It’s not just professional drivers who can upset the virtual motorsport community with an ill-considered comment, as Jim Glickenhaus upsets sim racers with a slightly odd Twitter post. The owner of Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, car-collecting millionaire, former film director and producer, and investor later claimed the comment was aimed at rival hypercar builders. But the responses, and the subsequent blocking of various sim racers, haven’t supported that.
And unfortunately the hole got a bit deeper with some of the replies to sim racing enthusiasts.
Unpicking the Glickhaus tweet
Regardless whether the original tweet was aimed at hypercar teams sharing lap times on an empty circuit, or an ill-advised dig at sim racing, the latter is clearly how it’s been taken. And as someone who has managed social media accounts for some big automative brands (including magazines and car manufacturers), that’s obviously when everything should have been cleared up effectively without stoking things further.
Most people who enjoy sim racing are fully aware that it’s not the same as real motorsport. Even a motion sim rig won’t simulate the g-forces involved in driving or riding around a circuit in the real world. Or the danger inherent in motorsport, which has sadly been brought into focus with recent tragedies at various circuits.
But we like to treat it as a serious hobby because it’s as close as many of us will get to a competitive racing experience. Whether we’re limited by money, talent or other factors, sim racing lets us immerse ourselves in cars, teams, championships, and more. And a number of professional drivers obviously use a variety of simulators to learn circuits, test car modifications, or just to keep their level of racecraft up. That’s before we mention the notable sim racers who have gone on to race in various categories of real motorsport.
So it’s a bit pointless to say that real racing is real racing. Because that’s pretty obvious to most people, and will just wind up the small number of people who strongly disagree. And claiming everything else is meaningless is massively disrespectful to a huge community of motorsport fans and sim racing enthusiasts.
Especially when many people might only know the name Scuderia Glickenhaus from their cars appearing in Assetto Corsa, unless they’re fans of World Endurance.
The cost of Sim Racing vs Real Motorsport
A number of people tweeted in support of the claim you can enjoy real world racing for the same cost, or less than a sim rig. Unfortunately, while it’s true you can definitely get on a circuit for a smaller amount than you might imagine, it’s still not true that it will be cheaper than sim racing, especially over the course of a few seasons.
There are various options for cheaper real world motorsport, including hiring karts, or using your existing car or motorcycle for track days, sprints, time trials, autocross, or drag racing. Or a suitable vehicle can be used for short oval racing, road rallying. But this means potentially risking a car or bike you need to use during the week to commute to work, potentially requires additional insurance, and doesn’t cover the cost of accidents or increased mechanical wear and tear.
By contrast, adding a sim racing set-up to an existing PC or console can cost under £100 secondhand, or under £200 brand new. The exact cost of a ‘good’ set-up was never established, but one of the benefits of sim racing is that a better rig is more likely to increase your consistency than speed, so it’s perfectly possible for someone with talent on a sub-£200 set-up to win races, championships and more. Some absolute aliens even manage to be competitive with a joypad controller.
The reality of sim racing vs real motorsport
As always, the reality is somewhere between the extremes of the argument. As much as I love sim racing, it’s not directly comparable to real world motorsport. The experience of driving or riding on a circuit in close proximity to other people, and dealing with the g-forces and implications of danger simply can’t be replicated with a PC or console.
At the same time, sim racing is an affordable and accessible way to experience a large part of what makes motorsport such a thrilling thing. You get the sights, sounds, and competitive thrill of battling against other drivers, with the opportunity to experiment with changing car settings, and play around with race strategies. And you get to use vehicles and tracks that would be impossible in real life, whether that’s an F1 car at a circuit on the other side of the world, or a classic car at a track which no longer exists.
And real world motorsport is limited to specific dates and times, whereas with sim racing you’re able to jump into a quick race whenever you feel like it.
Ultimately, does it matter what Jim Glickenhaus intended? As long as you’re having fun and enjoying driving and racing in the real world, or on a sim rig, that’s the most important thing.