The Dos & Don’ts of Surviving Lap One in a Sim Race

Check out our guide to the dos and don’ts of surviving lap one of a sim race below.

Written by teams at
The Dos & Don’ts of Surviving Lap One in a Sim Race
Written by the teams at & Driver61

We’ve all been there. You’ve qualified well for an important sim race at Monza and are confident of getting a good result. You make a good start and speed towards the first corner, the tight Prima Variante chicane. You hit its apices perfectly and begin dreaming of standing atop the virtual rostrum, spraying a virtual bottle of Ferrari Trento.

Suddenly, however, you’ve been turned around. You’re now facing the pit straight while 40 GT3 cars pass you left, right and centre, some using your bonnet as an impromptu ski ramp.

Oh dear.

This kind of Turn 1 scenario is unfortunately commonplace in sim racing, where the consequences of careless driving are nowhere near as serious as those found in motorsport.

This is why we’ve collated a few handy tips to help you survive all that first-corner pain. 


1. Make Sure You Can See!

It seems obvious, but ensuring you have maximum visibility is one way to help you avoid an incident.
This means you should set your field-of-view (FOV) correctly, giving you a great view of the road ahead while also being able to see your mirrors. Using a widescreen monitor, triple screens or a VR headset will enhance your peripheral vision no-end, but if you’re using a single screen you’ll likely have to give your opponents a wider berth.

2. Set Up a Radar or Spotter System

Following on from the above point, most sims have some form of radar system by default. A radar system highlights the proximity of vehicles around you, usually warning you of an impending collision thanks to a flashing red overlay.

For example, in the ever-popular Assetto Corsa, you can download a plugin called ‘Helicorsa’, which provides a clear and moveable interface to help keep you out of trouble. Assetto Corsa Competizione has a similar system by default, while the F1 series of games features user-created radar mods so you don’t have to spam the ‘look behind’ button.

Sims like iRacing use a virtual spotter to tell you where opponents’ cars are and when you’ve cleared them, as does the ‘Crew Chief’ mod, which is compatible with several sims. A spotter is handy to listen to when you’re focused on an intense wheel-to-wheel battle with another car but it’s much less effective when you’re in a large pack on the first lap - there’s just too much going on.

3. Practice Starts

Practising your race start is a must during your warm-up session before the event goes green. Take note of how quickly you’ll arrive at Turn 1 from your grid spot and set yourself a safe braking point to help you avoid any carnage ahead. 

If you’re starting from pole position, you can set a more aggressive braking point to maximise your momentum into the first corner and hopefully retain the lead.

While practising your starts you can also work on your clutch control, ensuring you get the cleanest getaway possible. If you use a steering wheel peripheral with dual analogue clutch paddles, you can focus on setting the correct bite point to get the perfect launch.

4. Look Ahead!

Being told to look ahead seems an obvious thing to do but it really does help. If you've ever been mountain biking you'll know it's a crucial piece of advice, as when you fixate on an approaching obstacle you tend to gravitate towards it. It only takes one tree for this advice to sink in…

The same principle applies to real and virtual racing, so try to look beyond the gaggle of cars in front and focus on the clean piece of asphalt beyond - after all, that's where you want to be! This is where your peripheral vision and a well-set-up FOV come into play, helping you avoid obstacles in the foreground while focusing on the bigger picture in the distance.

5. Plan an Escape Route

Just like driving on real-world motorways, you should plan an escape route for when things kick off. Similar to your daily commute on a busy road, avoid getting yourself boxed in by other cars if you can, giving yourself enough space to react to an opponent making a rash move or spinning out. 

Ideally you can also factor run-off areas into your escape plan. You may end up being penalised by the sim for corner-cutting but at least you'll live to fight another day. Remember to give back any positions you may have gained in the process!

6. Warm Up Your Tyres and Build Pressures

Thanks to the realism of today’s sims, warming up your tyres and building tyre pressures is a legitimately worthwhile endeavour.

In Assetto Corsa Competizione, for example, your car will feel noticeably different - and slower - if its tyres haven’t been brought up to their optimal pressures and temperatures.

The warm-up lap before the cars head to the grid is aptly named: its purpose is to allow drivers to get their cars and tyres prepared for the beginning of the race, whether it’s a rolling or standing start.

Dragging the brakes (holding the brake pedal while on the gas), weaving from side to side, and aggressively accelerating and braking will all help increase brake and tyre temperatures, giving you the best chance of maximising your car’s potential on lap one.


1. Don’t Divebomb

Trying a divebomb maneuver - where you suddenly overtake your opponent in a braking zone without having an initial overlap - is a no-no in sim racing.

It’s a successful technique in motorsport as the consequences for getting it wrong are so great: broken race cars cost a lot of money. As a result, the driver being overtaken tends to be hyper-aware of their surroundings…

Divebombing on the first lap of a race is especially dangerous, as overshooting your braking point will almost certainly result in contact with an innocent opponent further up the road. The extra bunching caused by a boisterous overtake also raises the chances of incidents further behind.

2. Hold the Line

No, this isn’t a Toto reference. Remember your lane discipline if you’re in a group of cars funneling through a tight section of track on the opening laps. Don’t suddenly switch lines mid-corner if you’re running side-by-side with an opponent. 

Their focus may be elsewhere while you’re changing lanes: you can’t predict how likely they are to back off or keep their nose in. 

For safety’s sake, run a compromised line if you have to; you can always be more aggressive later in the race when the field is spread out and the consequences for contact are lower.

3. Don’t Be Too Aggressive

It’s a general catch-all piece of advice, but lap one is not the time to be throwing your weight around in a sim race. The old adage of ‘You can’t win a race on lap one but you can certainly lose it’ rings true, as there’s generally no coming back from a huge lap one incident.

Follow the above advice and you’ll be one step closer to surviving lap one and well on the way to a good result.

For more advice on how to improve your virtual driving skills try our AI-powered sim racing coaching tool

Last Updated
May 21, 2024
Sim Racing

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