With its aim to recreate the actual sport, SimRacing takes a lot of elements into account to make the experience believable. Of course, this means that sims need to factor in damage as well – but there are options to scale it back or even switch it off. The question is: Should you?
To race with damage or not is a tough question to begin this article with, as there is no answer that will fit all individual scenarios. If you strive for maximum realism, you want the damage your car can incur to be as accurate as possible and therefore switch on the option. However, that does not mean we are done answering things.
An obvious pro to the question is that with damage on, you likely will drive a bit more carefully, not just during battles with other cars, but on your own as well. There is an added element of risk that comes into play when it is possible to end your race due to one or two misjudged situations, so the possibility of damaging your car can help you develop your race craft indirectly. It might also teach you how to drive around problems caused by a deformed front splitter or similar, as well as judging whether the incurred damage is worth pitting for or not.
On the other hand, the obvious downside is that your race might be over before you even get to turn one, especially in public lobbies where driving standards tend to be somewhat lower than you would hope for. As a result, if you want to make sure that everyone still gets to have fun and drive in your session even if things go south at some point, it might make sense to at least switch race-ending damage off or even consider invincibility mode. Another option in many sims is to keep mechanical damage, but switch off crash damage – a neat in-between.
This intermediate solution also lends itself well for learning new tracks, especially longer ones. Should you misjudge a corner and end up in the barriers, you will not have to go back to the pits and start all over again – the Nürburgring Nordschleife is a prime example of this. Instead of going back to the start and doing the section up until your problem corner comes up multiple times, but not the parts after that, you can finish your lap and keep learning the rest of the track and try again the next time you reach that problem corner.
Meanwhile, any bad habits that would cause mechanical issues, be it setup-wise or from your driving style, will be prevented this way, adding to your learning curve. For more experienced SimRacers, it might not make much of a difference whether or not damage is on or off, as they have usually developed their driving around a non-invincible car and will drive accordingly no matter the setting.
As a conclusion, the damage question depends on many factors but especially on track knowledge and overall ability of a SimRacer. It would make sense to aim for being able to race with full damage eventually, however, especially as most leagues, endurance events or even esports events will use the full spectrum of vehicles being breakable. In a way, it can be regarded as a bit of a driving aid – and those, you want to switch off as soon as you can if the real car does not have them either.