Interviewing Derek DeBoer was a year-long idea coming to fruition. You see, over the last year, I have wanted to sit down with a professional race car driver and discuss all things sim racing and going fast. More than that, though, I wanted to discuss the cross-section where real-life motorsport and sim racing meet. Derek DeBoer is one of those real-life professional race car drivers, and he was gracious enough to give me about an hour on a Tuesday to chat.
Who is Derek DeBoer?
I am pretty familiar with Derek DeBoer, and you may be, too. You see, he starred in a docuseries about his life on Amazon Prime. The show is called Fastlife, and it follows Derek and his family on his journey of being a professional race car driver.
Regardless of my familiarity with him, I asked Derek to kick off our video call by chatting a little bit about who he was. Derek is a really cool guy, and the conversation got flowing.
Derek described himself as a family man and a professional race car driver. He talked about his current ride as a driver for The Racer’s Group (TRG). Derek is lucky (talented) enough to get to drive the number 17 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport for TRG in the Pirelli SRO GT4 America SprintX series. All of those words may not mean much to you, but as a motorsport and Porsche fan, Derek DeBoer is living my dream.
After the standard bio, I dug a little bit deeper into Derek’s background. We talked about his eighteen years of racing experience, including trying to climb the ladder to IndyCar or Formula 1. I casually brought up his times in Formula Ford to show I did my homework. It turns out I made a mental oopsie.
“Actually, it was Formula Dodge back then,” he laughed. “It’s just what the Skip Barber series was racing back then.”
Pro Driver, Amateur Sim Racer
I started to turn our conversation toward sim racing by asking Derek about his familiarity and history with racing virtually. It turns out that while he may be a pro in a GT car, Derek DeBoer is somewhat of an amateur in sim racing.
Derek admitted to picking up some sim racing equipment about seven years ago, but as he tells it, that was more about having a way to learn tracks that were on his racing schedule when he couldn’t get out to them for testing before the race.
“I really only did testing, private practice sessions, maybe some coaching of other less experienced drivers. Until recently, I didn’t go online and race anyone.”
With the prevalence of active drivers like Lando Norris and Max Verstappen spending their free time sim racing in games like iRacing, this may seem like a shock to you. The hard facts of it all are that a lot of pro drivers have other commitments outside of racing. The life of an F1 superstar is much different than that of even a high-level driver like Derek.
To be clear, when I call Derek an amateur sim racer, I am just making a joke. Getting beat by active esports professionals does not make you an amateur. Derek did mention that he was having a rough time adapting, but also that it is just not in his personality not to improve.
Where’s the Crossover?
With most of the background discussion out of the way, I was excited to start asking Derek about the differences between going fast in a real car versus a virtual one. It turns out there are quite a few similarities, but also some key differences.
My first question was the main differences between racing open-wheelers and GT cars, both in real life and in a sim. Derek passed on a piece of wisdom to me that was shared with him: “…stay in open-wheelers as long as you can. When you leave them, everything will move slower and seem easier.”
That type of knowledge transfer maps pretty closely to a consistent piece of advice given on iRacing forums: spend your time learning to drive the Skip Barbers (Skippys) and the skills will transfer to all other road series.
Derek discussed his time racing in Formula Renault when sharing this wisdom. For those that are unaware, Formula Renault is one of the potential stops for a driver on their way to Formula 1. Derek illustrated this fact with the following: “Kimi Raikkonen went right from Formula Renault to Formula 1.”
There are differences between open-wheelers and GT cars, and Derek said it mainly comes down to the speed and the ability to do some exciting door-to-door racing. The door-to-door racing is what makes the GT series some of my favorites to watch.
Some Interesting Pieces of Data
As we moved on by discussing the similarities and differences of real-world racing versus sim racing, I had to ask about tier models. Before I could even finish asking if the tire models used in the games are even close to the real thing, Derek started shaking his head.
“They aren’t even close,” he said, “It takes me three or four laps in the sim to warm the tires up when in real life it might take a lap.”
He went on to say, “…and maybe it doesn’t matter in a sim. You don’t have to pay for tires or gas…” which is a fair point I had not considered.
Then I made a wild assumption about telemetry data. I assumed that in real life, there could be vast differences in telemetry between drivers, even though they were both fast. I figured that different driving styles could get around quickly without doing the same thing.
“You’d be surprised. If you took the telemetry from a bunch of drivers who had never driven the track before, the telemetry would all look very close.”
So, What’s Next?
I had to know what was next for Derek DeBoer. Obviously, his season has been impacted. Also, he just started to dive into sim racing, so where does that leave him moving forward?
First and foremost, Derek is committed to continue improving in sim racing. This improvement includes sneaking away for more practice time while continuing to balance his commitments to his family, business, fitness, and Fastlife.TV. Additionally, Derek was transparent about how outdated his gear is, but fear not; he has a pretty sweet setup coming.
While the racing season is currently on hold, Derek told me they expect to be back at VIR in Virginia in July. Until then, he will jump in and partake in as many sim racing events as he can.
I closed by asking if he would keep up with sim racing once the season got back into the swing. I listed three options: never touch sim racing again, do it a little, or take it on as a regular hobby. Derek provided an honest but diplomatic response, “Honestly, probably a bit of all three. It will depend on time. If I continue to get invited to events, I would love to do them.”
Keeping up with Derek
Derek is a great guy, a fantastic race car driver, and a sim racer who is better than he gives himself credit for. If you want to keep up with Derek, (and I suggest you do because his content is excellent), you can do so by following him on Twitter. I also recommend watching Fastlifeon Amazon Prime if you have not yet. Finally, if you want to keep up to date with everything Derek is doing currently, including his foray into sim racing, you need to subscribe to FASTLIFE.TV on Youtube.
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