Sim racing is the revolution of modern driving. Learning particular skills and habits used to take a real car on a real track, taking up real time and real money. Now, sim racing gets you most of the way there, so much so that even the top-level drivers in F1 use simulators as a legitimate tool. You can learn anything on a good sim, even drifting. In fact, you can learn how to drift so well in a sim that you could hop into a real Formula Drift car and drive it like a pro, as proven by multiple virtual drift champion Zack O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan is one of the first people in virtual drifting. As far back Forza Motorsport 2, he was turning virtual drift laps and winning leagues, and building a reputation for himself as the person to beat. I saw the battles and even partook in some under the gamertag HKS BimmerM5, and watched as the legend of O’Sullivan, under the gamertag Mistified, grew. Of course, I was never quite good enough at virtual drifting, but O’Sullivan went on to sim drift in Assetto Corsa and dominate several highly competitive championships.
Along with his sim drifting, O’Sullivan is also Formula Drift (FD) Pro Ryan Litteral’s full-time spotter, helping Litteral optimize every run by giving direct feedback. Litteral is also one of sim drifting’s old hands, and drifted in the early days of Forza Motorsport under the gamertag SD9K. O’Sullivan’s reputation and experience in virtual drifting landed him the spotter position, despite having “little to no real-life” drifting experience. Litteral offered O’Sullivan the chance to prove his skill by tossing him the keys to his 900-horsepower Formula Drift-spec S15 Nissan Silvia.
To put it shortly–O’Sullivan killed it. It’s like he had years of real-life seat time, and was instantly comfortable. Drifting an FD car is a totally different animal than drifting most cars. Where grassroots drift cars are deliberately less grippy, FD cars are set up to be unbelievably grippy. They take confidence to drive, and have a particular technique. That O’Sullivan could learn an approximation of an FD car virtually and instantly be comfortable in the real thing is borderline absurd.
Sim racers, don’t let your dream die. Work hard at it, and you can get somewhere. Bravo, O’Sullivan.
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