The Atlantic

How iRacing Is Democratizing Motorsports

These days, amateur speed enthusiasts can use digital simulators to compete against the car-racing industry’s biggest stars. The e-sports arena is a playground for gamers, pros, and talent scouts alike.
Source: sezer66 / Shutterstock / The Atlantic

It’s 1 o’clock on a weekday afternoon, and I’m sitting in a race car, idling in the pits at Virginia International Raceway. Typically, this 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit serves as a proving ground for some of the world’s best drivers. But today, it’s my personal patch, and I’m about as far away from becoming Lewis Hamilton as the Formula One god’s native England is from this southern outcropping of the Commonwealth.

The day’s weather—sunny and just shy of 80 degrees—couldn’t be more perfect for a hot-lapping session, and after a few revs of the engine I drop it into first gear, peel out of my stall, and hurtle down the pit lane off-ramp, trying all the while to be mindful of the 45-mph speed limit. As soon as the nose of my car crosses the main road, I floor it down a mini straight into the first turn as if I know what I’m doing. But I don’t. I’ve never driven here, or even watched a vastly more qualified pilot do as much on TV. So it figures that as soon as I jerk the steering wheel to take on the long right-hander ahead (a.k.a. “The Horseshoe”), my rear wheels

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