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The Right Race Prep: Hotlaps Don’t Help

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Practice is everything – this is a core phrase to keep in mind when it comes to SimRacing. Nothing will help your race craft and track knowledge like a ton of laps in a certain car/track combo, but not all races are the same: The differences already start in practice, and endurance racing in particular takes a different approach to those vital testing laps.

It is easy to get into the habit of trying to set the fastest time lap after lap – you are in a race car, albeit a virtual one, and in one of those, you want to go fast, after all. As speed is far from the only thing needed to succeed in longe races, focusing on raw pace would not help too much during the actual event if you cannot keep the car on track consistently.

Instead, practicing in longer sessions is usually more beneficial. Cars in SimRacing as well as real endurance races are permanently changing, be it tire wear, fuel usage, or other circumstances like the weather. Because of this, knowing your car inside and out is absolutely vital, meaning a few hotlaps on the event’s track will not yield much of a productive result. From my own experience, trying to do practice in full race stints is much more effective, as you get to experience how the car changes as the tires wear and fuel load lessens.

Consistent Feelgood Pace

Consistency is key in this case, meaning hunting the fastest lap of the race all race will make most SimRacers more error prone, losing them the time they might have gained by going faster over the course of a certain amount of laps. Getting into that zone where you are comfortable with your pace and, most importantly, always in control of the car, is where you want to be. You can still push if needed, for example in a battle for position towards the end of the race, but in the end, it comes down to doing your pace and not be bothered by what the competition does.

It sounds counterintutitive and is the complete opposite of a sprint race approach, but by just being consistent will go a long way – that is how I managed to drag a Nissan GT-R to second place overall in an ACC league in early 2021, even though I only won a single race.

Watch the Weather Report

If your endurance league or event provides a practice server, it is advisable to use it to prepare for the upcoming race as they usually run the weather conditions expected in the race. Getting ready in perfect conditions will not help too much either if the track is damp or even significantly cooler once the light turns green.

Of course, no amount of practice can prepare SimRacers for the crazy things that tend to happen during the races themselves – those are just experiences that they have to gain on the track. However, practicing in a way that is close to what is required in the actual event might help with avoiding those scenarios as well – at least to an extent.