In the modern era of racing, racing doesn’t just take place on the track — it takes place on virtual circuits around the world, which means drivers can learn the ropes of a new track long before they even see it in person. And in his second IndyCar season, Romain Grosjean has found simulations like rFactor 2 an absolute necessity when it comes to learning new tracks.
The sim, a Motorsport Games racing simulator that can be used by both professional racers and by the average fan, has only just announced its intention to introduce the Dallara IR-18 chassis used in IndyCar, so it hasn’t exactly been available for Grosjean to test as part of his preparation for joining the series. Instead, he said that he’s been “learning the tracks on rFactor 2, which has been great.”
That basic education is crucial. Grosjean notes that he’s done most of his proper sim work on professional Honda sims in Indianapolis. But any sim racing is crucial for both drivers and engineers. It helps the drivers get acquainted with the car and tracks, experiment without using crucial on-track time, and to start developing a setup long before actually hitting the track. Now, the ability to practice from home will likely change things even further.
“We do have input on the customization of the Dallara IR-18,” Grosjean told me. “That’s one of the greatest things about Motorsport Games, that we are able to give feedback and they listen to us carefully, working together in making sure that we get the best product and car replication so that everyone can use it.”
Of course, there are differences between the virtual IR-18 and the real-life chassis, mainly when it comes to “the strength and force of the steering wheel.”
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“The wheel in IndyCar is very heavy, and it’s quite a nervous car on the entry of the corners, something that is hard to replicate on the video game simulation,” Grosjean said. “I also feel like the sound could be closer to the actual cars. But apart from that, the platform is really good and reacts really well to the setup changes you can make.”
Grosjean would know — he’s been using rFactor 2 since he created his esports team for the Le Mans Virtual Series in 2020. Since then, it’s become a key feature in the Grosjean home “because the developers spent a lot of time getting the details right and as much information as possible on each series.
“This includes the tire models, aero models, and so on. I feel like it’s a game where you can slide the car and play around with it more than in other simulations while still getting really good lap times. I think that for a real racer like me, this helps more than a pure sim.”
The best part is that this sim, like iRacing, is available to the public. You may not be setting fast laps at Road America to prep for your first IndyCar race there, but you’ll still have the opportunity to have one hell of a good time.
Fans can download rFactor 2 on Steam for just over $30. The Dallara IR-18 chassis can now be downloaded, along with a massive content drop that include other cars like the BMW M4 GT3 and Ligier JS P320 LMP3.