With sports car racing on hiatus, Kenton Koch has embraced the rise of esports as one of the few real-world drivers to be competing in both IMSA and SRO America’s official competitions.
The 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona Prototype Challenge class winner had a full season lined up in Pirelli GT4 America as both driver and team manager with BSPort Racing but with the season on hold he’s joined the multitude of drivers who have shifted their focus to sim racing.
While by no means a sim racing neophyte, Koch admitted that while he’s never put as much effort into his virtual racing as some of his contemporaries, the opportunity to dive into the esports offerings from both series has changed that outlook.
“I’ve had a sim for the last ten years but I haven’t been super dialed into it like some have,” Koch told Sportscar365.
“I’d get on once or twice a week and have some fun with friends and occasionally, if there was a track that I hadn’t been to or just wanted to get refreshed on some stuff, then I’d do laps before heading to the track.
“I wasn’t super serious into it but I knew I was alright with it, so when that came out I figured I have the time so I might as well!”
Koch has impressed with strong qualifying efforts and consistently rapid race pace and has scored top ten finishes in both series, but misfortune has undoubtedly cost him stronger results.
“It’s been full of pros and cons,” said Koch. “It was cool to be outside pole in the [SRO America] race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and have such a good first half of this race, running in P2 and chasing down the leader [Bryan Heitkotter].
“That was really good. It’s just unfortunate to get caught up with some people who may not have been on the sim as much so the awareness may not have been there, but it is what it is.
“You learn from it and you learn to take things in a different way.
“Now that I know that, you just need to be extra, extra cautious with some people. I’ve not had the best of luck when it comes to that.
“You’ve got to take things as they come and learn from them. So it’s been nice to have the speed, I just need to learn from it.”
iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione “Pretty Different” Sims
One challenge of adapting to virtual racing is bouncing back and forth between two different sim racing platforms.
IMSA’s biweekly series utilizes iRacing, while SRO America’s weekly GT Rivals offering uses the official GT World Challenge simulation Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Koch said jumping between the two is not as seamless as one might expect.
“The two are pretty different when it comes to the physics behind how things feel,” he explained. “iRacing is a little more intuitive for me because I probably have been on it more so it makes more sense to me.
“Assetto is certainly a good sim but some things you just wouldn’t do normally to go fast. For the most part it’s not a complete, out of left field change, you just have to take advantage of some things in order to go fast.
“Like, I guess I’ll just smash the gas at the apex and use the TC versus feeding the throttle to limit wheel spin. You certainly lean on certain things more in Assetto than you do in iRacing.”
Sim Racing a Good “Networking Tool”
Koch acknowledged the frustration of being forced to wait to resume his real world racing program, he said the chance to race alongside some of the biggest names in sports car racing, even in the virtual world, could create real world opportunities when racing resumes.
“It’s kind of crazy to be in a team manager role with my wife and to be in the first year doing this and of all years, this happens,” he said.
“It’s not easy, but things are just on standstill at the moment. We’ve been able to take advantage of the eracing thing at least with some down time to try and make the most of it.
“It’s been cool to compete on the IMSA side because I wasn’t able to get a full time ride there this year, unfortunately. It’s cool to keep myself in people’s minds when it comes to that.
“Honestly it’s been a really cool networking tool. I’ve been able to race against some of the biggest guys in the IMSA paddock and go toe-to-toe with them and I’ve been able to earn some respect in a different way.
“So now when I actually get to go to the paddock I can have a conversation starter.”