You’re sitting on the grid at Road America in a classic Lotus 79. You look over at the car lined up next to you, but for some reason you can’t see the driver. No matter. The red turns green and you light ‘em up. Accelerating hard down the front straight, you dice for racing room with two or three dozen other drivers around the world before pouring into turn one.

Yep, you read that right. Those other drivers aren’t FROM around the world, they ARE around the world. This is internet racing on iRacing.com, where in any given race there could be drivers on six continents racing against you (no word on whether anyone in Antarctica races). You don’t know if the car out-braking you into turn three is driven by a fourteen year old kid sitting in his parents’ basement in Peoria, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. out for a Sunday drive.

This isn’t your father’s racing video game. This is as close to real racing as you can get without strapping a race car on your back. You can run your car while you sit at your desk with a single monitor, a decent video card, and a mouse (sorry, we just can’t see driving a racecar with a mouse) — or you can get the full-on experience with a purpose-built simulator cockpit, complete with racing seat, force-feedback steering wheel, shifter, and pedals, surrounded by three to five high resolution monitors, which not only provide a view of the track ahead of you, but handle your peripheral vision, too.

The Sim-Seats iRacing Pro Package

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Ready to give iRacing a try but don’t have a clue how to assemble a decent simulator? Sim-Seats, of Richmond, VA, has you covered with their iRacing Pro Package ($4,000). It’s got everything you need, and a few extras you don’t: a pro-quality driver seat, racing wheel with tilt-steering adjustment, inverted G27 pedals, a Thrustmaster TH8 shifter, keyboard tray attachment, triple monitor stand, three 24-inch monitors and a Velocity Micro PC powering the whole rig.

Everything is “seat time” tested and properly matched. Of course, if you don’t have the coin for your own, you can always stop in at Sim-Seats’ Virginia International Raceway pit road HQ, where they allow fans and racers alike to run hot laps at VIR on iRacing.

With iRacing, you’ve got a choice of over 30 laser-scanned, officially sanctioned cars from the likes of NASCAR, IndyCar, F1, GRAND-AM, Aussie V-8 Supercars, and various sports cars. You control how your car is set up. Toe, camber, castor, sway bars, weight-jacking, wing adjustments — if the adjustment is there on the real car, it’s there on yours, and the effects are the same. iRacing even recently improved tire algorithm. They’re not messing around. There are more than 60 ovals and road courses from around the world to burn rubber on, and the boys at iRacing are adding more cars and tracks all the time. Each track has been laser scanned so all the bumps, curbing, surface changes, and brake points are there, just like the actual track.

As we alluded to above, pro drivers from every major race series are using iRacing — guys like Will Power, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya, Oriol Servia, J. R. Hildebrand, A. J. Allmendinger and Takuma Sato — to stay sharp on tracks they only visit once a year, and to learn tracks they’ve never seen. Even the head of R&D for Dallara (IndyCars) and the Williams F1 team’s simulator engineer are raving over iRacing. Are you beginning to see why this is a little more than just a video game?

You can join one of over 40 official, professionally sanctioned racing series, guided by a full sporting code and license class progression system, or take your pick of 400+ private leagues. Of course, you can always just go flog your favorite car around an empty track on a Sunday morning. Then you can watch it all later on playback from a birds-eye/ TV spectator point of view.

A trial one month subscription costs you $12 and gets you seven cars and ten tracks; additional cars & tracks cost between $12 and $14 each. Once you’ve fallen in love, longer subscriptions are available (3 months for $15, or a year for $99). Now, go fire up that Lotus 49 at Spa and see what hairy-chested racing was all about back in the day.