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Old 03-16-2020, 11:42 PM
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Real racers take to sim racing in the time of COVID-19 - what other sports could?


With the cancellation of pretty much all racing in the next few months, this weekend several professional racers in the physical world took to public virtual racing. Most of them didn't dominate, which is kind of to be expected. Even though both forms require you to interact with a machine, and they're related activities, it's still very different. One of them gives you a giant amount of sensory input to process and affects you physically, the other gives you sound and force feedback from the wheel. On the other hand, I'd expect any good real life racer to be more than equal to my ass who is mediocre in both real life and the sim world. It's a different game, but it translates well.

I'd normally think this kind of thing was a one-off in reaction to current events, but sim racing has been a tool for actual racing drivers for awhile now. Plus, the racing sim I recently became involved in apparently has another event involving pro drivers later this week, and I kind of expect more to follow.

But, I can't think of many other sports that would translate well into the virtual world. Maybe cycling? I could see a re-write of the Peloton software or using some version of an exercise bike as a controller for a sim working, but other than the golf sims I've seen in sci-fi movies, I can't see this sort of thing really working out for other sports. Anyone have any ideas for other sports it could work out for?

ETA: And yeah, I expect we may have done this before, but it doesn't really have the kind of immediacy it has today, and tech is always groping forward. Even sim racing has come a long way since iRacing was introduced.

Last edited by scabpicker; 03-16-2020 at 11:45 PM.
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Old 03-17-2020, 12:00 AM
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What kind of racing are you talking about?
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Old 03-17-2020, 12:10 AM
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What kind of racing are you talking about?
Automobile racing and the virtual facsimile, in my example of a relatively successful translation. If you understood that, but are the type that differentiates between the different types of auto racing, F1 and NASCAR racers were both involved in the virtual events this weekend.
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Old 03-17-2020, 12:18 AM
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Cool - do they play standard games like for the PS4 or more tailored software and hardware?
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Old 03-17-2020, 01:00 AM
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Cool - do they play standard games like for the PS4 or more tailored software and hardware?
Well, they're using PC sims, so it's standard software. They either used iRacing or Rfactor 2 in the cases I know of. They're both sadly Windows only, but both run well on a system with a dedicated graphics card with 4GB of ram.

Hardware can vary, since it's the PC world. I've got a Logitech MOMO 2 wheel setup that's about 15 years old and I think cost $200 when I bought it. It's got a sequential shifter (technically two, it has paddles), brake and gas pedals. I checked earlier today and it looks like you can get a NOS one from random people on the internet for around $50. The modern version that comes with a clutch pedal and seems to cost around $240. You can grab a nice matching H-pattern shifter for about $60. A basic hardware setup isn't exactly lunch money, but it's not horribly expensive, either.

I imagine a pro racer has a MUCH nicer setup than mine, due to the fact that it'd be a useful tool for simulating in the off-season, and to have it as close to the real thing would be useful. But, it'd be debatable whether it offered any competitive advantage over my 15 year old gear outside of being able to feather the clutch during a launch or a shift, or maybe have more adjustment in the feel of the pedals.

And yeah, sorry not for apologizing about not being clear in my OP. I come from a cohort where anything besides auto racing requires the modifier of what type of speed competition is happening.

Last edited by scabpicker; 03-17-2020 at 01:03 AM. Reason: with is not and
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Old 03-17-2020, 01:04 AM
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No it's cool. Language use varies by area and to me racing would more likely be horse racing than anything else. I guess it would be different if I lived near daytona beach.
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Old 03-17-2020, 05:51 AM
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e-cycling is pretty big for amateurs as the OP mentions - zwift is the main program. My timetrial season has just been cancelled, as it goes, so I'll probably get on it.

Some pros do use it for training, so it's certainly a legit tool, but for actual events I'm not sure. Doesn't sound like something the general public fanbase, or pro-racers, would care about very much. Real bike racing is very tactical, and you can only approximate this dimension in an electronic environment.

Compared to most other sports, though, it is at least a realistic path to take.
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Old 03-18-2020, 03:33 PM
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Hey, scabpicker is it iRacing you're into now? I had a friend of mine with an amazing voice bash out a spotter voice pack for me. (I owe him several dozen beers as a result.) I really enjoyed the multiclass racing series at D level, the one with the Volkswagen turbodiesel, Mustang V6 and Solstice (because I really, really enjoyed the Solstice) but nobody else would compete at the time I was up for it and I eventually left.

It has been a few years now, so possibly that series has been replaced.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:33 PM
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ATP could continue using the Wii.
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Old 03-18-2020, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Busy Scissors View Post
e-cycling is pretty big for amateurs as the OP mentions - zwift is the main program. My timetrial season has just been cancelled, as it goes, so I'll probably get on it.

Some pros do use it for training, so it's certainly a legit tool, but for actual events I'm not sure. Doesn't sound like something the general public fanbase, or pro-racers, would care about very much. Real bike racing is very tactical, and you can only approximate this dimension in an electronic environment.

Compared to most other sports, though, it is at least a realistic path to take.
One World Tour team (Mitchelton Scott) has announced a series of group rides they're hosting (first one was last weekend on the gravel Jungle Loop in honour of cancelled Strade Bianchi). Several pros, most notably G, have posts on social media showing them Zwifting. I haven't seen any of them in game yet, but I mostly ride later in the evening in so the Europeans will all be in bed.

I'd agree that Zwift racing doesn't really duplicate the tactics of actual racing though. Still, I'd expect to see the pros be fairly active in virtual cycling even if holding virtual pro races is unlikely.
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Old 03-19-2020, 01:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Busy Scissors View Post
Some pros do use it for training, so it's certainly a legit tool, but for actual events I'm not sure. Doesn't sound like something the general public fanbase, or pro-racers, would care about very much. Real bike racing is very tactical, and you can only approximate this dimension in an electronic environment.
Well, I kind of thought that about auto racing at one time, too. Anything over a sprint is very tactical, and even a sprint involves a heavy dose of tactics. Things like drafting seemed to be too heavy duty calculation-wise for for a PC to be able to pull off during a game. To be honest, it was at the time. But through the miracle of modern computing power and modeling, at least iRacing's model has it pretty down. If I'm close enough to expect to draft from another MX-5 down a straight, it happens. Tire heat and wear, marbles and sand on the track or stuck to your tires because you went wide of the racing line, changing pavement conditions due to the time of day or part of the track you're on is just resurfaced poorly and slippery? Yeah, it models all of that.

Where cycle racing becomes a totally different animal to simulating auto racing to me is: You're powering the thing, and you outweigh the object you're racing on. As a result, it seems like you'd have to have someone producing a spec racing stationary bike chassis with a beaucoup of anti-cheating measures that would have to also measure your steering angle and how much your body leans on it. That's three things no-one has ever done. The inputs are just too complex compared to a car. A motorcycle seems like it would be easier and cheaper for sim purposes, now that I think about it.

Partly that's because it's got a relatively low barrier of entry. Get something near a competitive bike, and be willing to break your neck when you screw up, and you can go bike racing. It's not super cheap, and far from risk free. But if you've got anywhere near the right body type and are willing to train and sacrifice, you could do the real thing for pennies compared to the cost and risk of real life auto racing. So there hasn't been a market to develop this kind of device.

Compare this to auto racing, where to campaign a car in a complete amateur series costs tens of thousands of dollars even if you somehow avoid bending the car. The sexy cars cost in the millions easily. Plus, I can't think of the car where the driver outweighs the vehicle, and any sane modern one keeps you strapped in to where your body position isn't going to amount to anything, even if I lean in a real car (but I don't in a sim, my inner ear isn't triggered). The inputs from a force feedback wheel and a set of pedals get you to where you can manage an approximation of a car, even if it's still not really like driving the real thing competitively. So, really, a sim is "good enough" in this context to be useful without resorting to the tilting chassis that some flight sims use.* It doesn't appear that it's realistically possible to simulate other sports in anything approaching a fulfilling way over the internet given the current tech and market over the last 30 or so years.

But it does seem to have some success in auto racing, or at least they're willing to keep on doing it. There's another NASCAR truck race on iRacing 3/19 (I guess that's tonight, now) that will have pro divers participating, and there's supposed to be a virtual 90 minutes of Sebring for IMSA drivers this Saturday. So, something to tide race fans over.

If anyone else has virtual race events like this to share, feel free at this point. Or, if you've got another virtual version of a spectator sport that can potentially tide you over enough, pipe up!


*Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful. -George Box
  #12  
Old 03-19-2020, 01:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Acierocolotl View Post
Hey, scabpicker is it iRacing you're into now? I had a friend of mine with an amazing voice bash out a spotter voice pack for me. (I owe him several dozen beers as a result.) I really enjoyed the multiclass racing series at D level, the one with the Volkswagen turbodiesel, Mustang V6 and Solstice (because I really, really enjoyed the Solstice) but nobody else would compete at the time I was up for it and I eventually left.

It has been a few years now, so possibly that series has been replaced.
Yeah, I've actually just gotten into it after taking the plunge on a gaming PC due to knowing I'd be at home for a few weeks. As I've said, I've had my wheel setup for ages, and fooled around with other sims, but even the best of them seemed like more of a game than anything (granted, I didn't try dozens of them). iRacing seems to be pretty damn close, even if it does show me how much I competitively drive with my inner ear. You can't feel how hard you're braking and turning, so you have to watch an actual speedomter as compensation on the entry to turns.

I don't remember seeing that specific series around in the listings, but there's a production car series that sounds pretty similar. I've started the Global MX-5 cup series, and it seems pretty populated in the current era. The race I did tonight had 89 or so entries when I joined, so at least North America has a lot of folks doing it now. They split you up in groups of 12 per server/region, so it's made to handle a lot. (Goes and checks the current races) Well, most races are around a half hour away from closing registration, but the pending races all seem to at least have multiple entrants.
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Old 03-19-2020, 09:22 PM
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(snip)
And yeah, sorry not for apologizing about not being clear in my OP. I come from a cohort where anything besides auto racing requires the modifier of what type of speed competition is happening.
Whereas in my world, racing is something you do on foot. Cars are just the machines used to get you to the start line.

I haven't heard of any races going virtual, but it could certainly be done, if the runners used a WiFi-enabled treadmil; Peleton makes one. Program all the treadmills to follow the elevation changes of, say, the Boston Marathon, and there you go. You'd lose some of the subtleties of road surface, weather, and wind, but you could have a meaningful race.

In fact, I'm surprised no one's mooted this yet; this is hardly a new idea. Lots of races offer virtual packages - you sign up for, say, a 10K, run it at a course of your choosing, send the RD your time, and the race sends you a medal and a T-shirt. And people have done treadmill marathons and treadmill time records before. Wouldn't compare to a real race out on the roads, of course, but it would help the elites maintain training while in quarantine, while letting them indulge their competitive juices.
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Old 03-19-2020, 10:40 PM
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I, for one, am hoping the entire upcoming NFL season is replaced by 32 teams playing Madden, then my Cowboys might finally have a chance
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Old 03-20-2020, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by scabpicker View Post

Where cycle racing becomes a totally different animal to simulating auto racing to me is: You're powering the thing, and you outweigh the object you're racing on. As a result, it seems like you'd have to have someone producing a spec racing stationary bike chassis with a beaucoup of anti-cheating measures that would have to also measure your steering angle and how much your body leans on it. That's three things no-one has ever done. The inputs are just too complex compared to a car. A motorcycle seems like it would be easier and cheaper for sim purposes, now that I think about it.

Partly that's because it's got a relatively low barrier of entry. Get something near a competitive bike, and be willing to break your neck when you screw up, and you can go bike racing. It's not super cheap, and far from risk free. But if you've got anywhere near the right body type and are willing to train and sacrifice, you could do the real thing for pennies compared to the cost and risk of real life auto racing. So there hasn't been a market to develop this kind of device.

Compare this to auto racing, where to campaign a car in a complete amateur series costs tens of thousands of dollars even if you somehow avoid bending the car. The sexy cars cost in the millions easily. Plus, I can't think of the car where the driver outweighs the vehicle, and any sane modern one keeps you strapped in to where your body position isn't going to amount to anything, even if I lean in a real car (but I don't in a sim, my inner ear isn't triggered). The inputs from a force feedback wheel and a set of pedals get you to where you can manage an approximation of a car, even if it's still not really like driving the real thing competitively. So, really, a sim is "good enough" in this context to be useful without resorting to the tilting chassis that some flight sims use.* It doesn't appear that it's realistically possible to simulate other sports in anything approaching a fulfilling way over the internet given the current tech and market over the last 30 or so years.
I hadn't really appreciated this angle but certainly makes sense - huge barriers to entry for motorsport like you say so a good sim makes virtual racing very appealling. It's funny how one can reasonably model a sophisticated machine like a car, but a bike with less than ten moving parts is more of a challenge. There are research papers to this day trying to figure out how a bike stays upright.

Zwift is a bit like this for road racing, at least for me - I race cyclocross off-road over the winter where you can crash quite a bit [can be extreme mud], but 9 times out of 10 it doesn't hurt much, your bike is OK, and critically - it was likely your fault.
Bunch road racing OTOH can be pretty hardcore, esp at lower categories where people are less skilled - banging elbows and chopping people up to keep position, guys going all-out in a bunch sprint can lead to horrendous crashes that are certain to hurt, will break your bike, and could easily not be your fault. Riders call our local crit circuit the carbon graveyard

I'd love to get into it, in principle, as it's exhilarating and actually suits my strengths as a rider- but end of the day I need to go to work tomorrow so I'm happier to get on zwift and have a decent virtual race in complete safety.
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Old 03-21-2020, 01:15 AM
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Whereas in my world, racing is something you do on foot. Cars are just the machines used to get you to the start line.

I haven't heard of any races going virtual, but it could certainly be done, if the runners used a WiFi-enabled treadmil; Peleton makes one. Program all the treadmills to follow the elevation changes of, say, the Boston Marathon, and there you go. You'd lose some of the subtleties of road surface, weather, and wind, but you could have a meaningful race.

In fact, I'm surprised no one's mooted this yet; this is hardly a new idea. Lots of races offer virtual packages - you sign up for, say, a 10K, run it at a course of your choosing, send the RD your time, and the race sends you a medal and a T-shirt. And people have done treadmill marathons and treadmill time records before. Wouldn't compare to a real race out on the roads, of course, but it would help the elites maintain training while in quarantine, while letting them indulge their competitive juices.
Yeah, now that you mention it, it is surprising that no-one has done it. It's not like treadmills are rare, and wifi chips are getting cheaper every day. On the other hand, the barrier to actually competing is actually lower than bicycle racing. And on the third hand, we'll see what's going on in a few months - folks are inventive.



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I, for one, am hoping the entire upcoming NFL season is replaced by 32 teams playing Madden, then my Cowboys might finally have a chance
Yeah, that's one of those games where the virtual is so divorced from the real one that I can't imagine the actual practitioners of the sport partaking successfully in the virtual version. Hockey and basketball are two others that I've thought of. Roller derby would be hard. Greco-roman wrestling is right out.

So, yeah, the Cowboys could go all the way in that scenario.

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I hadn't really appreciated this angle but certainly makes sense - huge barriers to entry for motorsport like you say so a good sim makes virtual racing very appealling. It's funny how one can reasonably model a sophisticated machine like a car, but a bike with less than ten moving parts is more of a challenge. There are research papers to this day trying to figure out how a bike stays upright.

Zwift is a bit like this for road racing, at least for me - I race cyclocross off-road over the winter where you can crash quite a bit [can be extreme mud], but 9 times out of 10 it doesn't hurt much, your bike is OK, and critically - it was likely your fault.
Bunch road racing OTOH can be pretty hardcore, esp at lower categories where people are less skilled - banging elbows and chopping people up to keep position, guys going all-out in a bunch sprint can lead to horrendous crashes that are certain to hurt, will break your bike, and could easily not be your fault. Riders call our local crit circuit the carbon graveyard

I'd love to get into it, in principle, as it's exhilarating and actually suits my strengths as a rider- but end of the day I need to go to work tomorrow so I'm happier to get on zwift and have a decent virtual race in complete safety.
Heheheeh, the "carbon graveyard", I love it. I have a co-worker who used to race road bikes professionally, he's got stories to tell. Pro bike racing makes pro auto racing look like a bunch of church ladies. I imagine the amateur levels are just as bad.

So yeah, I can see the appeal of a virtual version. I've participated in competitive motorsports, but the worst wreck I've ever been in (in terms of injuries) was a single bike accident while riding a mountain bike flat out on a paved trail. I cracked my helmet and bruised my head through it, with a bit of road rash. A mistake by someone next to you on a bike at nearly twice the speed can ruin your whole life easily. I don't think the virtual version will be nearly as satisfying until you get some sort of lean sensor, though. That seems just integral to racing a two wheeled vehicle.

In addition to the events I've mentioned before, there's now a eNASCAR series on iRacing starting this sunday, and an IndyCar event on the 28th that will feature IRL IndyCar series drivers. I've watched virtual races that have no one more famous than myself, so this is kind of a treat. Would I watch it if real racing wasn't available? Yes, but not nearly as much. As it is now, I'm kind of salivating for 90 minutes of Sebring.
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Old 03-24-2020, 12:59 PM
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I haven't heard of any races going virtual, but it could certainly be done, if the runners used a WiFi-enabled treadmil; Peleton makes one. Program all the treadmills to follow the elevation changes of, say, the Boston Marathon, and there you go. You'd lose some of the subtleties of road surface, weather, and wind, but you could have a meaningful race.
Losing weather and wind is pretty huge, though: running a half marathon in a Seattle drizzle is a completely different animal than doing so with a Phoenix sun beating down on your neck. Beyond that, though, I think that the automated pacing that treadmills provide just completely changes running.

Running on a treadmill is just keeping up with a machine, but one of the big skills of road running is maintaining the discipline to keep a fast enough pace without wearing yourself out by the end. I mean, for certain levels of skill. Real champion marathoners just sprint for 26 miles, but I'm talking about for human beings.

Last edited by Boozahol Squid, P.I.; 03-24-2020 at 01:01 PM.
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