In this four-part series, we shall take an in-depth look at how to practise your sim-racing with the best possible time and energy efficiency. In this first article, we’ll be looking at self-analysis and reflection.
In today’s world most of us lead busy lives, and as such, time and energy are at a premium and become valuable resources. It’s therefore very important that we practise with the highest efficiency so we’re not wasting our time, and the practice we do is helping us progress as much as possible. This philosophy still applies even if you in fact do have ample free time, as seeing visible progress helps you stay motivated.
With this in mind, it’s important to recognise that practice shouldn’t consist entirely of driving, but should instead be enriched with self-analysis and reflection.
While track time is essential, brainlessly driving around a circuit would not be productive. An example of self-analysis is studying telemetry in the VRS software, such as comparing your braking points against a teammate. Another example is studying a replay, looking back at your own driving to spot mistakes, or looking at laps from faster drivers to see how their lines are different. Self-analysis also includes identifying opportunities for setup improvements, or even having an awareness to monitor your own driving as you’re driving the car.
As you become more aware of what you’re doing wrong on track, you’ll notice more and more opportunities for improvement in your driving. Therefore, review what you’re doing and give yourself well defined targets to work towards. If you’re not doing this, it’s very easy to fall into a comfortable pattern of driving with time ticking and laps accumulating, possibly cementing bad habits such as bad techniques, references, lines and ultimately slow lap times. These will only more difficult to unlearn later on.
The best sim-racers on the planet never simply drive around a circuit aimlessly and without any awareness for what they’re doing. They constantly monitor themselves at an almost third person perspective, while their subconscious brain drives the car. Any mistakes or opportunities for improvement are immediately recognised and consciously acted upon, in order to either limit the damage from an error (no matter how small), or to shave off some more lap time next time by.
This self-awareness takes years to develop, and for the beginner it’s necessary to follow more deliberate methods of analysis, often outside of the car with telemetry before this intuitive sense of awareness develops. Even at an expert level, it’s important to look at telemetry to confirm or disprove what you believe is happening to your car and laptime.
The ideal ratio between driving and analysing
There isn’t a rule for this as it will vary from person to person, changing with different levels of skill, experience and familiarity with the current car and track combination. For a beginner we’d recommend a greater focus on analysis, as it’s important to get the fundamentals correct as early as possible. A good ratio would be to spend a third of your time analysing.
A more experienced driver might be more productive having a greater proportion of time spent doing laps, since they have extra mental capacity available for on-track analysis while driving, and they can often accurately predict what they might see in telemetry as a result of experience with it from previous sessions of analysis. For them, a reasonable ratio may be ninety percent of the time on track and ten percent of time spent on analysis out of the car.
Of course, we don’t recommend getting hung up on sticking to such a precise target. The key here is the importance of practising efficiently and being aware of what you do, more than just doing laps around the circuit, killing time. The rate of improvement should play a strong role here though. If you’re still improving quickly, finding decent amounts of time on track while driving, then it makes sense to continue doing that. If on the other hand, your performance has plateaued – even if this happens early on – it then makes more sense to review things and dive into telemetry, your replay files or compare yourself against VRS datapacks.
Back in section 2.3: Practising, we looked at how best to schedule your practice, and how it’s optimal to practise regularly, but to avoid excessively long sessions. It’s best to have some analysis in each session, after you’ve been in the car. It’s then a good idea to go straight back into the car to make practical sense of any targets for improvement you’ve set for yourself, and to put the things you’ve learned into practice.
Up to you
Try to cement this method of practising, and create a habit out of doing so. In the next article, we go more in-depth on how to analyse.