What is e-sports racing (and how to get really good at it)

Published July 10, 2020, 9:02 AM

by Inigo Roces

Finish on the podium from the comfort of your home

Written by Eric Tipan

With strict physical distancing guidelines implemented worldwide during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything ground to a halt. No one was coming, going, and much less, racing.

That’s when traditional athletes turned to e-sports – from football to tennis, basketball, and even racing. It wasn’t much of a stretch for the latter compared to others. There have been a plethora of racing sims (simulators) providing as real a feel as possible of every race track in the world, and of every race car ever made.

Formula One hastily put together the 2020 Virtual Grand Prix just days after the lockdown. Then there was a 24-hour virtual Le Mans, NASCAR The Replacements 100, and several other benefit e-sports races by auto brands.

Viewers were in the hundreds of thousands but it still paled in comparison to the tens of millions watching the League of Legends World Championship. What it lacked in attendance though, it matched in participants. Real race car drivers like Lando Norris, Jenson Button, and even Dale Earnhardt Jr. went wheel-to-wheel versus plain gamers, which upped the fun and excitement factor exponentially. Imagine beating Earnhardt Jr. or qualifying better then Button?!

That’s no easy feat by any measure. You don’t just stroll up to a PC or console and immediately get pole position without days, or even just hours of practice.

If you want to satisfy your need for speed, you’re reading the right article. Read on for tips on how to be good. To be the best, the rest is up to you.

To start e-racing, a racing rig is not required. You can start off with a controller. In many of these e-races, one must be at least 18. You should have a Playstation 4 (PS4) console, a Playstation Network (PSN) account, an active PS Plus subscription. Or you could get an Xbox One, and Xbox Live account. There’s also the PC route, but you need a relatively powerful one to handle these games. The games can range from original copies of Gran Turismo Sport, Assetto Corsa Competizionze, F1 2020, iRacing, to even Dirt Rally 2.0. Of course, a high-speed internet connection goes without saying.

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If you’re a first-timer, use all of the assist features found in these games. Don’t toggle off the driving line markers so you can learn (and memorize) the racing line. This is the route that will give you the fastest lap time on the track. Keep an eye out for double cones or red arrows on the racing line indicating braking points and the single cone (or arrows) that tell you where to enter and exit the turn to hit the apex.

I remember the late, great Pocholo Ramirez tell us that if you’re noisy on the track – tires screeching and squealing – you’re actually slow. That holds true even in these games. All that noise means you’re driving into a corner too fast and you’re on the brink of losing control. Be smooth, literally. Scale back on the throttle and steering if you’re making all that ruckus because that means you’re driving above your skills.

Brave enough to turn off the artificial aids? Find markers like posts, billboards, and signs that can remind you of braking points. Focus on those when approaching corners and never forget to always go wide to the outside lane before turning in to meet the apex of a turn.

Learn to get on the throttle early from a turn because you can get a couple of tenths of a second each time. In a 53-lap race, that’s a 10.6 second advantage.

Memorize the track limits so you know which corners you can take with both tires on the curb or even on the turf, just to gain a few more tenths of a second.

Slipstream behind other vehicles on straights when possible. This will help you save fuel and allow you to catch up on the competition. Just don’t brake too late in the oncoming corner.

An automatic gearbox would be the easy option but not the fastest. A manual will give you more control of the race car including downshifting into corners to conserve tires, managing speed, and having more torque to power out.

While there are four views to choose from, I highly suggest Normal View. This puts you in a first-person position which can help you calculate the best move on the track.

This is not even close a complete cheat-sheet because we’ll need many more pages for that. It will, at the very least, help you get a decent lap time.

Mastering these won’t guarantee a podium finish either because there are participants out there who live and breathe these games so know that you’re in for some really stiff competition.