal racing line, and they were seconds off the pace. When you’re running sub-50 second lap times, you want to make every tenth count.
One thing that can be quite lacking in Sim Racing is the sensation of speed. Odds are, you’d be hard pressed to feel a difference between 65 and 70 mph. However, strap in a kart sitting inches above the ground, and you’ll feel the difference.
KARTING MAKES YOU REALIZE HOW FAST THINGS HAPPEN
There was one instance in my karting class where I had a kart spinning in front of me as we were entering a corner, and I barely had any time to react. I ended up locking up the brakes, and spinning. Luckily, Sim Racing helped me get in the mindset of “spinning is better than wrecking”, as well as “LOCK THE BRAKES WHEN YOU SPIN!”
However, the guy behind me (All-Star NHL player Bill Clement) wasn’t so lucky. He spun as well, but didn’t lock the brakes. He ended up backing into me, and trashing both of our karts.
This crash course (no pun intended) helped me realize that you always have to keep your mind two steps ahead. You need to anticipate the unexpected, and be ready to react to anything heading your way. I feel that this mindset has kept me out of many wrecks in my sim racing career, and this class really helped cement that mindset.
KARTING CAN HELP ESTABLISH SIM RACING’S “PLACEBO EFFECT”
As I mentioned before, many elements of real life racing can be simulated, but it can only go so far. You can not really get a “seat of your pants” feel, with most of the feeling in sim racing being communicated through the steering wheel.
I think that, because you can get an idea of how the kart works, karting helps give you a mindset that can be transferred over to sim racing. You can learn how to drive at the limit in real life, and transfer that knowledge to your virtual racing.
I can only say so much about how Karting can benefit your Sim Racing, but the best way for you to find out for yourself is to give it a try! A lot of areas have a karting track nearby that will let you try an Arrive-and-Drive series, or even may have a class to teach you techniques.
Do any of you have karting experience? How do you feel it transfers to your Sim Racing experience? Let us know in the comments!