The connection between virtual space and reality has numerous possibilities. For example, digital twin technology, which implements physical objects ‒ such as real machines and equipment ‒ in the virtual world, is also being used to predict the battery life of electric vehicles such as Hyundai Motor’s IONIQ 5. And now the technology is expanding into the realm of the human experience ‒ sim racing, for example.
Simulation refers to the reproduction of the actions of a real‒world process. In the automotive field, it is actively used in racing. After creating a virtual physics engine that conforms to the laws of physical physics, a real circuit is implemented in the virtual world through 3D scanning, enabling a vivid experience. DCT Racing’s Young‒chan Kim and Gyu‒min Kim, who became rising stars by marking 1st and 2nd places at the Hyundai N e‒Festival, a sim race last year, are showing that they can do just as good as they did in the digital world.
Young‒chan Kim says he wouldn’t have become a sim racer if it were not for his parents. “At first, I didn’t play the game to be a racer. I just liked cars, so I simply liked playing racing games with my computer. I started playing the game with a mouse, but it was very frustrating. My parents, who felt sorry for this, bought me a gaming steering wheel for my birthday. I was happy that the same game felt completely different. It was fun to steer the car the way you wanted it. A gift from my parents is the beginning of my racing career.”
On the other hand, Gyu‒min Kim is familiar with video games such as Sony’s PlayStation. “I grew up watching my father play racing games from a young age. At that time, my father played
If Young‒chan Kim and Gyu‒min Kim hadn’t had the chance to participate in a car race, the two might have become ordinary gamers who love cars. They dreamed of becoming racers thanks to a program that gave sim racers a chance to compete in real car races. In fact, several racing teams are providing training and professional opportunities to players who have achieved outstanding results in sim racing leagues, and Hyundai Motor Company is also holding the Hyundai N e‒Festival to nurture youth players from 2020.
“I’ve always wanted to become a racer, but it seemed to be a long shot. However, I was encouraged to find a program that could support me to compete in real races if I won an e‒sports competition. I did my best because the Hyundai N e‒Festival also gave me the opportunity to participate in an actual race if I did well. Training in a simulator gave me hope that I could someday achieve my dream, so I was able to do my best.” says Gyu‒min Kim.
Youth leagues like the Hyundai N e‒Festival are very important because they pave the way for youngsters who dream of future racers. This year’s Hyundai N e‒Festival was divided into the ‘Junior Cup’ for children aged 12 to 16, and the ‘Global League’ for players from 13 major countries around the world. The automaker provided a variety of opportunities for players to develop, including a mentor program, a challenge for the Hyundai N Young Driver poster program, and even an opportunity to go to the European leagues.
Young‒chan also joined e‒sports knowing that sim racing could be the beginning of his career. “I dreamed of becoming a racer by watching foreign news;
In this way, both players have walked a path that no one has gone before in Korea. The two players agreed on whether their parents were worried. “They were very worried at first. From their perspective, their son could simply want to play games all day at home. But when I started to get good results in competitions, they also started to recognize it. Especially when I stood on the podium at big competitions such as Hyundai N Festival, my parents showed a lot of interest and started to support me.”
One of the characteristics of sim racers is the amount of training. In fact, not all racers have much time to practice with actual race cars because they need to consider a lot, such as the race car or the track. However, they can practice with simulators at any time. They even allow the users to practice in rain or snow. So, professional drivers all over the world, even F1 or WRC racers, use simulators during the off‒season.
Young‒chan describes his practice strategy as follows: “I use the simulator for two to three hours every day. I try not to skip a single day to stay sharp. These days my focus is on the optimal setup. Each setup affects the limit of the race car. My training strategy is to find the optimal setup that can get me the best result, to apply it to the actual vehicle, and to use it on both the simulator and the actual race car.
Gyu‒min is also practicing with the fixed setup. “Knowing your optimal setup is crucial, so you should keep trying each setup of your car ‒ and the right driving strategy that fits, too. Rather than sticking with just one, I think I have to try many options until I find the right one.”
Just like racers, we sim racers can improve our skills with racing simulation. We can get used to the courses before visiting an actual race track, or we can fix our bad habits by analyzing our records. It is also a great advantage to compete in virtual tracks with talented drivers from all over the world through the internet. Both sim racers also compete with them every day. “In i‒Racing, which I enjoy, there is an official competition every hour, where I can compete with talented people from abroad. F1 driver Max Verstappen often participates, too. I’ve been racing with him, and he’s a really good driver. Those experiences have allowed me to develop my skills,” Gyu‒min explains.
Young‒chan agrees. “Before the actual race, the DCT racing drivers gather and practice as a group. It’s about getting prepared for unexpected situations, such as one‒on‒one battles or speeding up at the expense of the tires. Of course, the pressure would be different from actual racing. But learning through simulation will definitely help you respond to real‒world situations.”
So, what are the challenges in closing the gap between sim racing and reality? The two explain that “there is no big difference in operating the car,” because the physics engine of the simulator is highly sophisticated. But there are also inevitable differences ‒ reaction and feeling. The car reacts according to the driving situation; you feel the lateral force when you change direction. On the other hand, a simulator provides only three pieces of information: vibration, sound, and sight. There is a big difference from a real car, so it is necessary to understand the driving situation with limited information.
Young‒chan explains how he adapted to his actual race car: “At first, I simply tried to learn how to operate the car. After completely getting used to driving, I focused on making sure I could use the same driving skills I used in the simulator. Fortunately, I learned fast, and I had a good record in my debut.”
Gyu‒min went through a similar process. “I, too, drove slowly at first to figure out how to control the actual race car. For me, a small car with low power seemed to be a better option because it would be easy to drive.”
The two players said that they were not very afraid of adapting to the actual vehicle. When you drive a car for the first time or in a car you don’t know at all, you may be worried because you don’t know what maneuver the car will show. However, the fear disappeared as they learned various data, such as extreme maneuvers and corner limits on the race track.
In the real race, Jae‒sung Park, director of the DCT Racing Team, is responsible for training both players. As a racer and team manager, he is the coach of the drivers. Park described his own role as follows:
“The DCT racing team is short for Dreams Come True. In other words, this team helps sim racers who want to become racers realize their dreams. I’m in charge of actual race practice and operation. The drivers practice on their own in the simulator. And once they find the optimal setup for them through the simulator, I apply the setup to the race car and come up with the points to be improved and the race strategy in the course of their practice. Our goal is to train domestic drivers to compete in global races.”
The performances of Young‒chan and Gyu‒min catch the eyes of aspiring racers. It’s proven that racing simulation alone can build up your skills. What advice would you give to people doing racing simulators aimed at racers? “Racing requires the same approach as studying. Reading various racing theory books helped me a lot. If you decide on a car and think about the fastest way to ride it, your skills will improve significantly.” says Young‒chan.
Gyu‒min advises on sim racing; “your attitude is important to develop your driving skills through sim racing. If you think of it as a ‘game’ from a distance, you cannot improve your skills. Think of it as a real race and focus on it, and it will help you improve your skills.”
The goal of both players is to participate as Korean drivers in overseas endurance championships and stand on the podium. To this end, they sprint back and forth between the virtual world and reality every day. If you have a dream of being a racer, it’s never too late. With sim racing, you can compete with drivers from all over the world at any time. The most important thing is to take one step each day towards your goal.
Written by Min‒hee Ahn
Photography by Dae‒il Choi, Beom‒seok Kim
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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