Let me talk about something that I haven’t really touched upon properly.
If you know me personally, you probably know one of three things — I’m a musician, I like video games involving a fictional anthropomorphic blue hedgehog, or I love motorsport. If you’re close to me, you probably know about all three. But it isn’t until recently my that love of things on four wheels really ramped up, or something that I made quite public when I retook my hobby of sim racing in late 2015.
I was hooked on DiRT Rally, and me and my girlfriend were constantly playing DiRT 3 and GRID 2 together for a while. It’d been years since I was on a proper hook of racing games. The most I really would’ve played was the F1 games from Codemasters every so often and occasionally I’d reinstall Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4. I had given up on sim racing in around 2010 when my (only) computer had suffered a GPU failure, and me and my family didn’t really have the money to spend on a new one. Nor did they care, really. So I was kind of shit out of luck when it came to gaming at large. Integrated graphics sucks.
Back in around 2007, I had bought a Logitech G25. My grandmother had passed away, and me and my brothers got some money to buy whatever we’d like. My elder brother opted for a TV and a fancy chair, my younger brother was a Nintendo Wii. I don’t remember what my oldest brother went for. But I went for the Logitech G25. At the time, I was massively into racing simulators, like Live for Speed, rFactor and F1 Challenge 99–02, and I wasn’t really satisfied with having to play with mouse and keyboard. Everyone on the Live for Speed forums seemed to really love the G25. Everyone had that one, or the DFGT, or the Momo Racing Wheel. The G25 was considered the best you could get at the time, so naturally, I went for it.
I remember being so excited. I wanted to get my mum to try it since I knew she used to drive way back. It had a leather coated rim, a clutch pedal, and a gated shifter that could easily switch between h-pattern or sequential. It was the dog’s bollocks! And I couldn’t wait to get in and drive.
I was shit. I was abysmally slow. I was using 90 degrees of field of view. On a tiny 22 or 24" monitor. But I didn’t care or know better at the time. I was driving a car! I could drive Michael Schumacher’s championship winning F1–2000, or a not Mini! It was great fun.
This is what especially upsets me about this time though. iRacing was just coming out. And of course, the Live for Speed fanboys, spat on it much like they spat on the face of rTractor — err, rFactor. LFS announced that they were going to get the new Volkswagen Scirocco and a laser scanned version of Rockingham. This was huge! A new licensed, not fictional car, and a real, actual god damn race track! The Formula BMW had just came out and I remember me and the rest of the community being super excited about it.
Still waiting on that tyre model update Scawen. Still waiting on that Scirocco Scawen. Was nice getting Rockingham finally last year though.
Around 2010 or 2011, the motor and power supply for my G25 died. We tried everything we knew, but it was irrepairable. I was already trying to cope with playing old games that barely worked with integrated graphics and I just wanted a way to play racing games. But eventually, I just accepted reality and moved on. I chased music production & writing as it didn’t require a good graphics card. I took up guitar and became decent enough at playing it. I still would play the occasional simcade or arcade racer, and when I had been graciously given a graphics card from a friend who didn’t need it, I was given a chance to enjoy some actual god damn games as well. It was so cathartic to finally get that release I had been waiting years for.
Skip a few years, and we come to the situation where DiRT Rally is just about to come out of Early Access on Steam. I’d been given a code from someone who had just gotten a GPU and wasn’t interested in the game, so I gave it a go. Wasn’t really my thing at first. Was bloody difficult on a 360 pad. But it was way more of a sim game, so it was kind of to be expected, to be honest. Of course, the Codies Humble Bundle came out later that year, and me and my girlfriend ended up picking it up each. GRID 2 and DiRT 3 gave us something else to do and fucking around was so fun. I also was playing DR on the side and ended up convincing her to end up buy her own copy after using mine through Steam’s sharing thingy.
My 20th birthday was in January 2016, and I had saved money from my Christmas money, my birthday money and my dole money. There was only one acceptable solution.
My Thrustmaster T150 is probably the most important purchase I’ve made recently. I may use my old G25 pedals with it now as the pedals that come with the T150 are horrendously bad, but despite being made of plastic the T150 is a fantastic race wheel. It feels better, using belt driven force feedback over gear driven (I do not miss those notches) and despite being practically on the bottom of Thrustmaster’s force feedback wheels, it solidly out performs the G25. And the G27. And the G29.
By the way, fuck you Logitech for using the exact same technology without changing it one bit, and touting it as if it were something new. A new rim with more buttons and an increasingly less functional shifter does not make you look good, especially when you put it at the same sodding price.
I remember clear as day when the T150 arrived. It was a cold day, and my Dad was the only other person here. I didn’t even explain what I’d just bought or what I’d taken at the door — I just ripped open the box, put the wheel on my desk, installed the drivers for it, and opened up DiRT Rally. Monte Carlo, Col de Turini, VW Polo R.
And then I did it again. And again. And again. And again until my arms were physically sore.
Everything felt so right. So natural. Home.
DiRT Rally continued to be my main racing game, while I had returned to check on LFS and try rFactor again. Then I discovered one Empty Box… and I remembered iRacing. I remembered that I was pensive about it because of the subscription model, but I could afford it now. “Let’s give it a month and see if I like it or not”, was my rationale. I was never much of an oval racer but I had some interest in IndyCar and NASCAR after finding Matt’s channel, and sure, I was interested in trying out the McLaren-Honda MP4–30 and maybe racing that too.
From here on out, I became obsessed. Like, proper obsessed. I’d be on iRacing nearly every other day. I was going back and watching last year’s IndyCar races. I was tuning into NASCAR races. I managed to get my girlfriend onboard with watching F1 with me after Max Verstappen got his maiden win in Spain. I was full on obsessed. Sim racing this, real racing that. Left turns here, right turns there. Also, dirt’s fuckin’ cool too! Let’s get that rally shit going on! Yeaaah! Le Mans? This is sick too!
A long time ago, when I was a young kid, I had a dream. I wanted to be a race car driver. I wanted to drive a Ferrari. I wanted to be like my hero, Michael Schumacher. Today, my dream is quite substantially different; I want to be a music producer & audio engineer. I want to make music, whether it be my own, or someone else’s. I want to help someone get their ideas out and to get themselves on the radio. I want my own place where I have tons of neat gear to fuck around with. That is my dream.
But while that dream is a long way away, it’s nice to finally be able to do what kid me wanted to do… just in a virtual form.
This year, iRacing released Ferrari’s GTE car from the World Endurance Championship, the Ferrari 488 GTE, as well as Ford’s new Ford GT GTE alongside it. And I’d be kidding myself if I said I wasn’t giggling and smiling from ear to ear driving the Ferrari. It was a truly magical experience for me. To me, I wasn’t just playing a racing game — I was actually driving a Ferrari. It was the exact same feeling I had gotten when I had the chance to sit in Ferrari’s public simulator in Maranello… it was fantastic.
One day I hope I can get a computer capable of VR and a more powerful wheel to get an even more in depth experience. But until then, I’ll keep on obsessing over my motorsport and sim racing hobbies.
…and try to keep my actual dream in check of course, too. ;)