2024.03.27 Hyundai Motorsport Team

Kim’s Journey: From Sim Racing to the Nürburgring 24 Hours

Hyundai Motorsport Team
Here is the tale of Kim Gyu-min from DCT Racing Team, whose motorsport journey began with racing simulations during his middle school years and led him to compete on the global stage at the Nürburgring 24 Hours Race.

“A racer born from sim racing.” This is the tag that consistently follows DCT Racing Team’s Kim Gyu-min. Most racers start their careers in Kart racing, often considered the foundation of motorsports. They climb the ladder by securing good results and moving up to higher classes in what is seen as the traditional pathway.

Contrastingly, Kim carved out his career starting with sim racing and quickly made the jump to actual racing. His first season was shadowed by the question: “Can a sim racing prodigy truly adapt to a real race car?” Yet, he swiftly proved his mettle. Kim and DCT Racing clinched five consecutive victories in the 2023 Hyundai N Festival [N1] Elantra N Cup, even taking home the season championship. Here, Pak Jae-sung and Kim from DCT Racing uncover how they reached the pinnacle.

Hyundai N e-Festival: The Stepping Stone for Kim

How did Kim embark on his career as a sim racer? This was our burning question. Pak offered some insight: “I met Kim while preparing for an overseas race. Despite being new to both the car and the circuit in the sim racing world, he outpaced me. Our conversations revealed his potential, and I felt we could achieve something together. We formed a sim racing team first and practiced by participating in various competitions, including the Hyundai N e-Festival.”

Sim racing is far from just a game. It involves creating a physics engine aligned with real-world physics and using 3D scanning to replicate actual circuits in a virtual environment. This allows for movements that are nearly identical to reality. Hence, top-tier professional racers from F1, WRC, and other disciplines use sim racing for training during the off-season. Furthermore, sim racing provides a platform for minors without driving licenses to enter motorsports. It’s as sophisticated as real life, minus the risk of vehicle damage, paving the way for sim racing-bred racers like Kim.

The view of the Nürburgring Nordschleife in sim racing feels as real as it gets, complete with authentic elevation changes

Hyundai Motor Company has also turned its attention to sim racing. They’ve been organizing the Hyundai N e-Festival from 2020 to 2022 and even hosted a sim racing contest in China in 2023. Hyundai plans to further strengthen the link between sim racing and actual motorsports, building on years of experience. Notably, Hyundai’s sim racing competitions are distinguished by their fairness in selecting the fastest racers and a variety of systems to facilitate the transition to real-world racing. Kim is a prime example. Supported by the Hyundai N e-Festival, he participated in the 2021 season Hyundai N Festival Elantra N Line Cup, gaining valuable real-world racing experience.

“Like racers, anyone can enhance their skills through sim racing. However, becoming a racer is no easy feat. We asked about the advantages of sim racing and Kim’s training secrets, and Kim answered: “Using simulation, one can secure ample practice time; In real-world racing, there’s a lot to prepare, and there are limits on available vehicles and practice locations. On the other hand, with sim racing, if you have the equipment, you can start practicing right away. I’ve used sim racing to practice with numerous vehicles across various circuits.”

Kim driving on the Nürburgring Nordschleife track in sim racing

Kim primarily trains with iRacing and Assetto Corsa, utilizing iRacing for vehicle dynamics and setup improvement and Assetto Corsa for track adaptation.

Today’s sim racing closely mirrors reality. Although direct sensations like vibration or gravity are absent, the simulated car movements offer substantial training benefits. The ability to practice with different models across various circuits is crucial, allowing racers to experience each car model’s unique driving characteristics and responses and accumulate diverse track experiences.

Avante N TCR race car in sim racing

Understanding the car you’re driving is paramount. Kim emphasizes, “To be fast in simulation, understanding the characteristics and structure of the vehicle and tires is crucial.” He added, “Initially, I understood various driving techniques theoretically, but they didn’t resonate physically. As I learned more about the characteristics and structure of cars and tires, my understanding of vehicle dynamics deepened, allowing me to advance to the next level.”

With improved skills, it was finally time to compete against other racers. Participating in sim racing competitions like the Hyundai N e-Festival not only enhances skills but also offers opportunities like mentoring support based on performance. “The Hyundai N e-Festival played a significant role in my growth,” Kim asserts.

Mechanics are diligently prepping for the 2024 season

“Participating in various races during my sim racing days, the Hyundai N e-Festival was pivotal. It provided a platform for healthy competition and allowed me to gain invaluable real racing experience starting from the second round of the 2021 Hyundai N Festival Elantra N Line Cup,” Kim reflects.

Growing with Hyundai N Festival

Kim’s race car running in the Hyundai N Festival [N1] Avante N Cup

As DCT Racing established their base camp in 2022 and entered the Hyundai N Festival [N1] Elantra N Cup, they faced the formidable challenge of competing against seasoned veterans in one of the nation’s most prestigious races. Bridging the gap between simulation and real-life racing became a necessity for securing top results.

Pak explains, “Our shortcomings meant we had to work harder than others, focusing meticulously on preparation and review for each race while building the team’s knowledge base. Every team member, including our mechanics ensuring the cars were in prime condition and our drivers constantly honing their skills through sim racing, contributed to our success. Our achievements are the result of learning from our mistakes.”

The Hyundai N e-Festival opened up global opportunities for sim racers, offering them a chance to showcase their skills on an international platform

Pak invested significant effort in facilitating Kim’s swift adaptation to real-world racing, creating a supportive environment for the racer to focus and gain diverse experiences, even offering his race car for Kim’s practice sessions. To match the real-life steering wheel’s weight, Kim adjusted his sim racing setup’s steering feedback to a very high level, enhancing his training effectiveness.

Kim emphasizes the importance of incorporating real driving experience into sim racing practice. Despite extensive sim racing practice, success isn’t guaranteed every time. Both the team and the racer need to constantly evaluate failures, identify weaknesses, and strive for improvement. “Before races, I use simulation to refine my handling of various cars and tracks, planning test items for practice runs. After each race, I review in-car cameras and driving data to develop my unique driving style,” says Kim.

Kim and Pak, deep in discussion, underscore that thorough preparation and review have been instrumental in their growth

In their second year participating in the Hyundai N Festival [N1] Elantra N Cup in 2023, DCT Racing clinched five consecutive victories, marking the dawn of a new era with racers Kim Gyu-min and Kim Young-chan securing first and second places in the season, proving the potential of newcomers against established competitors. “We’ve experienced many trials, successes, and failures, all contributing to the growth of both the team and our racers,” Pak adds, highlighting the collective effort behind their achievements.

Pak believes the Hyundai N Festival is a proving ground for drivers’ abilities

“The Hyundai N Festival, being a one-make race, ensures a level playing field where driver growth is nurtured in a fair environment. It’s a venue where the combined efforts of the team and the driver’s performance can yield great results, truly testing the driver’s skills. In my opinion, Kim’s performance is among the best in the country. The success we achieved at the Hyundai N Festival made this year incredibly fulfilling and enjoyable.”

Kim, too, expresses his deep appreciation for the Hyundai N Festival. “If the 2021 season of the Hyundai N Festival Elantra N Line Cup was about adapting and growing in real racing, participating in the [N1] Elantra N Cup from 2022 allowed me to prove my skills as a professional driver and take another step towards my dreams. The Hyundai N Festival holds significant meaning for me. I won’t stop here; I’m determined to continue pushing the boundaries.”

The Stage Where Dreams Connect

At the Hyundai N Festival 2023 season, DCT Racing and Kim firmly established their prowess

Kim has been chosen as a ‘2023 Hyundai Junior Driver’ and will challenge the ‘2024 Nürburgring 24 Hours Endurance Race’ alongside Hyundai Motors. He’s slated to acquire his Nürburgring 24-hour race license and participate in the qualifiers in Germany this April. Kim is currently honing his skills through sim racing, navigating the Nordschleife with increased precision and speed. Kim shared his thoughts:

“There aren’t many professional drivers who started in sim racing abroad. Many still consider sim racing merely a game. I want to prove that misconception wrong through the upcoming Nürburgring 24 Hours Race. I aim to adapt well to the race and atmosphere, striving to achieve good results in peak condition. I’m profoundly grateful to Hyundai Motors and the Hyundai N Festival organizers for crafting this dream-like opportunity for me.”

The Hyundai N Festival is a melting pot where everyone’s dreams in the domestic motorsport culture converge and flourish

Kim and DCT Racing, not resting on their success in the 2023 season, are gearing up to make waves again. They plan to compete in both the [N1] Elantra N Cup and the newly introduced electric vehicle race category, the ‘eN1 class,’ this year. Pak outlined future plans, emphasizing continued growth alongside the Hyundai N Festival:

“I don’t intend to stop here. I’m committed to discovering the next Kim Gyu-min, the next Kim Young-chan, and growing with the Hyundai N Festival. To facilitate this, I’m preparing to open a simulation center in Seoul to connect with more racers. I want to express my gratitude to Hyundai Motors and the Hyundai N Festival organizers for providing the opportunity for our team and drivers to grow. And I thank everyone who has supported our team.”

Kim expressed his hope for more sim racing drivers to take up the challenge

The Hyundai N Festival stands as a dream stage for the advancement of motorsport culture in Korea, where both racers and the motorsport culture itself grow in tandem with the festival. The doors are open to everyone; all that’s required is passion, effort, and a commitment to give your best every day. The success of Kim, a sim racing graduate, attests to this. Lastly, we asked Kim for some words of encouragement for sim racing drivers:

“I believe opportunities come only to those who are prepared. I stand here today because of the sim racing I started in middle school. I hope other sim racing drivers will prepare well and embrace challenges to seize such opportunities. I want to send my encouragement to all sim racing drivers in Korea, together with Hyundai Motors and the Hyundai N Festival.”

Photography by Cho Hyuk-soo

HMG Journal Operation Team


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