What originally started as a Simracing article, ended up being more of an autobiography about my life with cars... I will go over Simracing dos and donts more precisely in an upcomming article.
It all started back in 2004. I am one of these guy who got his driver license very late, thanks to never reading the french road rulebook and therefore never even passing the writing test. I was still doing driving-ed, but with no hope of passing the driving exam as the writing test is required to do so.
Then in the end of 2004, I moved to the US, where, let's face it, the writing and driving tests are jokes. It took me two weeks and there I was with my driver license, ready to face this whole new world that was openning itself to me.
I bought a '97 Mazda 626 with my roommate (manual of course, as I refused to drive those weird american things that keep going forward even when you don't touch the accelerator... I had never seen an automatic gearbox before putting a foot on US soil), and quickly noticed I liked driving! My father was a car geek in his time, I grew up with an Alpine A110 1600sc from 1973 in my garage, my godfather collect cars (Capri, Alpine A310, VW bus among many other) but I never exeperienced how fun driving could be. But the problem was that I live in a society, with other people around me, how the hell am I going to learn to drive fast and enjoy my car? Washington state is a bust when it comes to racetracks, I had no idea what AutoX was at the time and anyway, I had no money to spend on track days. But I was a bit of a geek. I knew Gran Turismo, but it never appeared realistic to me. I wanted real racetracks, a real cockpit view and feel the car somehow. So I downloaded rFactor and it was a huge revelation for me. After a couple years, I was among the fastest in Megane Trophy (the most used car online at the time), and administrating racing leagues with a friend. I had also seriously gotten into cars in general, more specifically classic cars. Did a few videos also just for the sake of it ( Like this one... Memories :) )
But would my skills translate into real life? By the time I had invested in a triple screen setup with a G25 wheels and so on, I had yet to get into an accident of any kind with my car (got into one later, but never to this day got into one where I was responsible), and for some weird reasons I felt like I knew Spa, the Nurburgring or Lime Rock Park like the back of my hand. I would see a picture of a real corner on a track somewhere in the world that I had never been to in real life and I would recognize it right away, knew how to take it depending on the car and so on. Would I be dangerous if I were to go on a real racetrack? The typical know it all, who is going to crash at the first corner? Keep in mind also, my daily driver was still the Mazda 626... I had NEVER driven a RWD car before. I could heel and toe, double clutch an old car if necessary, rev-matching was second nature while going to buy bread, but I had yet to drive a RWD car in real life.
Winter 2007 arrived and I moved to Montreal. A friend also sold me his old V6 Mustang, so I finally had a RWD car. Granted it was a slow one, but despite the lack of LSD, it would still get sideways and it was tons of fun for someone used to drive a basic FWD car for his entire life.
I arrived in Canada on a working holiday visa (I could make money to buy that mustang) and worked at a gokarting place (Action 500 in Montréal), because, what the hell, at least, I could smell gas all day long there! Working there at night, with a forgiving boss, I got to do hundreds of laps each night when there was no customer (the place is opened 24/7, so I was all by myself, setting new lap records after new lap records). I worked there only 3 months, but I was fast, kicking the ass of some actual gokart racers who were bored during winter times and coming here to play with 9hp karts once in a while... Being somewhat fast, yet very safe and not "crazy", I quickly got in contact with a go-kart racer who was sponsored by Action 500 and who offered me to help him as a mech, in exchange of doing what the hell I wanted with his karts, as long as I kept them in good shape. I jumped on the opportunity of course and holy crap were these karts fun! Rotax Max, DD2 and even a 6 speed shifter that would do 0 to 60 in less than 3s!! So much fun, so fast! (Here is a quick video of that shifter, my first time in it)
But as I said, I like cars, openwheelers and gokart are tremendous fun, but I love CARS! So going back to virtual, I was still playing on my computer a good two hours per day on average for the past five years or so now. I had discovered iRacing very recently and really enjoyed it, aiming for world records in the Miata (still today I think, I am in the top 3 to 25 of most tracks used in the Mx5, especially Lime Rock)
And finally, time had come. After saving a bit, I was able to spend the 100$, the money on gas and a set of 20$ almost bald street tires to go and have fun at Sanair, the cheapest racetrack around Montreal (yes, I was back to school, no more working visa and I was THAT broke at the time)! Keep in mind we are now in 2011... 6 years or so after I started sim racing. Sucks to be broke heh? Especially when you end up being a lifetime student... I was 26 years old in 2011... As I said, I had go-karting experience, so I sort of knew this racetrack atmosphere a bit before, but damn was it fun to finally go as fast as I wanted in my car. 6 freaking years have I been waiting for that!! 6 years, dreaming of finally driving on a racetrack as fast as I wanted. I was just happy... sooo happy.
Since then I finally finished school, my mustang got destroyed by a driver who did not see his red light, I went to spend a couple days at the Nurburgring (did a 9 minutes 35s lap BTG in a rented Suzuki Swift on my very first lap btw. I knew the track by heart, every bump, everything, thanks to rFactor so it helped...), among other smaller racetracks and bought a properly fast, fun car, a 95' Corvette. Next step will be to have my own garage, a little Datsun 240Z that I will prepare for track days and maybe race some historic races wherever I can find some! I keep simracing, but mostly went back to rFactor and now on Assetto Corsa since I got banned from the iRacing forums :)
Wish me luck and success in my work, I need more money now hahaha!!