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iRacing World Champion Gets a Shot At the Real Thing

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the greger-was-race-car-driver dept.

Transportation 168

jamie sent in a link to the story of iRacing World Champion Greger Huttu, who caught the attention of the Top Gear guys and got a chance to drive a real Star Mazda racer. iRacing is a realistic driving simulator that recreates the exact physics of race cars and tracks from around the world, and nobody is better than Greger. Top Gear wanted to see how the virtual champion would do with the real thing. Even though he was eventually unable to put up with the physical demands, Greger drove really well.

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Video or it didn't happen (1, Insightful)

poptones (653660) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368680)

WTF wants to READ about something like this?

The guy threw up inside his helmet (2, Funny)

kailoran (887304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368804)

WTF wants to WATCH something like this?

Re:Video or it didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369202)

I can offer you something better: here, a vomit sample resembling very closely the one he regurgitated into his helmet.

Re:Video or it didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369218)

I'm sure you'll be able to download the video illegally in Spring 2011. Unless this is part of the Christmas special.

The exact physics? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34368682)

The exact physics? Unlikely.

From what I hear, these simulations break down as your racecar approaches the speed of light. And they didn't even get the Higgs Field right.

Re:The exact physics? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34368834)

From what I hear, these simulations break down as your racecar approaches the speed of light.

True. However, real racecars also break down as they approach the speed of light.

Re:The exact physics? (3, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368934)

Not to mention the speeding ticket costs the worth of a planet made out of solid iridium.

Re:The exact physics? (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369772)

Yeah, Ludicrous speed is the Stewart tartan, not McCleod.

Re:The exact physics? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34372380)

Nevermind going at the speed of light; do they get the physics right when you crash your simulated car and the thing burns you alive? I highly doubt it.

12 pages!?! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34368704)

They seriously expected me to click through a 12 page slideshow to read a two page article?

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

Formalin (1945560) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368738)

I wasn't aware anyone here actually tried to read the full article.

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

Dalzhim (1588707) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368786)

I agree with you. Was about to read the article, but this is so stupid I stopped at page 1.

Re:12 pages!?! (5, Interesting)

Vorghagen (1154761) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369076)

Full article for karma whoring.

On a normal Thursday, Greger Huttu sits in the blue glow of a computer screen, in his bedroom in the teeny town of Vaasa on the west coast of Finland. In the afternoons, he joins his fisherman father to land a catch of perch netted from Arctic waters. But not today. Instead, he's wedged into the cockpit of a single-seater race car, in the boiling heat of Road Atlanta raceway, Georgia. He's never driven anything like this before - his regular drive is an old Ford Sierra - yet an empty track awaits him, a full race team is at his service and he has full permission to drive as fast as he pleases. Slippery fish suddenly seem a million miles away.

Why? Because TopGear is conducting an experiment. Back on that computer in Finland, Greger dominates the world of online racing. He is the undisputed grandmaster of iRacing, a fiendishly difficult driving simulator that recreates the exact physics of scores of race cars and circuits from around the world.

It's not some gimmicky graphics-fest, but a serious way to hone racecraft and learn about car control. And in the last six years, in iRacing and earlier online sims, Greger has conquered all - leading 2,339 of his 2,581 laps and winning every race from pole. Just a week ago, he clinched the iRacing World Championship, earning himself $10,000 as he crossed the line. No wonder fellow iRacer and NASCAR king Dale Earnhardt Jr is Greger's biggest fan. He is untouchable. Today's test is to see how such digital dominance translates into real life.

We'll soon find out. Under the searing morning sun in Atlanta, Greger squeezes into his car, a Star Mazda racer provided by the Andersen Racing team. The Mazda is a slicks'n'wings single-seater powered by the same rotary engine as the RX-8. It weighs just 607kg, has 260bhp, a six-speed sequential 'box and adjustable wings. And it's really, seriously quick - as quick as a GT car around some circuits.

In other words, it's a proper car that needs to be driven in the sweet spot where the tyres and aero do their thing. If our thinking is right, Greger could be the man to put it there. Because iRacing's physics programme is so accurate, he already knows the car well - the way it steers, the way it grips, even the way it sounds and every tiny intricacy of its set-up, from wing angles to suspension bump and rebound rates - and he's lapped this track thousands of times online.

As engineer Alan Oppel briefs him on the controls, Greger displays some typical Finnish cool. He's a humble bloke, a quiet 30-year-old with a hint of podge around the midriff and, if we're honest, everywhere else too. Despite the cameras and attention, he doesn't strut like a superstar. Instead his head is bowed, his words softly spoken. He appears thoughtful - analytical, measured - and as he digests instructions, he simulates a gearchange and angles the wheel, like he's sat here a hundred times before. Which he has. Virtually.

After one installation lap to check everything's working, he starts his first flyer. All eyes turn to the final corner, a swooping downhill-right with a vicious wall on the outside, ready to collect understeery mishaps. Here comes Greger. The engine revs high and hard and his downshifts sound perfectly matched. Then he comes into sight and, to the sound of many sucked teeth, absolutely bloody nails it through the bend, throttle balanced, car planted. His only hiccup is a late upshift, that has the rotary engine blatting off its limiter. "Time to crank up the revs," says Alan. "He's quick."

The telemetry confirms it. His braking points are spot on. He's firm and precise on the throttle. And in the fastest corner, he's entering at 100mph compared to an experienced driver's 110 - a sign of absolute confidence and natural feel for grip. Remember, this is a guy who has never sat in a racing car in his life - he's only referencing thousands of virtual laps. Then, on lap four, he pops in a 1:24.8, just three seconds off a solid time around here. He reckons the car feels more grippy than it does online, but that's probably down to set-up and baking-hot tarmac. It's a weirdly familiar experience, he says, like déjà vu... with added sweat.

The air temperature is 34 degrees; in the cockpit, it's probably closer to 45. It's just too extreme for the increasingly sickly looking bloke from the Arctic. Then there's the g-forces. Road Atlanta is a bucking, weaving, undulating place, where your tummy floats over crests, then smashes into your intestines through compressions. This is another first for Greger. He's never been on a rollercoaster, or even in a fast road car. In fact, the quickest he's ever been was on the flight over here, which also happened to be his first plane ride. Which would explain why, as he hurtles down the back straight at 100mph, he throws up, right inside his helmet. When he rolls into the pits, little flecks of sick roll down his visor and his overalls are soggy around the neck.

He's feeling woozy, but after some motion sickness pills, we coax him back into the car. "You're doing a great job, much quicker than I thought," Alan tells him. "Now let's zone in on those shifts - keep them sweet." Each time around, he gets smoother, employing a progressive technique and lapping faster and faster. But with every bump and turn, the physical forces inflict themselves on Greger's ill-equipped body. He's getting stretched and squeezed. At times his head weighs double. Now you know why F1 drivers have neck muscles like dock ropes and the metabolism of a gun-dog.

On lap 15, he has to admit defeat. He's desperate to drive on, but it's physically impossible. It's that hunger for racing that forms a vital part of a driver's mindset. And Greger's got it. He's shown fearlessness, aggression and - most importantly - natural speed. And by not crashing, he's earned the respect of his team. Not bad for a bloke who's only ever raced in the digital world. Somehow, virtual racing has unlocked something in his brain that allows him to drive like a demon. It's something you're born with, but without a test-bed like iRacing, you might never know you have.

So let's treat today as Greger's first step up the complicated pyramid of motorsport. At the top lie the worlds of F1 and IndyCar and NASCAR and Le Mans. To access them, he'll need that unique mentality. But he'll also need to condition his body to deal with the constant pummelling. Because a racing driver must come as a package. He needs skill and courage and sheer physical ability. Some of this can be perfected on iRacing; other bits will require blood, sweat and tears. It might be a bit late for 30-year-old Greger to get into perfect physcial shape, but for all the younger dreamers out there, our advice is simple. Sit yourself at a PC, load up iRacing and give it a go - you could have some of the magic stuff too. And if you do, be sure to join a gym. Quickly.
We've seen enough vomit-filled helmets for one lifetime, thanks.

Reckon you could do it? You don't have to be a masterful sim champ like Greger to have a crack at single-seaters. The chaps at the Skip Barber race school can help you on your way, starting with basics and moving through the Toolbox of Driving Excellence until the car goes where you want it, when you want it, at the correct speed. Not upside down on fire.

They have schools at over 20 race tracks in the States, so you'll need some pocket money for a flight over, but it'll be worth it. The instructors are world-class, cherry-picked from all sorts of motorsport and with hundreds of years of experience between them. There are lots of courses to choose from, and plenty of cars, including the Lexus IS-F, Lotus Exige, Porsche 911 and Mazda MX-5.

Or you could take the plunge like Greger, and go for the three-day race school in the Skip Barber training car - a pure'n'simple open-wheel single-seater designed to teach you how a car should behave, and more importantly, how you should behave inside it.

And unlike some driving schools, you won't be made to wiggle around cones all day. Instead, the instructors teach you about heel'n'toe gearshifts, high-speed handling, hard braking from speed, overtaking, drafting, standing starts and rolling starts until at the end of the course, you're a fully-fledged rookie racer. Then you can compete in the Skip Barber Race Series where your stratospheric rise to superstardom shall begin. Excited? Good. It all starts at www.skipbarber.com.

Re:12 pages!?! (0, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369676)

Seriously? I know you guys are anti-copyright but seriously? Fully copying and posting the article somewhere else to intentionally circumvent their moneymaking scam ...

I hate the 12 page crap too, so I just don't go, no ad revenue for them, but you just gave them a fully loaded gun man.

This really isn't the way the web is supposed to be used.

Re:12 pages!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369936)

This IS the way the web is supposed to be used.

Re:12 pages!?! (-1, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit206 (1946182) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370436)

yeah... cowering in the shadows like a child, refusing to pay for the work of others.

slashdot = stagnated

Re:12 pages!?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34370856)

Parent is a well know troll. Google his name. Mod accordingly.

Re:12 pages!?! (-1, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit206 (1946182) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370964)

i am michael kristopeit.

you have claimed to be NOTHING.

cower some more, feeb.

you're completely pathetic.

Re:12 pages!?! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34370576)

This really isn't the way the web is supposed to be used.

Agreed. All text? No nudity at all?

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

tebee (1280900) | more than 3 years ago | (#34372118)

It's a shame you posted that as an AC - it would be a waste of my mod points to mod it "funny but all too true".

That is if I had any mod points.....

But then that's another truism of the web - lots of people promising things the can't deliver.

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

SoVeryTired (967875) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370642)

Most slashdotters would be running ad blocking software anyway. I know I am. I'd also never buy something based on seeing it in a banner ad.

On the other hand, I'd actually think about buying iRacer, watching Top Gear, or buying the magazine after reading this interesting article. That's how the web is meant to be used.

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

smi.james.th (1706780) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371688)

Perhaps I might just point out, that this is a common way of delivering articles on the Top Gear website. With these, the point is the pictures, with a little bit of text to provide a bit of a description.

The ad-money probably doesn't hurt either, though.

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

Vorghagen (1154761) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371792)

But there are no ads on the page. It's just photos accompanying the article. If anything, it's saving them the cost of the bandwith.

Re:12 pages!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34370002)

A better way to do this other than violating copyright is to link to something that already has the full text in a single document, such as this PDF on the same website [iracing.com]

Re:12 pages!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34370046)

For real Karma whoring, you would've put that on one page..

"Read the rest of this comment..."

Re:12 pages!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34370068)

Dale Jr? Nascar King? I'd give King status to his father, to Richard Petty, to Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson, but while Dale may be a prince, he's no King.

Him and Danica Patrick may be kings at celebrity status and selling their name, but not at actual racing.

30 years old is not too old (1)

George_Ou (849225) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371190)

UFC legend Randy Couture is 47 and still beating up other elite athletes. I'm 38 and I spent the last year getting back in shape. I allowed myself to get out of shape over the years and now I'm back to a 30" waste with a six pack after a modest exercise program.

For a guy who doesn't work out, Greger doesn't look half bad. What that means is that if you put him on a conditioning program, he would have a good athletic body in a year. I'd be interested in seeing how well this guy does after he addresses his physical inadequacies.

Re:30 years old is not too old (1)

Builder (103701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34372472)

Ok, so you post on Slashdot which means you have a browser, which means that you have limited time - care to expand on your exercise program ?

I can't run (busted up knees playing ice hockey as a yoof) and this time of year, cycling on British roads is a bit too suicidal for me. But I _have_ to drop about 8kgs and get back to a 32" waist - you sound like you may be able to help :D

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369442)

Did you not notice the pictures? Top Gear often presents a series of pictures without text at all. Their site is more about pictures than the articles, unlike Playboy.

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369952)

Did you not notice the pictures? Top Gear often presents a series of pictures without text at all. Their site is more about pictures than the articles, unlike Playboy.

Quick, someone inform this guy about the internet!!

Re:12 pages!?! (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370582)

Those Top Gear guys need to discover this whole video thing. I bet they'd do pretty well.

Top gear is not about text (1)

DavMz (1652411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371110)

Top gear is about pictures: they usually have fantastic pictures of cars.
Alas, for this story text matters.

Marketing Wins Again (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34368708)

There are much better (in all facets, including realism) simulations than iRacing; iRacing's success relies on the company's ability to associate its product with actual racing.

Re:Marketing Wins Again (1)

cavtroop (859432) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368802)

[citation needed]

Re:Marketing Wins Again (1)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368836)

[citation needed]

If a reputable motoring publication is saying it is the most accurate racing simulator, physics wise, then I think the OP will need to cite his/her sources to be taken seriously.

It doesn't help your argument that you thought it necessary to post as an AC.

Can you provide us with more information?

Re:Marketing Wins Again (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371138)

The F1 teams are using the Racer.nl codebase to train their drivers in the off season. I would hold that to be the highest standard. I'm not sure what this online racing sim uses as their codebase. It wouldn't suprise me if they both use the same codebase.

As the others said (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368958)

Citation needed. In particular remember that you need to point to a HOME PC PRODUCT that is more realistic. I would not be surprised if there are specialized systems out there that are more realistic. Larger screens, motion feed back, that kind of thing. However that is rather different than a program that runs on a home computer.

So let's here it then: What for a home user is more accurate than iRacing? I'm just curious mind you, I steer clear of iRacing because it is a simulator, not a game and games are what I'm after.

Re:Marketing Wins Again (1)

theexaptation (1948750) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371544)

This might be as close as I have ever seen to "The Last Starfighter" in real life. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087597 [imdb.com]

how gracious of them... (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368722)

Nice story. It was also nice of the photographers to let him clean the vomit off his face and uniform before taking the "victory" picture.

Physically demanding (4, Informative)

Bork (115412) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368732)

Did some racing at the local level where I live and can attest to the physical demands needed to race well. I had to do a lot of running and weight lifting to build up my endurance and strength to race well. There are time I came off the race track after a 45 minute race so spent that my arms and upper body would have exhaustion tremors, unable to even operate the release to get out of the seat.

Yeah... Rub it in, why don't you? (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368812)

Coming here and showing off with your luck and genes. We can't all be poor AND stupid you know? [southparkstudios.com]

You insensitive clod!

Re:Yeah... Rub it in, why don't you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369068)

We can't all be poor AND stupid you know? [southparkstudios.com]

That's just NASCAR, not real racing ;)

Yeah, yeah... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369340)

I know that you're trying to make me and everyone else here feel better but we all know that it's the same thing.
Fast cars driving in circles on a fake road until one of them goes over a line in the road and then the driver of that car wins. And then they pour champagne all over him.

Alas, many of us here at Slashdot have been cursed at birth with middle-class families and above average IQs.
Driving fast cars in circles, going nowhere... god.. I'm tearing up here... it will remain... just a dream to us.
I'm sorry. I can't talk about this any more. I'm gonna... start crying like a little girl here.

Re:Yeah, yeah... (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370690)

Anyone with a car can race. Some land is helpful, whether you own it or can find it. And, of course, it's probably better to race with a car you don't plan on driving a lot, especially if you're rallying. Alternatively, it's about 40 bucks to bring your car for a lap at open track days.

You can spend about 1 grand on a 2nd hand car. Alternatively, you can get a new kart for about that much.

Racing cars is not just the realm of the rich. Most of the racing in LA happens from lower-to-middle class income people.

Re:Physically demanding (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369200)

I drove a shifter kart for 15 minutes and had to come off the track with neck pain.

Re:Physically demanding (1)

Seng (697556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370148)

Yep-- I laugh when people sit back and say racing isn't a sport, doesn't take any physical strength, etc... I have a brother-in-law that races in the "below ARCA" asphalt circuits. It's basically amateur racing with a decent car... He spends 3 days in the gym a week just for keeping his upper body in shape for handling the g-forces.

This seems original.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34368744)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-epAyl5zoC8&hd=1

He threw up after a few laps (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368758)

It looks like he doesn't have the stomach for real racing.

Re:He threw up after a few laps (1)

donotlizard (1260586) | more than 3 years ago | (#34368898)

I threw up after looking at that nerd. He has the whitest skin I've ever seen. Sunlight deprivation must be unhealthy.

Re:He threw up after a few laps (2, Funny)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369158)

> I threw up after looking at that nerd. He has the whitest skin I've ever seen

Racist.

Re:He threw up after a few laps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369188)

The sunlight deprivation comes from living at a high latitude, not from living in a basement.

Re:He threw up after a few laps (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369254)

He's from Finland.

That should have been enough to explain it. If you still don't understand, go to www.google.com and type "Finland" in the search box. I'm sure you still won't be able to figure out why he's so white, but I'm not going to hold your hand. People need to learn to do things for themselves.

Re:He threw up after a few laps (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370786)

I honestly thought someone Photoshopped Dick Chaney's head into a race car.

That having been said, that's one lucky dude. Getting a chance to race around a real track in one of those? Well done, white man, well done.

Re:He threw up after a few laps (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369222)

To be fair, it was the first time he'd ever gone that fast, he had never been on a roller coaster before, and the flight to the US was his first time on an airplane.

Given that history, 15 laps hitting corners at 100mph+ is not bad.

They said he was putting up respectable times, and it was his first time doing anything even remotely similar to racing a car.

He eventually had to quit because the g-forces literally beat him up. He certainly didn't give up after puking in his helmet, like most people would have.

Re:He threw up after a few laps (1)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34372024)

Agreed! I'd have a story that mentions me being sick just to drive that track in that racer!

Refrain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34368820)

> , and nobody is better than Greger.

Sounds like a song refrain.

Killer Games (1)

mseeger (40923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369014)

I would love to do the same experiment with some Counterstrike gamer, just to dispell the myth of "kill training" in those games. While i noticed the virtual reality approaching the real stuff with cars over the years, shooting is still (and luckily) completely unrealistic.

Re:Killer Games (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369070)

Something like a force on force with miles gear? It's tough to get too realistic with battles, because people are kinda squishy.

Re:Killer Games (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369118)

At least racing games have realistic controllers that the hardcore players can buy. I don't know of any realistic gun controller, and that's a shame because it would make for some really awesome rail shooters. Games can be as realistic as they want, but until they get the controller, they'll never be able to properly simulate gun fights.

As far as "kill training" goes, I recall a game violence episode of Bullshit where they had a 10yo gamer try out a real semi-auto rifle. Not only was he no good at it, but they showed what happened after they finished filming the segment -- it reduced the kid to sobbing in his mother's arms.

Re:Killer Games (1)

Nocuous (1567933) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370308)

As far as "kill training" goes, I recall a game violence episode of Bullshit where they had a 10yo gamer try out a real semi-auto rifle. Not only was he no good at it, but they showed what happened after they finished filming the segment -- it reduced the kid to sobbing in his mother's arms.

That's one of my favorite "Bullshit!" episodes. It choked me up a little too; here was a kid who gibbed countless npc's and avatars of real humans, and it hadn't turned him into a desensitized monster. He seemed crushed by the reality of a noisy, heavy gun that does horrible damage. It restored a little of my hope for humanity.
Of course, plenty of kids who were *already* prone to becoming desensitized monsters would have picked up that gun and creamed their jeans at the thought of what they could do with it. But what the hell, sour with the sweet.

Re:Killer Games (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370106)

The problem with shooters is that they will not teach accuracy. Even switching to something such as America's Army which is targetted more at realism and training. Invariably, it is difficult to teach and simulate hand eye coordination from a mouse to firearm. However, what a simulator can teach are tactics and procedures for various scenarios. However, because the field of engagement varies in real life it is difficult to create experience which can be applied over a wider range of areas with a handful of maps. This is an area where iRacing has a bit of advantage because the cars and tracks will always be the same without a real addition.

Re:Killer Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34371588)

Follow up with airsoft training...

Full article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369060)

Geek, rebooted

On a normal Thursday, Greger Huttu sits in the blue glow of a computer screen, in his bedroom in the teeny town of Vaasa on the west coast of Finland. In the afternoons, he joins his fisherman father to land a catch of perch netted from Arctic waters. But not today. Instead, he's wedged into the cockpit of a single-seater race car, in the boiling heat of Road Atlanta raceway, Georgia. He's never driven anything like this before - his regular drive is an old Ford Sierra - yet an empty track awaits him, a full race team is at his service and he has full permission to drive as fast as he pleases. Slippery fish suddenly seem a million miles away.

Why? Because TopGear is conducting an experiment. Back on that computer in Finland, Greger dominates the world of online racing. He is the undisputed grandmaster of iRacing, a fiendishly difficult driving simulator that recreates the exact physics of scores of race cars and circuits from around the world.

It's not some gimmicky graphics-fest, but a serious way to hone racecraft and learn about car control. And in the last six years, in iRacing and earlier online sims, Greger has conquered all - leading 2,339 of his 2,581 laps and winning every race from pole. Just a week ago, he clinched the iRacing World Championship, earning himself $10,000 as he crossed the line. No wonder fellow iRacer and NASCAR king Dale Earnhardt Jr is Greger's biggest fan. He is untouchable. Today's test is to see how such digital dominance translates into real life.

We'll soon find out. Under the searing morning sun in Atlanta, Greger squeezes into his car, a Star Mazda racer provided by the Andersen Racing team. The Mazda is a slicks'n'wings single-seater powered by the same rotary engine as the RX-8. It weighs just 607kg, has 260bhp, a six-speed sequential 'box and adjustable wings. And it's really, seriously quick - as quick as a GT car around some circuits.

In other words, it's a proper car that needs to be driven in the sweet spot where the tyres and aero do their thing. If our thinking is right, Greger could be the man to put it there. Because iRacing's physics programme is so accurate, he already knows the car well - the way it steers, the way it grips, even the way it sounds and every tiny intricacy of its set-up, from wing angles to suspension bump and rebound rates - and he's lapped this track thousands of times online.

As engineer Alan Oppel briefs him on the controls, Greger displays some typical Finnish cool. He's a humble bloke, a quiet 30-year-old with a hint of podge around the midriff and, if we're honest, everywhere else too. Despite the cameras and attention, he doesn't strut like a superstar. Instead his head is bowed, his words softly spoken. He appears thoughtful - analytical, measured - and as he digests instructions, he simulates a gearchange and angles the wheel, like he's sat here a hundred times before. Which he has. Virtually.

After one installation lap to check everything's working, he starts his first flyer. All eyes turn to the final corner, a swooping downhill-right with a vicious wall on the outside, ready to collect understeery mishaps. Here comes Greger. The engine revs high and hard and his downshifts sound perfectly matched. Then he comes into sight and, to the sound of many sucked teeth, absolutely bloody nails it through the bend, throttle balanced, car planted. His only hiccup is a late upshift, that has the rotary engine blatting off its limiter. "Time to crank up the revs," says Alan. "He's quick."

The telemetry confirms it. His braking points are spot on. He's firm and precise on the throttle. And in the fastest corner, he's entering at 100mph compared to an experienced driver's 110 - a sign of absolute confidence and natural feel for grip. Remember, this is a guy who has never sat in a racing car in his life - he's only referencing thousands of virtual laps. Then, on lap four, he pops in a 1:24.8, just three seconds off a solid time around here. He reckons the car feels more grippy than it does online, but that's probably down to set-up and baking-hot tarmac. It's a weirdly familiar experience, he says, like déjà vu... with added sweat.

The air temperature is 34 degrees; in the cockpit, it's probably closer to 45. It's just too extreme for the increasingly sickly looking bloke from the Arctic. Then there's the g-forces. Road Atlanta is a bucking, weaving, undulating place, where your tummy floats over crests, then smashes into your intestines through compressions. This is another first for Greger. He's never been on a rollercoaster, or even in a fast road car. In fact, the quickest he's ever been was on the flight over here, which also happened to be his first plane ride. Which would explain why, as he hurtles down the back straight at 100mph, he throws up, right inside his helmet. When he rolls into the pits, little flecks of sick roll down his visor and his overalls are soggy around the neck.

He's feeling woozy, but after some motion sickness pills, we coax him back into the car. "You're doing a great job, much quicker than I thought," Alan tells him. "Now let's zone in on those shifts - keep them sweet." Each time around, he gets smoother, employing a progressive technique and lapping faster and faster. But with every bump and turn, the physical forces inflict themselves on Greger's ill-equipped body. He's getting stretched and squeezed. At times his head weighs double. Now you know why F1 drivers have neck muscles like dock ropes and the metabolism of a gun-dog.

On lap 15, he has to admit defeat. He's desperate to drive on, but it's physically impossible. It's that hunger for racing that forms a vital part of a driver's mindset. And Greger's got it. He's shown fearlessness, aggression and - most importantly - natural speed. And by not crashing, he's earned the respect of his team. Not bad for a bloke who's only ever raced in the digital world. Somehow, virtual racing has unlocked something in his brain that allows him to drive like a demon. It's something you're born with, but without a test-bed like iRacing, you might never know you have.

So let's treat today as Greger's first step up the complicated pyramid of motorsport. At the top lie the worlds of F1 and IndyCar and NASCAR and Le Mans. To access them, he'll need that unique mentality. But he'll also need to condition his body to deal with the constant pummelling. Because a racing driver must come as a package. He needs skill and courage and sheer physical ability. Some of this can be perfected on iRacing; other bits will require blood, sweat and tears. It might be a bit late for 30-year-old Greger to get into perfect physcial shape, but for all the younger dreamers out there, our advice is simple. Sit yourself at a PC, load up iRacing and give it a go - you could have some of the magic stuff too. And if you do, be sure to join a gym. Quickly.

We've seen enough vomit-filled helmets for one lifetime, thanks.

Reckon you could do it?
You don't have to be a masterful sim champ like Greger to have a crack at single-seaters. The chaps at the Skip Barber race school can help you on your way, starting with basics and moving through the Toolbox of Driving Excellence until the car goes where you want it, when you want it, at the correct speed. Not upside down on fire.

They have schools at over 20 race tracks in the States, so you'll need some pocket money for a flight over, but it'll be worth it. The instructors are world-class, cherry-picked from all sorts of motorsport and with hundreds of years of experience between them. There are lots of courses to choose from, and plenty of cars, including the Lexus IS-F, Lotus Exige, Porsche 911 and Mazda MX-5.

Or you could take the plunge like Greger, and go for the three-day race school in the Skip Barber training car - a pure'n'simple open-wheel single-seater designed to teach you how a car should behave, and more importantly, how you should behave inside it.

And unlike some driving schools, you won't be made to wiggle around cones all day. Instead, the instructors teach you about heel'n'toe gearshifts, high-speed handling, hard braking from speed, overtaking, drafting, standing starts and rolling starts until at the end of the course, you're a fully-fledged rookie racer. Then you can compete in the Skip Barber Race Series where your stratospheric rise to superstardom shall begin. Excited? Good. It all starts at www.skipbarber.com.

Re:Full article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369092)

Wow. I honestly expected this to be signed Kilgore Trout from the length alone.

Re:Full article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369732)

Why? Kilgore never posts more than a sentence at a time.

Success (5, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369078)

It seems this was a stunning success. The guy had never driven a car anything remotely like an actual race car, he had never flown on a plane or even ridden a roller coaster. Yet he was able to hop into a high performance racecar for the very first time, and have lap times within 3 seconds of the best and handle 100 MPH turns within 10% of experienced drivers' speed. Yeah, he was totally physically out of shape for anything remotely like racing, the temp was over 110 F inside the car, and he threw up. But he didn't wreck after 15 laps. So I'd call this a total success, and does prove, at least to some extent, that experience gained playing games can directly translate to real-world performance, assuming the game simulation is realistic enough.

Re:Success (4, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369150)

Well, if nothing else this might motivate him to get fit... I mean, the physical demands aren't that great compared to the skills needed to drive that car.

Re:Success (3, Interesting)

Comen (321331) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369466)

I agree, I would say that the part of driving these cars he is good at it the hardest part to be good at, know he needs to decide if he wants to really drive these things, or just be kind of the online car racign world I guess.

On a side note, if you check the iracing website you will see Dale Earnhardt Jr allot, I am not in to racing at all myself, even though I live in Charlotte NC where Nascar is pretty big, I used to work for a telephone company near the raceway, and Dale Dr. lives close to there, anyway he had a T1 line put in from us awhile back (sure something better now adays) but he was having issues with his Nascar game connection from his PC to play the game, I did not do phone support, but a guy that did the install, and as you would expect really liked Dale got me on the phone and had me try to help, as it turned out dale had setup NAT port forwarding correctly in his router for the game to work, but the guy that installed our T1 router also had turned on NAT in that router and it should have just been giving Dale a public IP not a NATed private one that Dale was then NATing again.
Anyway, one thing I can say is that Dale was smart about reading what he was supposed to do forwarding ports etc in his router (that was back before everyone had these NAT routers) and he was a really nice guy about everything while I talked to him and was happy we fixed the issue quickly. Talking to the guy that did the install he said Dale had a steering wheel hooked up and was all setup to race in his house, and was totally in to racing online! now like I said I am not in to racing myself, but I love to play games online, and even though Dale might not think of this as a game, older racers would probably think online racing is silly, and I thought I was pretty cool that he races online all the time like this, abd was a down to earth guy.

Re:Success (1)

bledri (1283728) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369586)

Well, if nothing else this might motivate him to get fit... I mean, the physical demands aren't that great compared to the skills needed to drive that car.

Driving a real car that level, undergoing constant changing G forces, takes a great deal of core strength. Otherwise you flop around like a rag doll and it is impossible to employ the required skills with any finesse. No doubt, there is a marketing angle, but Jimmie Johnson won the Associated Press Athlete of the Year of 2009. [go.com]

Re:Success (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369824)

Agreed... Any sport at that level is demanding. But I can guarantee that if this guy was to sign up for Crossfit, or at one of the gyms where I teach, he'd be fit in a lot less time than it took to learn all the ins and outs of racing.

Pretty much anyone can develop core strength and decent endurance. Me, I'm the original white guy with no rhythm, and I have the natural physique of Mr. Potatohead, and yet I can pretty much drive guys half my age to exhaustion, mostly because I work out regularly.

Re:Success (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34370100)

Did you read the article? It was well above 30 degrees out, and there are some pretty heavy Gs being pulled in the corners. Bad combination for anyone who's not used to it.

GTA (1)

Das Auge (597142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369474)

You don't have to tell me! Because of GTA I can kill hookers almost like a professional!

Re:GTA (2, Funny)

PachmanP (881352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370204)

You don't have to tell me! Because of GTA I can kill hookers almost like a professional!

But where's the money? I've tried it a few times, but there's never any money on the ground afterwards. I mean what's the point.

Re:Success (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369686)

Yet he was able to hop into a high performance racecar for the very first time, and have lap times within 3 seconds of the best

Not the best - three seconds within what'd be a respectable time for a pro. Still a great accomplishment, though.

Re:Success (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34372390)

It'd be nice to have a control, for example someone who has played racing video games a lot, but hasn't used this "exact physics" simulator. Otherwise, you don't know how well/bad someone would have done without the sim.

Irresponsible! (0, Troll)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369090)

I'm a huge fan of simulators as training tools. I use simulators for remote control airplane flight and credit them with the difference between success and failure in the hobby. Even though their potential for harm is much less than a race car, it's not zero, and I still used a real instructor to get me flying safely.

Letting any driver who hasn't become accustomed to the real thing through the course of real training drive at professional race car driver speeds is nothing short of irresponsible. The thought of jumping behind the wheel of a race car till you puke and then going for even more laps, just because you're a champion on the sim, is mind-boggling. I'd say if he'd had a brain fart and taken himself or someone else out, someone would be up on manslaughter charges for allowing it.

Re:Irresponsible! (5, Insightful)

Cederic (9623) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369152)

Yeah, but he's Finnish. That means he was taught to drive properly in real life, even if he never went racing.

Knowing how to properly control a car plus knowing the track inside out means he had a pretty good start point, as proven by the actuality.

Re:Irresponsible! (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369740)

I know a couple people from Sweden and a Fin who are mighty proud of their awesome driving test and how much harder it is for them to get a drivers license than us because you 'must know how to drive'. ...

I can honestly say I won't get into any car they drive. I would feel safer with a teenage girl changing the radio station while talking to her girlfriends on the phone and texting her boyfriend with the other hand while giving the passenger a footjob as the driver.

I know Scandenavians think they know how to drive, and maybe on 20 foot thick ice lakes they can, but I call bullshit on your statement.

Re:Irresponsible! (3, Informative)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369184)

He definitely wasn't just given a car and told "have at it". If you RTFA, you'd see that he was put through a slower initial lap to ensure the car (and i presume he) was okay, and that he worked up to 100mph turns over the 15 laps. He was at a place that does 3-day courses in how to drive race cars, so he had professionals there to make sure everything was okay.

Re:Irresponsible! (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369214)

He definitely wasn't just given a car and told "have at it". If you RTFA, you'd see that he was put through a slower initial lap to ensure the car (and i presume he) was okay, and that he worked up to 100mph turns over the 15 laps. He was at a place that does 3-day courses in how to drive race cars, so he had professionals there to make sure everything was okay.

You're kidding right? 15 laps and y ou're allowed to do 100km/hr on a bend? 3 days and you're a racing expert? A newb puking in their helment and being permitted to continue on. No wonder people die in the sport.

Re:Irresponsible! (1)

KZigurs (638781) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369280)

100mph. It's actually 160kmh.

Re:Irresponsible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34369394)

Obviously no one would let you drive, you pansy.

Re:Irresponsible! (1)

headhot (137860) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371136)

I did a corporate skip barber 2 day even, and we were hitting 120MPH at the end of the first day in open wheel cars, with none of us ever being in a race car.

Re:Irresponsible! (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370744)

And yet, he put in lap times within 3 seconds of a professional racer, and didn't hurt anybody.

There seems to be a theory of life that nobody should be allowed to do anything if they haven't been hand-trained by a professional. How did anything get started? Do stuff. Do stuff for yourself. Think through the risks, consider all of the angles possible, and then bloody well do impressive things.

You think everyone that is going to fly a remote-controlled airplane should go through an instructor? Did you drop a sippy cup on your toe as a child? Go design and build some potato cannons, or hack together an electric vehicle from parts, or build your own garage. As much as I am a nanny-state hugging liberal, at some point the only person responsible for your life is you.

Re:Irresponsible! (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371130)

And yet, he put in lap times within 3 seconds of a professional racer, and didn't hurt anybody.

Yes, but I still say that with his only training being a simulator he's lucky not to have killed anyone.

There seems to be a theory of life that nobody should be allowed to do anything if they haven't been hand-trained by a professional. How did anything get started?

There is a difference between doing something for the first time and doing something exceedingly dangerous to yourself and others without having the good sense to build up the skill. That is the difference between the Wright Brothers and some idiot that straps on wings and jumps off a cliff: Careful buildup and calculated risks.

Do stuff. Do stuff for yourself. Think through the risks, consider all of the angles possible, and then bloody well do impressive things.

Thinking through the risks isn't enough. 1 in 1000 people might get away with it and be considered rock stars. The other 999 will be up for Darwin awards. If you're going to build up to doing something new and revolutionary, you do it sanely and in small steps if you want to have a chance. If someone's already done that for you, you learn from them.

You think everyone that is going to fly a remote-controlled airplane should go through an instructor?

Given that it's the law in most places, HELL YES!

Did you drop a sippy cup on your toe as a child?

Sure. And so has my son. I don't give him knives to play with though.

Go design and build some potato cannons, or hack together an electric vehicle from parts, or build your own garage. As much as I am a nanny-state hugging liberal, at some point the only person responsible for your life is you.

And what happens when your potato canon or electric vehicle mame or kill someone? You don't live in a vacuum. Some things like playing with mains electricity, building weapons and driving 1 tonne vehicles OUGHT to be regulated.

Re:Irresponsible! (2, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371524)

A: He trained in a simulator more extensively than probably anyone else around, so he has the theory.
B: He drives a normal car, so he has the physical side of things.
C: He did these 15 laps at a training facility, with training, under professional supervision anyway. They thought he was good to go. They're not going to risk a million-dollar vehicle on a lark.

A potato cannon isn't going to maim anyone other than the operator, unless you point the damned thing at someone. Then it is basically a thrown rock. An electric vehicle doesn't need to be 1 tonne. The electric vehicle I built weighs about 50 pounds, has an 8 mile range, and isn't any more dangerous on a road than a cyclist.

And EVERYONE should understand mains electricity. The worst you're likely to do is short out your own building, as those things are pretty well insulated from eachother. You could also set fire to something, but you're standing right there, hopefully with an extinguisher handy. Also, you could theoretically bridge across your heart, though with 110 in the US that's not all that common, or you could leave underprotected wiring and rot out your wall plates. But electrical rot generally comes from not knowing about your electrical system, rather than doing your own work. And ignorance of electricity is going to cause you far more problems down the road. A relative refuses to allow me to fix one of her lamps, as she's afraid that the electricity mains boogyman is going to eat me. Yet she has put off getting a professional electrician in for so long that the roof support beam it is built into is basically hollow.

I was a bit shocked the first time I realized that the local archery club allowed anyone to come in off the street and just fire bows at a wall without professional training. But what are you going to do, backfire? The same thing is true of the local gun range. They have rules around safe handling that anyone can understand, but you don't need to be certified to just go in and try things out.

Do you *need* safety training to use, say, a light electric RC plane? No, though you'll probably accidentally destroy 1/2 dozen of the things while learning. And you'll be responsible for anything destroyed in the process.

It just seems like there is a pervasive professionalization of private life these days. "Don't do X! Let a professional handle it!" There are some areas where this is valuable advice. But not all, and probably not most. If you're going to be a full, rounded human being, you've got to be one of the people who leads in the creation of new things. That means understanding how things work, and that means not allowing irrational fears to overtake learning.

Re:Irresponsible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34372414)

Yes, but I still say that with his only training being a simulator he's lucky not to have killed anyone.

You do know how they train airline pilots, don't you?

It's been done. (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369170)

Pfft, CoD4 have been doing it for ages.

The ones that come back aren't allowed to talk about it.

Racer drivers vs Fighter pilots (2, Interesting)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369276)

Now, I want to see what happens when a flight sim buff gets in the cockpit of a real fighter jet.

Will they take off and do acrobatics easily?

Re:Racer drivers vs Fighter pilots (1)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369292)

Do you realize the g-forces involved in doing acrobatics in a fighter jet? Pretty unlikely.

Re:Racer drivers vs Fighter pilots (1)

nhtshot (198470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369992)

G forces are directly related to how tightly and how fast a maneuver is performed. It's simply a matter of knowing what your limits are and not exceeding them. That's a pretty recurrent theme in all things aviation.

Re:Racer drivers vs Fighter pilots (2, Insightful)

Jstlook (1193309) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370030)

Do you realize the g-forces involved in doing acrobatics in a fighter jet? Pretty unlikely.

Oh c'mon, the g-forces of doing acrobatics in a fighter jet is no worse than flying a fighter jet! I mean sure, standing on your head or doing a triple flip might *seem* complicated or dangerous in a cockpit, but I think the worst part is trying to avoid knocking yourself out on the controls. Seriously!

Done it (4, Interesting)

nhtshot (198470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369980)

Now, I want to see what happens when a flight sim buff gets in the cockpit of a real fighter jet.

Will they take off and do acrobatics easily?

I'm a licensed pilot and a flight sim buff. Some time ago, I had a chance to fly a T-34 Mentor (military trainer, that prior to an AD was legal for aerobatics). I flew the heck out of one in the sim, and then tried it in the real plane to test exactly this theory and to hopefully be more comfortable in some of the really unusual attitudes that aerobatic flying can produce.

Granted, a T-34 isn't a fighter jet, but it's as close as anybody with a realistic budget can get.

I was able to perform nearly all of the maneuvers that I'd practiced in the sim and other then a headache afterwords was also quite pleased with the outcome. Pleased enough that I flew it subsequently.

To answer your question directly, I wouldn't suggest someone with only sim experience trying to fly without proper training. I also wouldn't advocate trying aerobatics without a proper aircraft, some solid previous real world training in recoveries and a parachute. All of that being said, YES, sim experience definitely translates to the real world up to the point that you have the balls to test it.

His Face? (4, Funny)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34369388)

Is it just me, or does this dude resemble Emperor Palpatine in glasses?

From the picture... (1)

kc2keo (694222) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370016)

it looks as though a zombie is driving the car.

"recreates the exact phyiscs." (1)

Chardansearavitriol (1946886) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370022)

I cant help but snicker at that. I havent seen an accurate game engine that could handle anything at all like real physics. like a sword falling onto its blade and spinning abuot. And I remember when I picked up that one guy's brain, which proceeded to orbit me. Did you know that even in a windy enivornment, quills fall just as fast as iron ore? Its weieeird.

Re:"recreates the exact phyiscs." (2, Interesting)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 3 years ago | (#34370984)

Well to start with the physics of racing are a bit simply because they involve large objects with relatively predictable parameters, in addition, most gaming "physics" is designed to be impressive. People like seeing heads explode and bodies fly 20 feet backward, reality would seem boring.

When is the ep where... (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371356)

...the best real drivers take a whack at iRacing?

iRacing and not... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34371516)

... an Apple product? Clearly, we are approaching Dec 21 2012 quite fast.

move aside noobies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34371532)

I'm pretty good at Falcon 4.0 Allied Force, somebody need to hook me up with Top Gun.

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