As one of the top three highest iRated drivers in IMSA’s iRacing Pro Series, Shinya Michimi has been taking his decade’s worth of iRacing experience and applying it to the most popular form of racing during the COVID-19 crisis lockdown.
Like all of the teams in the IMSA paddock, the Rolex 24 At Daytona is the only race that Meyer Shank Racing has contested so far in 2020. In response to the need to stay at home, motorsports has made a dramatic transition from real world racing to virtual racing. What was known as a way for drivers to prepare for real life races, iRacing is now being used to keep the sport alive with both IMSA- and IndyCar-sanctioned iRacing series.
Michimi, who is slated for the 2020 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup schedule on board the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, has competed in the first two rounds of IMSA’s iRacing Pro Series at Sebring International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, with the next round of IMSA iRacing on April 30 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Although the virtual sports car series is a great way for Michimi to get extra seat time during lockdown, he has been an iRacing regular since the very beginning.
“I signed up for iRacing in February 2010 with the intention to mainly use the sim for fun with my karting friends,” said Michimi. “In the back of my mind, I always knew I would probably get into the sim seriously as my overly competitive attitude was going to kick in. But, at the beginning it was mostly used for fun because my friends and I had become tired of the other racing simulation options on the market.”
What started out as a weekend hobby, Michimi’s interest and talent in iRacing did not go unnoticed as he was soon recruited by one of iRacing’s top teams. Competing for fun quickly turned into serious events with the top iRacers all around the world.
“There’s engineers hired into teams, strategist, data engineers and the stakes are much higher now, so the level of commitment has also become much higher,” Michimi explained. “There’s pretty decent payouts on certain iRacing races and private championships that most of the teams are trying to achieve. It went from testing a week before an event for two to three hours a day to now testing two weeks in advance each day for six plus hours a day if you want to really be competitive for top fives and wins.”
Through Michimi’s professional iRacing career, he still utilized the platform as a way to improve his real life driving especially during his early career moving from karts to cars.
“When I first made the transition from karts to cars, I was really struggling to get the correct brake pressure as well as the balance of when to start putting in steering input,” Michimi said. “Because of iRacing, I was able to really improve on that technique and it really showed. Later on, with multi-class racing I was able to learn how to manage traffic better because of iRacing.”
Although a virtual race car will always lack some characteristics of a real time race car, Michimi has learned how to apply those factors to better his racing, especially with Meyer Shank Racing and the Acura NSX GT3.
“I would say the biggest thing that virtual racing doesn’t have, at least for most people, is the G forces,” explained Michimi. “At the moment there’s not a great way to simulate G forces. Because of this, I actually feel like it’s made me a better driver in real life. Due to the lack of G force feeling through your backside, the key things you have to take hints from in iRacing are; sound, visual, and wheel feedback. Because of iRacing, those parts of my real life racing are now strengthened and I don’t have to rely as much on backside G force feel.”
The next round of the IMSA iRacing Pro Series will make a virtual visit to Meyer Shank Racing’s home track at Mid-Ohio. Michimi, Misha Goikhberg and Meyer Shank Racing Rolex 24 regular, AJ Allmendinger will be representing MSR in the virtual competition.
Michimi and Allmendinger will also be debuting tribute liveries on the No. 60 and No. 86 machines. The cars will have a familiar livery, paying homage to MSR’s classic blue and orange star liveries which competed in IMSA competition from 2006-2011.
During that period, the iconic and unmistakable Prototypes scored three wins, one pole and 13 podium finishes.
The IMSA iRacing Pro Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will being live on Thursday, April 30th at 6:00pm ET. Live streaming will be available on the iRacing and IMSA YouTube channels.