California Observer

Derek Gleeson: From Sim Racer to Road Racer – The Non-Traditional Racing Journey

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Derek Gleeson, an aspiring Sim racer, achieved an impressive 5th place in a local road racing event held at Willow Springs, just miles away from San Diego. Embracing his belief in the potential of Simulation racing, Gleeson envisions it as the future path to professional racing. San Diego, a thriving hub for young racers, has spurred his ambition to create a local racing team that supports and nurtures talented individuals from the region’s race venues.

Racing has always been Derek Gleeson’s passion. From his early years, he avidly watched Formula 1, NASCAR, and IndyCar events, nurturing a dream to become a professional racer himself. However, he understood the challenges and expenses involved in pursuing such a path. This realization led him to explore Sim racing, a form of motorsport that utilizes realistic computer simulations to replicate real-world racing scenarios. This virtual racing platform enables individuals worldwide to compete against one another without the financial risks associated with actual car racing.

Gleeson firmly believes that Sim racing is the most effective way to hone racing skills. He highlights its advantages, such as the flexibility to practice anytime and anywhere and the opportunity to race with various cars and on diverse tracks. Furthermore, the ability to receive feedback from other drivers and coaches plays a crucial role in improving performance and consistency.

The journey into Sim racing began for Derek Gleeson at the age of 15 when he discovered platforms like and Assetto Corsa. Enthralled by the adrenaline rush and challenges of virtual racing, he joined online leagues and communities in San Diego, where he found like-minded Sim racers who shared his enthusiasm. Recognizing the significance of immersion, he invested in upgrading his equipment, opting for a more powerful computer, a larger monitor, an advanced steering wheel and pedals, and even a motion simulator that faithfully mimicked real-world driving forces and sensations.

Gleeson’s dedication to Sim racing paid off remarkably when he seized the opportunity to participate in a local road racing event hosted at Willow Springs International Raceway, close to San Diego. As a part of a Sim racing team sponsored by a local car dealership, he competed with a Mazda MX-5 Miata, a popular choice among amateur racers due to its affordability and reliability. His competitors consisted of 20 other drivers in his class, some of whom had extensive experience in real-world racing.

Despite being his first-ever road race, Gleeson’s performance astounded everyone as he secured a commendable 5th-place finish. Merely 0.5 seconds behind the 4th place driver and ahead of several seasoned racers, he demonstrated adaptability to the track and vehicle, exuding confidence and comfort behind the wheel.

Attributing his success to his background in Sim racing, Gleeson emphasized the advantage it provided him over some of his rivals. He firmly advocates that Sim racing is the future of motorsport, praising its accessibility, affordability, and the sheer enjoyment it offers compared to traditional racing. Furthermore, he believes that Sim racing adequately prepares individuals for real-life racing experiences should they ever get the opportunity.

Gleeson’s aspirations extend beyond personal accomplishments. He aims to create a local racing team composed of fellow Sim racers based in San Diego. His goal is to support and mentor young racers in their pursuit of becoming professional racers, especially those from the local San Diego area, which he identifies as a hotbed for emerging talent.

His journey serves as an inspiration to all racing enthusiasts, be it in the virtual or real world. Gleeson’s story underscores the power of passion, dedication, and hard work, emphasizing that anything is possible with unwavering commitment.

Derek Gleeson eloquently sums up his approach to racing, stating, “I’m just a guy who loves racing. I don’t care if it’s on a computer or on a track. I just want to go fast and have fun.”

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