A Guide to Starting Out in Online Racing

Marc Cohn On June 13, 2014
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I have been sim racing since I was about 4 years old, but, I only started being a part of the online community in 2012. Why? Because I did not have a lot of confidence in myself. I was worried I'd make a fool out of myself on TeamSpeak, I thought that I would simply end up being one of those guys that would simply make himself the elephant of the room. Most importantly, I was concerned that I would constantly be trounced out on the track and never would experience any success.

This last part ended up being untrue as I have won multiple championships along with 92 wins in various sims and disciplines in this two year period. I was so worried about failure that when I got my first win in only my third start, I felt like I could and should be able to win more and more races as well as more and more accolades. From worrying about never winning to getting a win was quite an achievement, but, little did I know that I would discover that this was the wrong attitude to have. More importantly, I was racing for the wrong reasons.

For the first year and a half or so that I was racing online, I tried to be friendly in various communities but unfortunately ended up alienating myself in ways that I was not proud of. I was a part of some communities which I found out the hard way were unjust and unhealthy to be around and sometimes made my own mistakes that made me the 'bad guy' or at other times was simply scapegoated due to favoritism and administrators abusing their power. There was one point where things were so bad that I considered quitting because of the drama and issues that went on in these communities I raced in. I strongly thought about hanging up the helmet until I realized what was going on: I wasn't having fun anymore.

The first thing I changed was my motivation. I had gotten so caught up in trying to win that I was not enjoying the experience of being out on the track. Instead, I decided that I would give it my all to do well but would be satisfied with simply doing the best I could. Next up, I left some of these leagues that were unhealthy. This unhealthiness often comprised of an atmosphere that had a lack of respect, administrators that were paranoid, egotistical and power-hungry, and drivers that were out there simply to beat one another through any method necessary. The last thing I did was find some groups that were competitive yet had enough respect as well as rules that would not change at a series owner's whim.

These steps were I what I needed to have a fulfilling online racing experience, however, there were a lot of things I wish I knew beforehand which I thought would be worth sharing.

Learn About The Sim And Equipment You Are Using Before Racing Online.

I have dealt with a lot of people that do not know controller settings or how to make the sim they are using work on their computer and expect others to simply get on TeamViewer and set everything up for them. Please do not be this person. Don't get me wrong, it is okay to ask about wheel settings or about technical issues if you are having them, but I would highly recommend doing this days before a race event or on a forum if the league you are racing in has one.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

There are quite a few that say that you have to do hundreds if not thousands of laps to master a sim. They are correct to some extent but not wholeheartedly. I have found that it is much more effective to try and use whatever time you have to learn the apexes, corner entry and exit points in order to build consistency rather than mindlessly churn out x number of laps. More importantly, it gives you time to determine a race strategy and build a setup or, if you are not setup savvy, get help from a friend to fine-tune it.


I have never been that great at setups and often have to ask for buddies to help me try and dial my car in. That being said, there are a ton of fixed-setup leagues out there so that you are able to drive rather than be an engineer, strategist, and driver all-in-one. If you choose to go open-setup though and are absolutely struggling, sometimes you can happen upon competitive setups if other league members post them on forums or if you look for one online. Just do not, and I repeat, do not go into a race with virtually zero practice and ask for a setup literally five minutes before an event. This will often result in you crashing early on and members being annoyed that they have practiced hard for an event and worked hard on a decent set only to get taken out by someone that didn't.

Etiquette On Track

If you are racing for the first time, make sure to read series regulations! They often have guidelines as far as pit entrance and exit, pit road speed, how to deal with flags and what they consider proper on-track conduct. I have seen a lot of people go into TeamSpeak channels asking questions without reading the rules and making a poor impression of themselves because they are not making an effort to try and learn the league's standards. After you have read the group's rules, the other important thing is to not go out there with the goal of beating everyone else. If you want to gain respect, I'd highly recommend starting near the back of the grid, following other drivers, and not being concerned as much about passing people as following them, getting out of the way of faster cars, and learning the general on-track behavior of the drivers in that specific league. When you do feel confident enough to be competitive, make sure to not do things such as dive-bomb under someone at the last second getting into a corner nor bump into other cars unless you are in a rare case of a demolition derby or a series where contact and rough driving is encouraged. The idea here is to gain respect and show that you have proper sportsmanship, so try to be as respectful of other drivers as you can.

TeamSpeak/Voice Chat

If people are talking on TeamSpeak or another form of voice communication before a race, feel free to introduce yourself but do not tell everyone about your whole life story or start going on and on about random subjects. I saw a competitor once talk about politics during practice before a race and a bunch of others flocked to different TeamSpeak channels before I politely told him that we were here to race, not discuss world issues. Furthermore, try to maintain proper manners with things such as a simple “thank you” if a lapped or slower car lets you by, “sorry” if you accidentally get into another driver. If you show that you mean well and come off as someone that wants to add to the experience that a league has to offer, it will go a long way.


Do not start going off on people with foul language or personal insults if something goes wrong. This is a quick e-ticket ride to getting yourself suspended or, even worse, banned from a particular group. If you are mad about something and feel that you were wronged, give it a day or so and if need be, protest it or bring it up to an administrator.

At the same time, there will come a situation where someone will start yelling at you here or there because they are mad at something that happened on or off the track. If you were in the wrong, apologize, but, if you know for certain it was not your fault and the administrators hear it, let them deal with the situation. If the administrators are the ones yelling or berating you and if it for no good reason, leave that group. Trust me, it isn't worth racing there.

Are you in the right league?

I'd highly recommend taking a look at a league's forums before you join it. If you see a lot of arguing, name calling and penalties being dished out, you might want to think again about racing there. Also, if they say that they are a group specifically for advanced drivers, it might be worth avoiding as well because most of them might not want to help out ones that are just getting started. Last but not least, if it has any of those characteristics in the groups that I mentioned that I had left, walk away as soon as you can.

A new driver should be looking for a group that can help you at times when you need it but also one that has respect, one that is welcoming of others into their group, and one where you can potentially make friends on and off the track and forge long-lasting relationships. If you can achieve all of this, you will be just fine.

Are you racing for the right reasons?

If you are racing just focused on winning, you won't be out there for long. If you race because you want to have fun, make friends, and have a great experience with others, that will end up being rewarding in the long run. Don't get me wrong, winning can be a great achievement, but it feels much better when you are not out there racing for that alone and are just focused on doing your best, racing clean, and having a good time.

I would like to thank fellow sim racer and friend Jonas Hankins for assisting me in making this guide possible and hope it has been helpful to any online racers looking to improve their experience. Please let me know in the comments if you have any further questions or points I may have missed.

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Christien Hoogveld On 2014-07-10 01:30:03
Christien Hoogveld

Hi Marc,

Great article. See you on the track one day mate!


Ellinor Ström On 2014-06-16 02:47:16
Ellinor Ström

Great article Marc! I totally hear ya on that i was that racer too a while. I was sitting there racking myself down for my shitty performance. not finishing 1,2, 3.. and it got really frustrating and i got angry and my performance dropped even worse smile Until it also one day just dawned on me. Why am i not having fun? and i realised i was racing for the wrong reason. I was never the wrecker or the uncareful driver, i probably are to much in the other direction i am to careful i go down and get passed but i don't pass because i don't want to cause an incident :D well we all have our weaknesses i guess smile


Lowell Jewell On 2014-06-14 17:51:16
Lowell Jewell

Great piece Marc! Great advice also!



Jack Roussy On 2014-06-14 14:25:32
Jack Roussy

Good article Marc.
Agreed with abusive people, running the MX5 series on iRacing, I get my fair share of people that think they are god's gift to earth, thus when something happens to them or even if a driver is slowing them down, then they start getting abusive, yelling, swearing and so on. Makes a lot of new racers (Rookies) think.... "I'm paying good money for this?" I'm at the point where I don't enjoy sim racing that much anymore and am slowly heading back to the SimCade titles, I've re-started Dirt-2 recently and am having fun again.
My other point is, not everyone can be fast, when I am 3 to 4 seconds per lap behind the fast guys, at every race, it gets to the point of "why bother", I'm not looking at winning every race, but being able to keep up and race door to door is a lot of fun. Most races, I'm racing by myself, there are the fast guys way up there and the slower guys way back there. If this is the case, I might as well just run in a test or solo practice session, it's the same thing. I've had a few races where I was skill matched with another driver in a race, we'd constantly swapped position and it was white knuckle racing all the way, if every race could be like this, I think I'd be in heaven, but unfortunately, these are the exceptions and are rare for me. Oh yeah, I've been sim racing for about 7 years, so it's not like I just got started, I think it's the "Can't teach a old dog new tricks" thing! LOL smile
Take care
Regards:  >>>> Jack <<<<


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