Sim Racing and FOV part 1

Over the nearly 10 years that I’ve enjoyed sim racing, I never really paid much attention to FOV (field of view). I always adjusted it to a value that allowed me to see the road and objects around me the best, and then I would hit the pavement. It wasn’t until recently, when I moved from sim racing to real cars, that I noticed how flawed an arbitrary FOV number could be.

When I first got into a real car to turn some hot laps, I had all the confidence in the world. I thought, “Hey, I’m good driving virtual cars, this is practically the same thing.” When I reached the first corner, I realized it wasn’t. Something just didn’t feel right. I knew what I was supposed to do; I had an idea of where I wanted to put the car, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to put the car in the right place. I missed apexes, I entered corners too soon or too late; too slowly or too quickly; I was a mess.

As time wore on, and I accumulated more track experience, I was able to pick up some speed. When I headed to Silverstone Circuit in the UK for GT Academy, I felt I would be able to shine with knowledge of hundreds of virtual laps at the circuit fresh in my mind. I knew every braking zone, every turn in point, and every apex. I was ready.

But something strange happened when I finally got onto the Silverstone Circuit. It was like a totally different track than the one I raced on so many times in the virtual world. For one, it was absolutely MASSIVE. The track is super wide, the straights are ridiculously long; the scale of the facility just wasn’t conveyed in the racing sims. It was so big, in fact, that 130+mph felt like 50mph on the highway. When I reached the first corner I recognized — Copse, the high speed former turn 1 of the Grand Prix circuit –- I knew there was definitely something wrong with my sim-based mental track map.

The corner looked so tight. It seemed closer to a hairpin than the flowing, dab-the-brakes-down-a-gear corner I was used to. It was like I was at a completely different track. Stowe seemed like a corner that would never end. Maggots and Becketts were actually corners, instead of just kinks in the road. Luffield seemed like it was much more than 180°; it actually seemed like it was closing back in on itself. The racing sims that had got me to Silverstone had let me down once I got there, and when I got home, I was determined to figure out why.

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