The physics engine-the software that determines how cars handle -is the essence of any racing sim. Although Kaemmer began with his old Papyrus code, he was determined to ratchet up authenticity to unprecedented levels. "We have to convince the real-world racers that virtual racing is not just a game," he says. "The sim racers, on the other hand, want some validation that this is what racing is really like."
The iRacing cars are so hard to handle and require so much practice to master that they'll scare off casual gamers accustomed to simpler pleasures. But Kaemmer figured he could count on the support of serious simmers, and he was gambling that his new product would appeal to three thus-far-untapped audiences: pros who could use it for training and coaching; real-world racers who'd never taken sims seriously; and crewmen and course workers who are so close to, yet so far away from, getting any seat time of their own.
iRacing has already made a convert out of Jim Daniels, a championship-winning driver/builder who cofounded the Spec Miata class. "I've got in-car videotapes from some of my [real-world] Legends races, and they match the sim exactly," he says. "When you race online, it's really a race. The intensity is the same, and my heart is pounding when I'm warming up the tires. I think this is going to get to the level of go-karting."
At the moment, iRacing consists of forty-two employees, a chief steward, and a small server farm near Boston. But the size of the operation easily could be scaled up as membership warrants. "We'd like to have over 100,000 customers," Gardner says. To which Kaemmer adds: "We'd like to have over a million!"
Heads up, NASCAR. There's a new kid in town.