The answer depends on what you want to achieve. Even the best simulators are just that: simulators, so they can never fully replicate the experience of driving a race car but they are fantastic tools for certain things.
If you have a good simulator and you use it for specific things such as learning a circuit or practicing a new technique, they dramatically cut down the learning time when you are on track in your actual car. This makes real tracktime more productive as you are fine tuning your simulator experience rather than learning from new.
Appreciate the separation from real life and focus on specific goals and a simulator will be hugely rewarding.
When the heavens open and the track is awash it fundamentally changes your car’s interaction with the track.
Your relative grip compared to your power output drops significantly so you will need to get the car turned further and pointing more at the exit before you go to the power. Your inputs need to be more measured and smoother to avoid overstepping the lower grip limits but most importantly your vision will move in closer to the car.
Closer vision allows for better reading of the expected grip levels on the road surface ahead. Look more in the mid-range than far away so you can pick up puddles and high grip areas and aim your car accordingly.
Remember, how you release the brake is more important than how you apply the brake. Using the pitch of the car to control the front:rear weight balance and combining this with appropriate steering inputs to rotate the car accurately is the difference between mid-grid and leading the race. Mastering this technique is key to your performance.
If you are aiming for a career then pick the most competitive series as high up the ‘ladder’ as you can for your budget in your chosen discipline.
If you are racing for fun then you need to answer a few questions to pick the right series:
What appeals to you? No point spending your hard-earned on a front wheel drive hot hatch if you like historic V12 gt cars.
What can you afford? If you want the experience of driving or racing a particular car then by all means spend your money on that but if you intend staying in something a while and being competitive then race what you can afford to crash, either by having the funds to pay insurance premiums and excess or access to enough money to repair any damage.
Where does it race? Pick the series which visits tracks you want to race at and remember tracks a long way from home increase the budget required.
There are all manner of series out there catering to every taste. What are you racing in 2019 and why did you pick it?
The inside of a race car is a fraught place: hot, hard work and full of adrenaline. But don’t let it get to you. If you start getting emotionally heated during a race you can start to make rash decisions or mistakes.
Keep a level head to keep your decisions correct. As Yoda once said: “Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” The suffering in this case is you experiencing a worse result or pain in the wallet from a poor decision leading to an incident or shunt.
One of the best bits of kit you can put in your car is a predictive lap timer. Once set up correctly this will give you real-time updates corner by corner of your current lap time in relation to your best lap time.
This means you can effectively self-coach by trying slightly different lines or techniques corner by corner and see instantly if it was an improvement or was slower.
If you don’t have one in your car, make the purchase and you will see immediate benefits next time you are on track.
Cars and tracks are living things. They change with temperature, weather, usage and many other factors so that perfect setup you nailed in testing yesterday might not feel so perfect today. Also, your car is going to change alot during the race, particularly if its a longer stint: fuel weight will drop, tyres will change pressure and their grip level will tail off, brakes will heat and wear. All this means you need to be able to recognise these changes and adapt your style to drive around them.
You will also need to adapt when you get in a new car, quickly figure out the control weight, feedback, handling balance and style the car needs. Every lap you need to be giving the maximum so you need to get up to speed as soon as possible.
Below is a video from living legend Alex Zanardi showing how well he has adapted to the new hand controls in his BMW M8 GTE during testing at Daytona.