SimRacing is extremely versatile. There is barely any era that it is impossible to find cars or tracks of, be it modern or vintage. Different disciplines are no problem, either. If the actual racing gets too intense at some point, it is possible to make use of a relaxing alternative: Free roam tracks are perfect to just switch off and drive.
I have to admit that I did not understand the draw of these free roam maps for a long time. Driving around aimlessly while being far from the limit in a non-racing car did seem rather boring to me. The moment of realization came at RETRO CLASSICS BAVARIA, where one of the simulators of the Virtual Racing Lounge was running “LA Canyons” in Assetto Corsa for a while. I had heard of it before as it is one of the most popular tracks in RaceDepartment’s download section, but up until then, I had never tried it.
After repeated recommendations, this changed at Nuremberg. And suddenly, I got why this kind of SimRacing, or rather SimDriving, is popular with a lot of people: You can choose your own tempo to enjoy the driving itself, search for the limit if you want to, or just cruise around the streets in a relaxed manner.
I gave “LA Canyons” another try on my rig at home afterwards. At dusk, the track by modder Phoenix77 that uses real-life roads north of Los Angeles, looks absolutely spectacular. My car of choice was a Ferrari F40, and to get some more 80s flair, I put on a Synthwave playlist on YouTube in the background. Manual transmission, an exciting location, darkness creeping in – this scenario was tough to beat in the atmosphere department.
Time flew by, and the session did not get boring at any point despite there not being any other traffic on the road – the free base version can be upgraded to a paid VIP version to add this feature and more road sections as well to make the canyons come alive a little more. Another free roam map by Phoenix77 called “Pacific Coast” does the same using a voluntary donation system, so it can be done for free as well. Numerous YouTube videos of both maps show that it would be absolutely worth it.
Another alternative to enjoy free roam scenarios is BeamNG.Drive: As a racing sim, the game is not up to the standards yet, but as a vehicle physics simulator, it is far above anything else, especially when it comes to crash physics. The sim is extremely detailed when it comes to driving physics and the effects of different components on the driving feel – and it is being improved steadily. Even rally scenarios are very well done now, so there is a ton of potential in BeamNG – not just for racing, but also to kick back and enjoy driving cars.
Should you have never tried a free roam map, maybe for the reasons mentioned above, I can only recommend to change this and jump into it. You might miss out on a really cool feature SimRacing has on offer otherwise.