The Case for Sim Drifting for IRL Drifting

Many view sim racing as fun but with no application to real life drifting. While sim drifting will never reach full realism, there still are many merits that make it a worthwhile investment. For anyone who can’t currently drive, the benefits are great. For those who already drift in real life, sim racing provides the ability to hone skills with no risk. This article pertains to sim drifting with some form of a steering wheel setup and not a controller.

Physical Driving Comparison

Analogous to real life:

  • Steering sensitivity (wheel goes numb when under steering)
  • Reaction times
  • Pedal sensitivity (to a point)
  • Shifting/hand braking (if setup properly)

Not realistic:

  • G forces
  • True levels of wheel force feedback
  • True pedal feel (see pedal sensitivity)
  • Heat/fatigue of being in the car
  • Other senses (wind, depth perception without VR, etc)

Can be realistic if you put money into your rig:

  • Vibrations/RPMs (transducers/pedal shakers)
  • Depth perception (VR)
  • Depth of field (triple monitor or VR)
  • Some G forces (through a motion rig)
  • Wind

Benefits for Newbies

For anyone who is very new to drifting or has never drifted in real life, a sim rig can greatly shorten the time it takes to get used to drifting in real life. The best part about sim drifting for a new drifter is the ability to learn rpm management and figure 8s with no down time between sessions. In real life, this part of development can take a long time before a driver can build enough muscle memory.


  • Easy/Unlimited seat time
  • No vehicle maintenance (crashes, tires, etc)
  • Techniques that work in the sim work in real life. (clutch kicking, hand brake, etc)


  • Lack of G forces can make the transition to real life difficult (arguable)
  • The money spend on the sim could be spent on a real car
  • Potential to build bad habits

Benefits for Seasoned Drivers

Once the basics are down, sim drifting can still be very useful. Again, it will never replace real life seat time, but when events can be so far apart, sim racing can be useful.


  • Previewing new tracks prior to going IRL
  • Practicing new techniques (Left foot braking, no hand brake usage, etc)
  • Learning/Practicing tandem with no risk
  • Keeping reaction time and base muscle memory between events
  • Learning weight management without G forces (arguable)


  • Potential to build bad habits
  • Building muscle memory towards the sim specifically and not real life driving
  • A more realistic sim setup is expensive
  • Initial buy in (for existing IRL drivers) is money that could be used towards the car

When it comes to drifting, there are 2 attitudes – I know everything until proven I don’t know everything -or- I know nothing and must strive to learn everything. Drivers in the first category will reject sim drifting as they believe they have nothing to gain for it. The latter group can use sim drifting as a way to search for the potential lessons it can teach.

Aside from money, a drifter has no excuse to not use sim drifting to help their real driving.

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