In an unprecedented time for our sport, many motorsport fans are turning to their gaming consoles to get their fix behind the ‘virtual’ wheel.
While it might seem like these races are just ‘games’ to those who are new to digital racing, ask those involved in the Esports and you’ll see just how serious this business is.
Esports are taking centre stage for some of the world’s biggest racing categories. From international Formula 1 to national competitions in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship and carsales ARG eSport Cup, there are a host of platforms and games now available for people to race.
And unlike the real world, competitors can be set up to race in identical cars, making every competition a very level playing field.
However being a good driver in real life doesn’t automatically make someone skilful on a simulator according to one of Australia’s best Esports competitors in Cody Nikola Latkovski, with both disciplines requiring different skill sets.
Latkovski’s racing resume is impressive. His most recent achievements include a gold medal for Australia in the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games’ Digital Cup and a runner-up in the 2020 Nations Cup where he fell just three hundredths short of Japan’s Takuma Miyazono.
“Sim racing is a bit less physically demanding and doesn’t quite take a toll on your body during an endurance race. You don’t have to be as physically prepared as real drivers and there is less danger,” Latkovski said.
“However it has its own challenges and you are required to have lots of mental focus. You have to be just as mentally prepared, if not more, than a real-life driver.
“All the forces you experience on the track are different on the simulator – especially when it comes to the forces you experience on a corner. If you have a stock standard simulator, it doesn’t feel like anything is happening but in real racing, your senses are constantly overwhelmed.
“One thing people need to understand starting out in sim racing is it takes a lot of experience and practice to get good. Some people might be great in the real world but when it comes to jumping on the simulator, there are a few different tricks people have for different games.”
Latkovski is one of those drivers with a trick or two up his sleeve and he has plenty of trophies in the cabinet to prove it.
Having experimented in karting when he was younger, Latkovski switched the race car for the simulator where he has gone on to win multiple Esport titles on both the national and international stage.
Add those performances to his Nations Cup, Manufacturers Series and GR Supra GT Cup Series titles from last year and a third place in the 2018 FIA Gran Turismo Championships World Final in Monaco and Latovski is a driver who certainly knows his stuff.
So when it comes to people beginning their journey on the simulator during these testing times, the youngster had some simple pointers.
“For people starting off and wanting to have a nice experience, I would suggest Grand Turismo Sport. But for all those wanting to have a go at the pros, the official Formula 1 game or Assetto Corsa Competizione are the ones you want to play,” Latovski explained.
“These particular games are very good, especially when it comes to the physics and how it submerges you into it. There are also many talented people in these games so it will be hard.
“A good setup needs to be simple and would include one screen and a high end wheel. Logitech wheels are always good. Using gloves is not mandatory but they help with immersing yourself into the game.
“If you feel like you want to immerse yourself that extra level, you could wear a helmet, but it constricts your view. You can always just switch the game to cockpit or helmet view if you want to take that step.
“After this isolation period is over, I would encourage people to stay involved with the racing online because the simulator captures the beauty of racing at a fraction of the cost.
“So to anyone who wants to race but can’t afford it. This is their way of doing it. Those are just trying it now to get by the next few months should really consider continuing sim racing after.”