A virtual race car driver brought the thunder and the chunder to the Road Atlanta racetrack in Atlanta, Georgia, blowing off impressively fast lap times while blowing chunks in his helmet.
There’s a very real physicality to top-tier race car driving that a lot of people don’t appreciate. Just ask Greger Huttu, a gamer from Finland and iRacing World Champion who recently had a chance to get behind the wheel of a real, live open-wheel car on a real, live racetrack thanks to Top Gear, the popular U.K. show about all things automotive.
iRacing isn’t some off-the-shelf arcade driving game, but rather “a fiendishly difficult driving simulator that recreates the exact physics of scores of race cars and circuits from around the world.” iRacers include NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski, IndyCar driver Takuma Sato, Sprint Cup racers Bobby Labonte and A.J. Allmendinger and a host of other serious wheelmen. But the king of the virtual hill is none other than Huttu, who recently won $10,000 as iRacing world champion and in real life works with his father as a fisherman. So the Top Gear guys, as they are occasionally wont to do, decided to conduct an experiment to see how a virtual champ would fare in a real machine.
The results were rather surprising. Wedged into an Andersen Racing Star Mazda racer that’s “as quick as a GT car around some circuits,” Huttu almost immediately started driving like a pro. The Top Gear website described his first lap in a 12-page pictorial: “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.”
He continued to improve with each lap; by his fourth circuit he was running only three seconds off a “solid time around here.” But he was also having his first experience with something that videogames can’t simulate: the incredible demands this kind of driving puts on a human body. Huttu wasn’t exactly a prime specimen of physical fitness when he got here and the rigors of the track, combined with the intense Atlanta heat, wore him down quickly.
“Road Atlanta is a bucking, weaving, undulating place, where your tummy floats over crests, then smashes into your intestines through compressions,” the site explains. “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.”
Huttu showed the heart of a true racer, popping some motion sickness pills and getting back out on the track. But after 15 laps, he’s forced to quit. He made a good impression on everyone present, though, and convinced the Top Gear crew of the value of serious racing sims.
“It might be a bit late for 30-year-old Greger to get into perfect physical 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,” the site said. “And if you do, be sure to join a gym. Quickly. We’ve seen enough vomit-filled helmets for one lifetime, thanks.”